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?