Recently, I got an unusual feeling while reading the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. I am accustomed to feeling inspired and challenged, consoled and confronted by the words of Jesus, but on this occasion, I had the unusual feeling of disbelief. Really, Jesus? You tell me that to follow you I must hate my father and mother? (Luke 14:26). Jesus has told us that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that the greatest commandment is to love one another (Matthew 22:36-40). So, why does Jesus tell us to “hate” members of our families?
Bible scholars voice that it might be more understandable to use the word “renounce” rather than hate. Jesus is telling us to set aside our love for all others in a way that puts our love for God above and beyond all else. It is not that we are to hate our father and mother and brothers and sisters, but rather we are to have those relationships in the right order with God being primary.
It seems that in this passage of Luke’s Gospel that Jesus was intentionally trying to provoke an unusual feeling. He purposely intended to shake and wake us up to the fact that being his disciple is not an easy road. Jesus is asking us to take seriously our commitment to following him and making God the center of our lives.
Jesus’ life was surely unusual. So, maybe it is not so unusual for me to feel unusual as I strive to follow him.