I know. “Hate” is a very strong word. Surely, Christ did not mean for us to hate our family members, as in loathing them.
Here is exactly what He said: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple“ (Luke 14: 26).
These are powerful words and very perplexing. Surely He did not mean hate hate. Pondering this, I looked up the word in the Greek. Miseo is used with several shades of meaning. Consulting Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, I found that it is indeed used for “malicious feelings toward others.” But it is also used to speak “of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person…to those of another.”
The Key to Understanding What He Meant
The key to understanding this kind of “hate” for earthly family members that Christ speaks about resides in understanding “aversion from” and “disregard for.”
Christ is saying that when we answer the call to become a son or daughter of God, earthly family members will stand in the way of us walking on with God. Consciously or unconsciously, they will obstruct us. Christ called them blind and the walking dead. Even though some may mean well, Christ sees them as enemies endeavoring to thwart His plan for our new lives in Him. They have their plans for us–how we should act towards them, and it is always about them. And God has His plan for how we occupy our minds with His thoughts. Therefore, we must choose God’s thoughts for us and “disregard” their little self-centered world, around which they want us to spin. We must avert or turn away our minds and hearts from dwelling on them.
Simply put, in comparison to the high calling, they are a hindrance and must be put on the back burner when we are forced to choose between Christ and them. We must set Christ and His plan as the top priority and not antagonistic family members. In a word, we must separate ourselves from them.
The Rest of Christ’s Lesson
Christ continues His teaching on all this in the verses that follow, illustrating the actual cost, the actual price we must pay for discipleship. For He immediately asks, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” For you may come up short and not be able to finish the project.
By that He wants us to ask ourselves, “What might it cost to seriously follow Christ into Sonship?” It just may cost us a row, a major blow up with a family member. It might cost a wife [I have actually seen this happen more than once, and thank God that mine stayed with me]. It may cost you a relationship with a son or daughter [I know about the son].
Following Christ the way He wants us to follow Him may cost us someone dear to us. “For how can two walk together, except they be agreed? And “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? Wherefore, come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (II Cor 6: 14-17).
The Conclusion of Christ’s Lesson for Us
Finishing up His lesson on counting the cost of serving Him, He says, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 33).
The “all that he has” here is the earthly life mentioned seven verses before at the beginning of the lesson–his earthly father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters.
Christ is teaching us that we should disregard and turn away from, and thereby forsake earthly family members if they continue to be used by Satan to prevent us from fulfilling our calling. We still love them and pray for them that they might repent and turn toward God. But we should hear Christ’s words and not theirs. He did warn us about all this. He said, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter agains her mother…and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Mt. 10: 34-36).
Finally, we must ask ourselves this: Are we going to flail around in the deep dark lake of fear and dread, trying to save someone whose thrashing about just might drown us in the process? Or are we going to obey and trust our Master by standing on the banks with Him as a beacon of light and thereby be able to help those who want to come to the light and walk with Him?