We are going through the New Testament at church this year – in fact, we are reading it cover to cover and the sermon series is based on the verses and chapters that we are to read each week. We happen to be in the book of Luke already and so far this year, we have had some pretty heavy stuff to contemplate. But perhaps none so difficult as today.
As Christ followers, we want Jesus to be encouraging, supportive and understanding. But the real Jesus was confrontational and created scenes. He didn’t pull his punches when He had something to say and as I was sitting in church today, it occurred to me that we sometimes run across verses that seem inconsistent with the person of Jesus – something that just doesn’t resonate with us.
And most of us have selective reading skills – we want to be in alignment with Jesus as long as the sacrifice isn’t too great – or we are fine when we hear things from Jesus that we like or can embrace. But what about that difficult to understand stuff? In seminary, I learned that our modern translations are sometimes a little different from the original languages – or, we lack historical context – what did certain things mean during the day that they were written?
Tonight, we tackle one such verse that was used in church today. Here’s the setup… Jesus was speaking of the sacrifice of following Him and used some pretty tough, confusing language. In fact, He invoked the word “hate” as He was was speaking to the people who had been following Him. Jesus went to on say, and I am paraphrasing here, that people must hate their family to follow Him! Now let’s face it – that’s some pretty difficult stuff to swallow. I have to hate my family, indeed, life itself, to be a disciple of Jesus? That sounds insane!
But, like most things that sound really out of character for Jesus, the truth is usually in understanding the words that were used and the definitions that they had during the time of the early New Testament. Tonight is no exception. Because in the time of Jesus, the word “hate” in the Greek could be defined two ways. First of all, it could mean to intensely dislike, as we would define it today… But it could also mean that to “hate” something was to love it less than something else. Now I am being somewhat elementary here in defining “hate” but suffice it to say that if we “hate” something, we should care much less about it than something else that we “love.” It’s a comparative thing…
Another example in the Greek would be when we speak of “antichrist” – we think of the antichrist as being against God, but it can also mean something that is in place of, or instead of, God! Such is the case with so many different words in the Greek. They just don’t necessarily mean the same thing in the original language that we think they mean in our modern English.
So let’s get to tonight’s difficult verse. Jesus was speaking and the good doctor Luke gives us the words of Jesus. The apostle Luke recounts the words of our Savior when he tells us, in Luke 14:25-27, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Sometimes, many of us glance over verses like this because they seem inconsistent with the way that Jesus would act. But what Jesus is trying to say here, in His own way, is that we are to love Him more than anything and that our love, even for our family, should be secondary to the love we have for our Lord. In other words, Jesus wants us to worship Him first, above everything else. And stated this way, it is much more palatable than telling us that we have to “hate” something… especially our families.
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus loves us and desires our devotion to Him. My prayer is that we can learn about these tough Bible verses and have a better understanding of what Jesus was really trying to teach us through His word and the ministry He had with His disciples. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…