I remember well when my son came to me and admitted, tearfully, that he had almost been willing to cut me off due to religious affiliation. I had left the church we belonged to for most of his young life, and that church taught adamantly that we were to be loyal to church first, family second, self last of all. The church was God, and God was The Church. (The Church is defined as that one building, with an address and a denominal title, in our former religion, not the body of all believers)
And didn’t Jesus say “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as his own life, he can’t be my disciple.”? (Luk 14:26) You might be surprised at how many results pop up on a Google search for the question, ‘Do I have to hate my family to follow Jesus?” And, more importantly, how many different responses there are. But, if one of the Ten Commandments is to ‘Honor thy parents”, how could Jesus contradict that?
The reality is – this is yet another example of what the book, Biblical Literalism attempts to highlight. When taken at face value, a Scripture, punctured by time, transliteration, and read by people with little to no understanding of the culture who wrote the words and the culture of whom the words were meant for, is given a meaning it had no intent to produce.
Let’s digest this verse, found in Luke 14. This is important because I personally know families that have been torn to shreds over denominational stances, with players in the story using this verse as justification for why they can Biblically separate and tear their families apart with justification. The reality is, Jesus gave us a beautiful verse that has been abused, misused and made ugly.
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, NIV
If anyone comes to Me, and does not [a]hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]—he cannot be My disciple. ~ Luke 14:26, AMP
Few Bible renditions do this verse justice and this is exactly why one of my favorite version of Scripture to teach from has become the Amplified Bible version. The note [a] in the above version reference (found here) provides this note to the reader:
*[a] An exaggerated figure of speech indicating a lesser degree of love, not actual hostility or aversion toward one’s earthly family.
Hate is not the action or intent of hating another human or family, nor does it imply the literal meaning of the word, found in the Strongs Concordance (#G3404) as to ‘detest‘. Rather, the usage here, as one of the meanings of the word, is to simply love-less. If we re-wrote this verse with that simple premise, you would gain a much clearer picture in today’s vernacular, which is a big part of my teachings…bringing the word to our generation.
“If anyone comes to Me [Jesus Christ], and does not [love me more, and love less] his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life [meaing that the discipleship to Jesus is the highest calling of a person over being a husband, or parent, although those are important and not to be ignored]—he cannot be My disciple. ~ Luke 14:26, AMP”
This may very well be one of my shortest articles ever written. Because there is little more to say. Any man/woman who uses Scripture to justify cutting off family members based on Denomination choice (in my case, I was Oneness Pentecostal…and family members who were NOT Oneness Pentecostal were not to be trusted or fellowshipped closely) is ignorant of the real meaning of Scripture.
We are to prefer Christ overall. We are to choose God over all worldly aspirations. We are to Love Christ more (on a hierarchy of priorities) than our family, but we are still under the commandment to honor (love) our mothers and fathers.
We are to love God, with all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. We are to mightily love God, to give Him our everything, to set our relationship with him as our highest priority! (Luk 10:27) But in no way does this diminish our Biblical commandments to love our wives, respect our Husbands, care for our Children and to fundamentally prepare for our grandchildren. And more importantly, God commanded us to spend our efforts going to faraway places, the dirty places, the ‘across the tracks’ places, to reach the lost. (Luk 14:23)
Our first and foremost commandment was to Love God, and second only to this, and counted as equally important and powerful, was to love our neighbors and that means, show the love of Christ, to bring them to Christ! So no, the answer is no. You do not, in our modern understanding of the word, need to HATE your family to love Christ.
In reality, loving Christ is the best way to love your family too!
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ 40 The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments. ~ Matthew 22:36-40, AMP