Do I Have to Hate My Family to Follow Jesus?

Heart of Jesus

Heart of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question:  “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).  Can you help me with the “hate” part of this?

Answer:  We know that Jesus wants us to love our family.  Jesus loved his mother enough to entrust her to his disciple John (John 19:25-27).  His apostles have taught us to love our families (for example, Ephesians 5:25).  So Jesus must be speaking in a purposely exaggerated way to make a point.  He said it another way on another occasion:

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus wants his disciples to understand that living for God and His kingdom is more important than anything, including any relationships.  Now living for God and His kingdom, as we saw above, includes loving your family.  But there are people who have chosen to reject God because their family members didn’t want them to become believers (think of conversion to Christianity among Muslims).  And there are times when we mistakenly think that focusing on our family instead of God will actually help our family when just the opposite is true (think of those who won’t take their kids to church just because they say, “I don’t want to go.”).

To be sure people can abuse this principal in the opposite way.  A pastor can think that he must spend all his time at the church helping parishioners and yet neglects his family.  But Jesus is not addressing that issue here.  He is addressing the issue of how much commitment is required to follow him.  In the very next sentence in the Luke 14 passage he says, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

We have to love him more than our own lives, as well.  Knowing God is the most important thing in our lives.  Nothing can eclipse it without endangering our souls.  No other reality can make us the persons we need to be in order to love our families and make a positive difference in the world.  This one commitment must trump all others or we will fail to be the people God created us to be.

4 thoughts on “Do I Have to Hate My Family to Follow Jesus?

  1. I usually let the bible do the talking. I find when we have to clarify what Jesus said and why he said it, it weakens the book for me. Many pastors I have spoken to were always trying to decipher the meanings of what Jesus meant in this instance and that instance etc…..I find it the epitome of arrogance to think that one can and has to interpret the word. I read and understand just fine, thank you.

    Gods word is the bible, why change it or deem to change what the meaning of the scripture is? You were not there. Maybe Jesus was having a particularly bad day. How do you know he meant that scripture another way. BTW there are several more scriptures where Jesus and others have mentioned family in a negative way. I was a member of a church since 2003 in the southern U.S. and it was frightening to me and my (black) wife. We had many cringe worthy moments from the moment Obama won the election until we left in 2013. It was the most racist experience we have yet ran into. Friendly and forgiven? No way! And it was not confined to only one church.

    Anyway there are many scriptures we started running into that condones horrible behaviors.

    If god is all powerful and knows us before we were even born, and knows what was, is, and will be, why does he allow people to be born atheists? Why does he allow them to be born Muslim? And if he knew what we will do in the future he then would have known that every death since the creation of the world happened and yet he did not intervene with those who have faith and died anyway. He watched it happen.

    I used an example of a man of god who perverted and raped a young choirboy after practices for a couple of years. HE then molested a few little girls as well. Many years later some children now grown ups came out of the closet and wanted him to take responsibility for his actions. The church stepped in and protected this pastor and relocated him. To this day he is still holding choir practice with young members. And holds studies with young girls as well. When one particular choirboy found out after many years of lack of self esteem and damaging emotional trauma, shot up a shopping mall and then turned the gun on himself. God watched this man rape these children and fondle the little girls. Yet he did nothing to protect them. What does this say about god? He had the power to stop it from happening. He could have done any number of things to keep his children safe, but he didn’t. Why? Because he is mysterious and we don’t know the ways of god? We have been studying him for 2000 years and we still don’t understand that which we worship? He remains a mystery? I think I can make up my mind what god is if he had the power to stop something and yet did not do it! Isn’t it a sin BTW to KNOW what is right but not DO that which is right? What say you to this and use scripture without trying to interpret it please. Please justify this gods actions before we jump in as believers. I’m not jumping into a cult.

