The Real Applications In Life
You are familiar with the New Testament record of the life of Jesus Christ and you are aware, until the last few months of His life on earth, He was sometimes followed and surrounded by great crowds of people referred to in the older translations as "multitudes." It is clear, Jesus was not that excited about these great numbers of people. Some of His disciples and even His brothers were. But Jesus had the ability to know the motivations of all these people and in one case He told them what He knew. He said, in Jno. 6:26, "...you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled."
On another occasion Luke tells us what Jesus said when followed by these great multitudes. Jesus had been visiting the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees; a man had been healed, and Jesus taught the guest about humility. The Pharisee's banquet being over, our Lord continues His journey towards Jerusalem and there is a goodly number of people following Him. Jesus determines to make an unmistakable statement to these people what it means to follow Him.
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." (Luke 14:25-27).
Of special interest to most people who read this passage - and I believe, of particular importance to every disciple of Christ - there is the statement the lord made in verse 26 . . . "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."
There Are Two Questions Which Need Attention Before We Go Further:
Does this require "hatred" in the ordinary sense of the word? In our vocabulary and use, when we see this word "hatred," we have thoughts of hostility, animosity; anger or contempt. Indeed that is the ordinary English use of the word. But in various places in the Bible the word "hate" or "hatred" is not intended to communicate these ugly sentiments; here's an example: You may recall that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen. 29:30). Well the next verse (Gen. 29:31) says that "The Lord saw that Leah was hated," (KJV). Sometimes, in Biblical use, the word hate or hatred - is not intended, and does not demand hostility or contempt; it simply conveys a ranking of affection. Jacob loved Rachel MORE than Leah. So here in Lk. 14:26 Jesus isn't teaching contempt, animosity, hostility or any offensive attitude or deed. The idea is, we are to love Christ MORE than we love our own family, and even our own self! Loving the Lord more than parents ... more than children ... more than brothers and sisters ... EVEN MORE THAN OUR OWN LIVES -- that is absolutely essential, if you want to become a disciple of Christ.
Does this require that we abandon family? Our answer to the first question is helpful in dealing with this. Jesus is not attempting to break up families; tear up marriages or start a war between brothers and sisters; this is not teaching that after you dry off from your baptism, you go home, pack and leave!! It does mean you do whatever is necessary to be loyal to Christ; it means HE COMES FIRST; it means your allegiance and obedience to Him is not just a part of your life - IT IS YOUR LIFE. And if your loyalty to Christ causes pain and tension with family members, you endure that as a Christian, but remain faithful to the Lord. There is no relationship that is more important; there are no person who deserves greater loyalty. This is what's involved; this is the loyalty; this is the depth of commitment necessary to be a follower of Christ.
In dealing with the Lord's statement - perhaps we should consider what this implies; we need, I believe to think from this statement - to the real applications in life. So would you consider the following:
1. The laws and traditions of family must never prevail above the law of Christ.
In keeping order, raising children and fulfilling all the responsibilities that attend to domestic life, it will be necessary to have rules. I grew up with a variety of rules when I was a child. Later when I became a husband and father I put various rules in place. There is no biblical argument to be made AGAINST the practice of having rules in the home. But those rules should be based on loyalty to Christ - NEVER IN CONFLICT WITH CHRIST!
In family life - especially from generation to generation - there may be great and worthwhile family traditions. When you were growing up perhaps you can recall various things that developed into family traditions, perhaps having to do with social occasions, holidays or things you did together which were spiritual in nature. Some of the traditions we remember may be innocent and may provoke very pleasant memories.
The point is, these laws or rules in the home (as necessary as they may be) ...and these traditions we may cherish (as powerful as they are) must never take a place above the values of Christ. When the rules and traditions of family become stronger in my life and more important than CHRIST - my priorities are wrong and my faith is mis-placed! I would not say a word to diminish or depreciate the role of family. This verse teaches - those powerful and legitimate emotions and loyalties must never compete with the claims of Christ!
