Large crowds were traveling along 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.” – Luke 14:25-26
There are times when a lesson Jesus teaches is hard to understand. While his words are simple and clear, they often cause some apprehension. Hate is a strong word, and when it is directed to those who are to be loved, the question naturally follows, “Is this what Jesus meant?”
There are many who simply conclude hate doesn’t mean hate. How could Jesus be a God of love and tell people to hate those nearest and dearest to them? The meaning of the word is clear and cannot be debated, neither can its intent. Jesus made a specific point to tell the crowds they needed to make a clean break with everything and everyone if they were going to follow him.
It is a lesson I need to consider carefully. Family and lifestyle can become two of the hardest hurdles to overcome in order to follow Jesus. Families in particular can create extreme pressure by making harsh demands and accusations. The loss of a comfortable lifestyle can also lead to regret and remorse. As I consider a life of love and service as Jesus’ disciple, I need to understand what it means. It’s not a part-time job. It is not something I can pick up and put down whenever I choose. Neither is it something I can compromise if it results in loss or problems. I need to be able to make a clean break with everything and everyone. In other words, I am to love him with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. Nothing should ever equal the love I have for my Lord and my Savior.
This is what Jesus deserves. Certainly I am to love my neighbor. I also need to love and honor those God put around me as a source of blessing. Still, that love can never equal the love I reserve for my Savior. If I ever become confused or have regrets regarding my love for him, I need to remember the love he first showed to me. His love brought him to the cross. His love made him give up his life to rescue me from the punishment of death. His love assures me I am his now and always. It is this undeserved love which leads me to make a clean break with everything in this world, and love him first, best, and without rival.
Prayer: O gracious Savior, I thank you for the gift of your love. Not only has it secured my release from sin and its punishment, it has also given me the desire to love you and follow you alone. Amen.