There’s in fact a number of seemingly bizarre statements that Christ made during His earthly ministries that sound very unhuman and unreasonable. That’s why those who are unsaved who cannot grasp what Christ truly meant label Him as an extremist, or someone who has lost touch with reality. While these statements may not make any sense at all from a humanistic perspective because they are inconsistent with how we operate in this world; however, they do possess powerful spiritual truths hidden into them that transcend human understanding.
Whatever statement that Christ made has a unique context and meaning, so the ideal way of getting at the bottom of a particular statement in order to get a clear insight regarding its initial meaning and context is through figuring out why, who was being addressed, what was going on at that time, and what was the pervasive mindset or system that was in place when such statement was made. So let’s read that Scripture verse found in the book of Luke where Christ declared a hatred that should be aimed at our very own family members as well as our own life if we really want to become His disciple.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26).
There are several ways this verse can be interpreted, but we’ll look at it through the lens of the Judaism system which was so prevalent during Christ’ ministries. To a large extent this statement has a strong connection to the Judaism system that had long been established very firmly. So people were so engulfed by it to the extent they were even willing to put to death anyone who even attempted to challenge it. That’s the key reason why Christ found Himself in a huge conflict with such system all throughout His ministries.
And Christ actually came in order to revolutionize the whole system since it was incomplete and insufficient in order to grant man favor and acceptance from God. According to the gospels’ accounts, that very system tried to kill Jesus in several different occasions due to their constant unwillingness to accept His claims about Himself.
Furthermore, it was pretty obvious that parents in this day raised their children to follow that very system. Having said that, anyone who has made a choice to follow Christ would have found himself being profoundly at odds with that system. Let’s put that within perspective, if you were living in such system with your parents and siblings, and have made a choice to give your life to Christ, your parents would have had a very tough time accepting that decision since you’re forsaking the very system you were raised to believe in.
You would have also run into serious troubles with your siblings since the new life you would have to live would literally bring a massive conviction upon them. Consequently, they would have never been comfortable with you. The truth about this passage is to enable us to understand the cost of discipleship.
What Christ Actually Meant by Declaring That You Must Hate Your Parents And Siblings.
First, this statement isn’t meant to be taken literally because Christ wasn’t really saying that you must hate your parents along with your siblings in the context of hating the person. However, what He’s saying is that you have to hate their own ways, their mindsets, their false belief systems, and their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to them becoming a major stumbling block that stands between you and Him and His cause. The way Christ wants us to see it is when it comes down to Him and us there cannot be anyone or anything right between, regardless of how dear and precious someone or something may be to us.
In fact, God has never told anybody to direct any form of hatred toward an individual in a literal manner, which means hatred must be directed toward how a person behaves. You love the person and hate their sinful and rebellious ways. In other words, you love the person but hate their sins.
There is also another vital interpretation that can be applied to that passage because the word hate according to numerous contexts it’s used in Scripture can be defined as ‘Love less’. It’s very important for us as believers to realize that Christ must always come first in our lives. We must love Him above everything else. We must value Him more highly than the very people whom we love on this earth. This is something that Christ requires of us because nobody else can ever do what He’s done for us. And no one is able to give us what He has given us.
Whomever we allow to decide how we should serve Him, whomever we allow to become an obstacle concerning us responding to His calling and purpose for our lives gets to occupy the place that He Himself should have occupied in our lives. Christ must be preeminent in everything we do since He is our Savior and Lord.
What Christ Meant by Declaring That we Must Hate Ourselves.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).
The fundamental of following Christ and living for Him alone is built on self-renunciation. This is where the concept of dying to self comes heavily into play (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5; Romans 6:11). Following Christ is no longer us trying to do things according to our own ways but His ways. Following Christ is all about us forsaking our old ways by embracing His own unique way of life. In other words, we give up everything by embracing everything He gives us.
By the way, Christ has given us a very powerful example regarding how to live a life pleasing to God by always putting His Father and His cause first. He didn’t come to make a name for Himself, to glorify Himself, and to live a life according to His own ways but to please and glorify His Father in everything He does. He lived a life based on total submission and humility to God the Father.
So the essence of the Christian life is humility and submission. That’s the kind of life that Christ wants us to live in response to what He has done for us. Hating ourselves means hating our own ways of doing things, hating our own sinfulness to the extent we want to starve it by ceasing to follow its massive impulses. Additionally, hating ourselves means laying aside our own ambitions, our own personal interests, our own mindsets, and whatever pertains to our sinful nature.
That hatred has to do with anything that can stand between Christ Jesus and us. Anything that can potentially become an impediment concerning us taking up our cross. Anything that can keep us from ever be whom He wants us to be in Him. Lastly, anything that can keep us from committing ourselves fully to whatever assignment He has called us to.
Christ understands that following Him isn’t an easy undertaking since His requirements defy how we want to operate as human beings in a realm in which we need relationship with our fellow human beings. Nonetheless, He’s calling us to hate, reprioritize, or abandon anything deemed precious to us, or anything sinful that we have a strong attachment to.
Even if our relationship with our loved ones as well as our friends is something that we need, but He desires for us to place Him first by valuing Him more. Why? What matters is Him, His will, His calling, and His purpose, not our relationships with our fellow human beings. Lastly, our human relationship has no eternal significance.