“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26
Does Jesus really want us to hate our family members? This is one of those verses we tend to shy away from because we have difficulty understanding it. Yet, it contains a vital principle about following Jesus; a basic principle really.
First, we should always interpret difficult to understand passages in the Bible by clear passages. And Jesus’ teaching on the subject of love is crystal clear. Jesus would never ask His followers to be haters. In fact, He tells us to love one another the way He loves us (John 13:34), which is unconditionally. We’re even to love our enemies (Luke 6:35).
So, if Jesus isn’t literally saying we should hate our family members, what is He saying? Well, Jesus calls His followers to love Him supremely. Our love for Jesus should be so great that our love for anyone else looks like hate by comparison.
This same principle applies to how we feel about ourselves, “and even his own life.” So, not only do we put Jesus above every other relationship, we also put Him above our personal preferences and reputation. We simply choose Him, regardless. When we follow Him as closely as possible, our desires begin to line up with His desires, and our reputation is God-honoring.
Remember, when asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And the second greatest commandment? “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). You see, our love for each other flourishes when we love Jesus foremost.
Is your love for Jesus greater than your love for anyone else, even yourself? Stop and think before you give a knee-jerk answer. Do your everyday activities reveal that you love someone or something more? When you love someone you can’t wait to spend time with that person. You make sacrifices in your personal life to be with them as much as possible. Is that true of your relationship with Jesus?