And it can be said this passage has a message for people who may have no living relatives; it is about the depth of commitment and this commitment is essential for everybody. Those who have no living relatives must have this commitment. And also this commitment is necessary for those in families where this is shared faith and devotion. Love for family and the loyalty of that love is secondary to our love for God and Him who died for us.
2. We must never "sell out" or compromise under "family pressure."
You may have a spouse who is not involved with the Lord at all; or you may have a spouse not following the instructions of the New Testament. So there is temptation to compromise. There may be a powerful inclination to break faith with the Lord to keep peace in your marriage. But if you have the kind of loyalty Jesus is talking about here, you are determined not to let those temptations overcome you. "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." (Here is a valid rule for every Christian: Never will any sinful or compromising behavior do me any good. Never!)
There is another temptation that has to do with this same kind of pressure. PARENTS, don't let the behavior of your children tempt you away from the Lord, or any part of His Word. The best attitude for children to see in their parents is: This is what we believe; this is where we stand; this is our commitment to the Lord and if you walk away from the Lord, we are not going with you!! If love for your children causes you to compromise - that is not the kind of love God wants you to have! No compromise or sin will ever do you or anybody any good.
If love for your children causes you to overlook their sin, or become worldly yourself - that is not the kind of love God wants you to have. Whatever your relationships; whether you are a father or mother - son or daughter - husband or wife - brother or sister - IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN, loyalty to Christ is first; and that means, you do not make adjustments in your faith because of anybody, relative or not.
"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."
3. Discipleship without cost or obligation is not New Testament teaching.
In the time of Christ and still today some people are looking for the easiest, most convenient kind of religious association. They seek to have their social needs met; they want friendship and fun. But they do not want to be preached to; they will not give up their bad habits and reform their character; worship is just a ritual - and they have no interest in participating in spiritual work.
Certain words and concepts immediately turn these people off: Bible Authority, Obedience, Work; personal zeal, sacrifice and study. Without a doubt there are those who seek a convenient, comfortable, easy sort of religion. JESUS DOESN'T ANSWER THAT NEED; He doesn't respond to that call! Look at all Jesus said.
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. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
While some want a religion that doesn't cost anything, Jesus told the crowds: "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has, cannot be My disciple." Let me ask, would you put your very life and all that you have in this world at risk, to follow Jesus Christ? In the New Testament, when we read about obeying the gospel and living as a follower of Christ, this is the loyalty and commitment necessary.
4. Then I believe it should be said - All of this needs emphasis before baptism.
In this context, Jesus tells of a builder constructing a tower. Also, a king estimating his military strength. This illustrates the wisdom of considering, calculating and counting the cost of what you are about to do. An emotional, impulsive decision to be baptized is not recommended. Urgency is recommended but Jesus wants us to know the cost, the involvements of discipleship.
This is why He spoke so plainly to the crowd about the loyalty that would be
necessary. And we need to take this kind of teaching and use it carefully when we are teaching people who are not Christians. In being a Christian there is a price to pay; duties to perform; and there is this loyalty that is greater than family loyalty. This needs to be part of that teaching we do; we have called "first principles."
When Jesus came, there were Jewish families involved in religious traditions which were human in origin and not pleasing to God; later, when the gospel was taken to Gentiles, there were Gentile families involved in idolatrous religion. Believing in Christ and following Him meant: leaving all sin behind; leaving all false religion behind, even if sanctioned and practiced by one's family.
I am a third generation Christian so it may be, some of you have more personal experience with this. You know how hard it is to break away from family tradition; you have been through the strain and may still suffer the consequences. God honors your loyalty and zeal; and those who are willing to forsake all to follow Christ ... those who bear His cross and carry His name with pride - will find indescribable and eternal joy at the end of the journey.
Have you counted the cost? Will you be His disciple?
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 6.2; February 1999