August 17, 2011

Hard Sayings XII: Hater

"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

As hard as something like this saying would be to reconcile with what most understand about Jesus, in its most literal sense according to the original is true. When Jesus says here seems to fly directly in the face of natural order and what the Bible tells us but in reality it does not. It goes against the idea of honoring one's parents, loving one's neighbor and being respectful to those aged and full of wisdom (πρεσβύτερος - presbuteros)

So what is Jesus really saying here, or did He say exactly what He meant? I really needed to think about what this meant to Andy when writing this post and when I came to my conclusion rather quickly. Anything that comes between God and myself is a detriment to my relationship with the most important thing in my existence-God. More important than my parents, wife or even my children. Without my salvation I will not have any of them in eternity anyway. If I cannot maintain God in my life and behave and reflect a benevolent and gracious demeanor like Jesus I risk losing my parent, wife or children to the world anyway. Ephesians passage about the structure of the family from Ephesians 5:21-6:4 is clear. The way to harmony in a family, spouse to spouse, parent to child and child to parent is "in Christ". There is no other way. Christ comes first...NO EXCEPTIONS. If something comes before Jesus, your priorities are screwed-up.

So why does Jesus tell us to hate mom and pop? Well, let us look at the word hate more closely first. The connotation in our society when the word hate is mentioned is a picture of a relationship that has an absolute absence of love. Hate in our 2011 understanding is not what the word  μισεῖ / misei means. Misei is actually a biblical idiom that has its roots in the Old Testament Hebrew שנאתי of Malachi 1:3. The Greek  μισεῖ / misei thought more properly captures the intent whereas the Hebrew שנאתי often literally meant to hate someone utterly and absolutely. A more proper understanding of this word μισεῖ is to be "loving less". Overall it is not that far removed from the Old Testament example of Jacob and Esau once the idiom is understood correctly...

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated" ~Malachi 1:2-3

God didn't hate Esau literally He just showed Esau less favor than Jacob. Nor does Jesus expect you to hate your parents before pulling up stakes an following Him. What he does expect is that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes between Him and you. Ironically, it is for your own good too. We sort of see this reflected again in the Gospel of Matthew also.

“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

Your parents, children, relatives or those closest to you cannot give you eternal life. When it comes time for you to enter through the narrow're going alone, not with mommy and daddy. The gate is more narrow than I think many will ever guess. One at a time folks. No one gets pushy or they get sent to the back of the line (the first last and the last first). Everybody knows or at least realizes riches and things of the world can come between us and God. Few though understand the depth of the relationship required to enter through the narrow gate and have Jesus tell us, "well done" instead of, "I never knew you". Some of that depth is revealed here in this verse and others like it. Not even mom and pop are to impede your love and relation with the Lord. If you place Jesus first these other relationships sort themselves out as I can attest to. If you are truly putting God first, loving your wife, honoring of your mother and father and loving your children is the fruit of this relationship with God and the immediate fallout of the correct mindset.

If you truly love Jesus wouldn't be able to truly hate your parents, children or siblings anyway. Common sense should've told you that. Don't be silly folks. Of course Jesus would want you to love them. Love them to your grave. But....but....BUT!!!...If  God ever calls you to forsake it all (and He might), you need to be prepared to let it all go to obey His divine will, just as Abraham did (Isaac and a knife ring any bells for ya?) or as Matthew did when Jesus said to him, "Follow me,” and he got up, left everything and followed him. It is here in these nuances of behavior and language where we see the true righteousness of God reside. Of course if you are the only provider of provisions for your family I find it highly unlikely that God would call you to abandon that responsibility without a plan to continue to help provide for the dependants in your life like children or a wife.

Yes this saying appears a little tough at first but in reality, if we are seeing it through God goggles, it really isn't. Love God first and everything else logically falls out from the relationship making things easier than you might think.

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