I don’t know about you but when I first read next Sunday's reading (Luke 14:25-33) and came to the part where if we do not hate our father and mother and even our wife and kids we cannot be His disciple I was somewhat confused. How is ‘hating’ my wife and kids following His command to love one another? I just didn’t get it. Then I did some research.
I found out that what Jesus was saying here is for one to be His disciple he must be prepared to leave behind anyone who prevents him from serving Jesus. You see, to ‘hate’ you father and mother is an idiomatic expression of that time and culture. It simply meant ‘to love less’.
For example, let’s have a look at the Book of Malachi, Chapter 1 verses 2 and 3. God says: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland…” (NIV) If we look at the Amplified translation we see this text as “But [in comparison with the degree of love I have for Jacob] I have hated Esau and have laid waste his mountains…” (AMP)
It’s like saying in our time that someone has ‘kicked the bucket’ doesn’t really mean that one literally kicked a bucket but that he has died. Or the expression that it’s raining cats and dogs doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are literally falling from the sky but that there’s a downpour outside. The same kind of thing applies here. Jesus wasn’t telling those who wanted to follow Him that they had to literally hate their spouses and even children. He was simply saying that even the sacredness of family loyalty shouldn’t outweigh our commitment to Christ since we must be willing to abandon even close relationships to follow Him.
This way of reading this particular passage also explains what Jesus meant by bringing a sword and not peace in Mat 10 where He says: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
To follow Jesus, that is to be His disciple, one must be willing to abandon even close relationships because many who are close to you will be unable to understand your path and reject you because of it, hence the turning away of the father and daughter and so on.
Just because they turn away from you or that your love toward Jesus Christ is greater than your love for your family doesn’t mean you leave or ignore them either. We are to love one another and that means to be there to explain the hope that is in you with respect and gentleness (1 Pet 3:15), and of course to pray for their entrance into the faith.