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Luke 14:25-33

“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” (v26). I have often wondered how the folks at Focus On The Family interpret this passage. Jesus seems to be in total contradiction to our 21st century familial ties and priorities. How are we to read this command of Jesus and remain faithful to this rather stringent picture of discipleship? As it is with every passage, we must read it in context of the author’s continuing narrative.

In 12:1, we read that this large crowd was so zealous in following Jesus that they were “trampling one another.” It is likely that this same sort of zeal still defines the crowd in chapter 14. They have witnessed all the marvelous things Jesus has been doing which only adds to their zeal and delight over him (13:17). Having encountered leaders with great charisma in our own lives, it is easy to consider how these miracles and wonders of Jesus shaped the perspective of those who followed him above anything else. We must not forget that not only has Jesus’ integrity and identity been called into question (9:51-56; 11:14-23), but he is heading towards even more conflict and even death in Jerusalem as he has already predicted (9:21-27, 44-50). It is clear to the reader that the journey for those who follow Jesus will be filled with a lot more than just miracles and wonder. Has the crowd taken this conflict and the goal of the cross into consideration? Jesus does not seem to think so.

The Greek phrase we translate to “and does not hate” (kai ou misei) refers to deciding towards a particular loyalty rather than prioritizing affection. The shocking connotation of the word “hate” needs to be read through the lens of hyperbole rather than as a literal command. Dr. David Neale rightfully suggests that we need to read this passage in context with 12:52-53. “That text is shaped by Deut 13:6-11. One who performed wonders was to be rejected if his orthodoxy was suspect. Those in the family of this ‘deceiver’ were to be the first to take up opposition and stone the offender. This would include even the son, daughter, spouse, or intimate friend. This may represent the actual experience of Jesus and his disciples.” [1] Those who follow Jesus must be loyal to him first and foremost. Jesus expects such undivided loyalty to shape even their most intimate human relationships in the face of opposition, especially when their family and friends may