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Morning over the bay

Has Jesus Gone Too Far?

Janine Hares

6 Comments
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  • Patrick Cronin

    I agree with the conclusions of janine's article that it is the Christian aim to 'detach' ourselves from created things and to place God as our absolute priority above the claims of anything created however dear to us. I would like to point out that in Hebrew and Aramaic idiom it is common that the speaker would create a stark contrast to emphasise a point. A good example of this is in the Lord's prayer: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". (James 1 13-15). Scripture states that God never tempts any one to do evil so the point being made is 'NOT THAT, but the OPPOSITE.' Similarly, in the face of the fourth commandment (which Jesus had personally quoted to the rich young man) "Honour your father and your mother" Jesus says:"Anyone who does not hate his father...." is illustrating that contrast of the degree of love owed to God compared with the love we owe to our closest loved ones.

  • Jpt Arnakak

    I agree with knobcottage's comments - about the multi-layered readings based on the PARDES (it is also said that the Torah has 70 faces). although, I'd like to add that perhaps our Lord Saviour was alluding to the fact that His gospel's emphasis was the Spirit and not the letter of the Law, that what seems "astonishing" (Him associating with the "lost" and "sinners" as a matter of course in His ministry, for eg) is the truth seen from a different perspective. The Judeo-Christian faith is about submission and surrender to the will of the Father, and the biological family may be a representation par excellence of our worldly attachments. I know in my prayers I always have a hard time focussing, and that my wants and fears intrude most easily to my consciousness; it is my self-life and ego-wishes and human pride (ie, those that "define" me that pose an obstacle to perceiving the glory of G*d whom I must submit to with all my humility as our Lord Saviour showed us to do).

  • Sue Hallock

    I agree that this word "hate" leaves much to fathom, and without detracting one iota from its intent, I've come to see that the human language falls short of being able to express the mind of God. Only in the Spirit are we given an inkling of true understanding. Notwithstanding, isn't it a paradox that often separation from family along the line, say, of a career is held in high esteem, while leaving all for The Great Cause of God is looked upon as avoidable suffering? A few years after my oldest son left home and career to serve The Cause, I asked him, "So, how do you know when you are called?" He answered, "When you can do nothing else."

  • knobcottage

    I disagree. I do not believe that Christ is asking anyone to hate anyone. I think that in context of the understanding of the time, there are two distinct ways of understanding what is being said. Pashat would be the simple understanding, face value if you would. Crash or search would be the second. The listeners would hear the 'face value' meaning and 'search' for further understanding from their knowledge of scripture. The word hate occurs some 71 times in the Old Testament. It occurs about 16 times in Deuteronomy, usually referring to attitude towards non Israelite gods,people etc. Thus the understood meaning would be after Drash or search, would not be to 'hate' as such, but be 'prepared to separate oneself from' as, for want of a better example kosher and treif: these are not opposites. Meat can be either depending on how it is cooked/ killed. Thus family can be regarded as to be separated from or cloven to depending on how they react to the departure of their son/ daughter. Hate is far to strong a word and does not for me convey the meaning or complexity of the original sense.

  • jenni ho-huan

    These words cut to the heart of allegiance and identity. who do we belong to, and where do we get our identity from? Jesus is stating who GOd is: our Source. Until we are firmly re-connected to our Source and count all other links and attachments secondary and ready for severance; we may never find the deep life Christ offers us. this is a theme in a book I am working on and I appreciate this provocative article. thank you!

  • Gladys Brayer

    Thank you, Janine, for this eye-opening insight on Jesus' statement; "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes - even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14-26). I will print and share this with my Priest who spoke recently on this very subject. Jesus was indeed, a rebel, and many were confused by his words and actions...such as at the Last Supper when he presented the bread and wine to his disciples saying, "this is my body...this is my blood"...(Matt: 26-28)..and I wonder how many witnesses turned away in shock and disbelief...

A reader from England sent us these challenging thoughts on one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings, which too many of us would rather avoid. We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

This is a radical pattern for world peace. The one who tells us to love as he loves is also saying that we must hate each other, particularly those closest to us. How can we be expected to follow such contradictory teaching? Has Jesus gone too far?

Perhaps that is the point. It is a step too far. A point of departure from common sense and an invitation into the unknown. The challenge to hate disturbs our sense of right and wrong. It unsettles our attempts to become respectable and nice. It makes no sense at all.

It is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (Isaiah 29:14) and “the foolishness of God is wiser than men’s wisdom” (Corinthians 1:25). If we follow Jesus we will be challenged to act in ways that will not always be recognized or accepted by our families or cultures. We must be prepared to be foolish as God is foolish. Perhaps Jesus’ demand that we must hate our families is an example of God’s foolishness in the extreme.

Jesus is asking us to act against the deeply rooted human compulsion to belong, to be part of the group. Our world depends upon these forces of the group to function. Yet Jesus is asking us to step beyond them.

We gain our sense of safety and identity from belonging to our family, tribe, or culture. The loner or outsider is viewed with suspicion. Even children ostracize those who do not conform to group norms. Some of the worst punishments to be inflicted upon human beings are social exclusion and solitary confinement.

The fear of isolation springs from a fundamental need: survival. Evolutionary science suggests that in order for our genes to survive into the next generation we protect and nurture those closest to us. Our family bond serves as a guardian of our genetic heritage.

It seems that our tribal instinct is embedded in our genes. Yet Jesus asks us to leave our tribe, to sever even our most vital ties. We are being called to a completely different way of living as “new creations in Christ.” And perhaps it is because of this new life to which we are called that Jesus demands that we hate those who tie us to the requirements of this one.

He calls us to belong to him. To be like him. He calls us to be in the world but not of the world. So he tells us to hate. Why?

Love binds. Hate separates.

In order for us to enter into the fullness of his new life and be wholly free, we must first separate ourselves from everything and everyone that binds us to the old.

God calls us by name. He calls us one by one. We can only become fully ourselves – free, distinct, and individual – if we follow him alone. Only then may we begin the adventure of loving others freely.


Now it’s your turn. Do you disagree with this writer? What implications does this Bible passage have in your life?

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