Luke 14 26 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.
To join any legitimate sports team, there needs to be team rules and regulations. The athlete has to understand what the expectations are of them before they join. They need to understand them, and they need to acknowledge acceptance of these rules. I read the team rules from a school basketball team recently. They included: 1) Be on time for practises and games; 2) Listen to the coach; 3) Don’t criticize teammates; 4) Don’t disrespect officials; 5) Don’t disrespect opposing players etc. The list continued.
Each of the aforementioned rules or expectations likely makes sense, but I want to challenge you with some apparent team rules that may be more difficult to understand. Today’s reading from Luke 14 is Jesus’ words to large crowds who were following him. As he often did, Jesus taught these people. Early in Luke 14 we see that Jesus was staying at a Pharisee’s house and he taught the concept of honoring others and putting them first. He said to the host that when he holds a luncheon or dinner, he should not invite his friends, relatives or rich neighbors, but rather invite the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind. He goes on to tell the Parable of the Great Banquet which describes the rejection of Jesus by God’s own Jewish Nation (the family) and how God then invites those outside the family, the Gentiles.
In this context Jesus says: “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). For those who are hostile to Christianity, this is a great verse to take out of context. How awful is God to encourage hating your family? What an awful new commandment Jesus is giving. Clearly Jesus is trying to make some other point; He does not advocate hating your family. It would contradict 1 Timothy 5:8 which says: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It contracts 1 John 4:20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” So clearly Jesus is meaning something else.
Jesus is setting the expectations of a disciple. To become a Christian, we must repent of our sins, accept Jesus into our heart understanding that he bore the penalty of our sins on the cross. But to be a disciple, we need to deny ourselves and follow him; to do this we have to put God above everything and everyone. This is what Jesus is saying. If we are placing our family, or for that matter anything, before God then we cannot be disciples. If something is coming in the way of our obedience to God, we may have to make some tough decisions – this could even include disagreeing or disobeying our family if they contradict God. Are you prepared to do that? Are you prepared to be on God’s team of disciples?
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25).