    There was a boy who was 9 years old. It took him 3 years to die finally of brain cancer. God watched him die and not only that it took so long. His parents were wiped out both emotionally and physically. They both were so in despair as believers they are now admitted in a psycho ward. She is on suicide watch. And the father paces the floor and has been asking god “why?” for 2 years now. God watched and didn’t do anything miraculous or simple. Nothing. The cancer slowly spread out and consumed this little kid. His parents had pastors and preachers in and out all the time. They were always praying at the end of the bed, at the head of the bed and laying on the floor praying constantly. for 3 years. I watched from the nurses station. The boys mother even told me she just wanted him to die if they had no cure for him. Why did god prolong the inevitable? If god wanted her little boy why stretch this thing out? The time spent with his parents was not productive, it was a sort of living hell. The father was imprisoned and fined and sued by the hospital for the overwhelming hospital bills. $2 million dollars to be exact. The fathers part of the payment was $250,000 dollars. Why would god put a faithful family through that ordeal? Isn’t he powerful enough? Did he put those parents through all that just so they could STOP believing in him? There certainly was a lot more facts about this situation that leaned the outcome in the favor of both parents losing faith and being where they are now. I was visiting them once a month. The father is a vegetable and the mother was found hanging in the laundry room by a sheet wrapped around her neck she was rescued but has suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. Why did god do this to these poor parents? These are the things that keep me and my wife from believing totally and without doubt that god cares and loves us when all we see is to the contrary. We are really very positive people and love rules in our home. Why cant we have loving and caring friends and Christians instead of paranoid Christian friends who complain all the time. I have to remind them that love rules in my house. It says right there on the front door. But curiously my atheist friends are respectful and mild mannered and always bring food and drinks. My Christian friends all scatter when my friendly atheist friends come over. Its like they cannot stand to be in the same room with them. Curious. Not lost on me and my wife and causes us to ask. Just thought I would put it out there.

    • I have been at somewhat of a loss as to how to respond to you. Are you someone who is genuinely seeking answers or someone who has already made up his mind. I’ve had plenty of the latter. Do you really believe then that Jesus meant for us to hate our parents, and if so, how do you know Jesus wasn’t just having a good day? When the author of the Proverbs 26:4,5 said, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes,” was he not inviting us to interpret? Yes, there is a greater chance that we will understand each other when we speak than not, but part of understanding each other is knowing some context. If I tell you I really got down last night, only context and perhaps further communication with me will tell you if I mean I got sad or danced or something else entirely. We have a lot of context in Scripture for what Jesus meant when he said “hate your parents.” We have him as he hangs on the cross giving care of his mother to John the apostle. We know he did not literally mean hate your parents. We know he was speaking comparatively. It’s not that hard to figure out. We aren’t being arrogant to think that we must interpret God’s word. Of course we must. We must interpret every communication that comes our way. And we humbly consider every disparate interpretation we find in order to make sure we can defend our interpretation.

      I’m sorry for your and your wife’s experience in churches. That is unacceptable and contrary to what Jesus teaches. I too heard cringe worthy comments about our President and am bothered that some Christians let politics and fear and prejudice guide them more than Scripture. I’m not sure what Scriptures you believe condone horrible behavior, but this behavior is clearly not condoned (see Ephesians 4:29).

      If you accept the Scriptures as they are you know that they teach that every person born is born a sinner and a rebel against God. Paul says we all hold down the truth about who God is and try to fashion Him in our own image (Romans 1:18-26). There are no innocents in the ultimate sense, those who do not deserve judgment. And because we are rebellious we commit horrible sins like you described. Asaph, the psalmist, in Psalm 73 wrestles with this very thing, why such evil people prosper and many believers do not. He thought about putting it out there but refrained so he wouldn’t damage other believers. But his answer from God was that the judgment of the evil is sure and the believer has a relationship with God that means more than personal prosperity. He is our portion and the strength of our heart.

      We believe that no matter how much suffering we experience in this life we have the promise of a much more glorious reward in the life to come. God watched His own Son die in order that we might have forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

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