Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Stray Thoughts: Jesus' Call to Hate

During my daily Bible reading recently I bumped into something that made me pause and question. Here’s what I read.
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
One of the words stood out to me. It was the word ‘hate’. Really? Jesus wants me to hate? And to hate people who are the closest to me? This can’t be right. If I did this wouldn’t I be disobeying some commands from God, like honoring father and mother? But there it is in the Bible.

I think that you can see why I had to stop and think about this.
There are different ways that some have squirmed out of this. I have a Bible that includes a footnote for this verse. It reads, ‘By comparison of his love for Me.’ Is that legit? I suspect that if Jesus meant something like that He would have said it that way. But He didn’t.

And then, consider the situation in which Jesus announces this surprising requirement.
Now large crowds were going along with Him…  Luke 14:25
Jesus is saying this to crowds of people who have been eager to hear His teachings, people who just might become disciples. Wouldn’t His demand scare away many who might have decided to follow Him? Didn’t Jesus want to have lots of people believe in Him and become His disciples?

So, what’s going on here?

I think that one thing is clear. Jesus wanted people to know that following Him would be demanding; that He would be demanding. He wanted people to know up front that following Him would be costly, very costly. Following Him would trump everything else and everyone else in the life of one of His disciples. Talking about hating others in order to follow Him was one good way to make that clear.

In light of all of this, why would anyone have wanted to follow Jesus?

This isn’t the only time that Jesus would say hard things that turned people away. In fact, one time His words stunned some who had already made the commitment to be disciples of His. His words made them turned away from following Him anymore. As this was happening, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them a rather pointed question.
You do not want to go away also, do you? John 6:67
Peter spoke for the group when he said,
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. John 6:68
Peter had some sense of the cost (though not as much as he would have in the years to come) and some sense of the blessing (and again, not as much as he would have in the years to come). So, he - and the others - stayed.

It’s great to get to the point of explaining the Gospel to someone who is showing some serious interest. However, it’s important to present the whole picture to that person before he makes any decision about following Jesus. On the one hand, Jesus offers life, the life of eternity, something amazing that we begin to experience in the here and now. On the other hand, Jesus is a demanding Savior. He’s not nasty or cruel or brutal. But He will require much. Following Him will be costly. Jesus made this clear to people He spoke to. We need to make this clear to people we speak to.

It is a sad fact that there are far too many Christians who never heard about the costliness of following Jesus. As a result, when He leads them into some demanding situation, a situation that requires loyalty to Him above all else, they are completely confused about what is happening, and they struggle. No one ever explained this aspect of following Jesus to them. I hope that this isn’t true of you. Jesus promises the kind of amazing life that is beyond our imagining. But He also promises a life that will be hard. Wise disciples, those who are able to endure to the end, understand this. This is why they pray for the ability to be faithful during the hard times. And this is why they are able to deeply appreciate the good times.

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