Hating father and mother? Didn’t the Lord say that we were to honor our father and our mother (Exodus 20:12)? Hating wife and children? Doesn’t Paul tell husbands to love their wives–the way that Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25)? The Lord is not sending us mixed messages or issuing conflicting commands. Rather Jesus’ intentionally provocative language here highlights a key aspect of discipleship. Discipleship is a question of allegiance. If our ultimate allegiance is not to the Lord Jesus, we are not really His disciples.
We find this same language of loving versus hating in Romans 9:13 (quoting from Malachi 1:2-3). How is it that God hated Esau? In this sense: He chose Jacob instead of him. We must choose Jesus over everyone and everything else. Even our closest family members if need be.
Kevin DeYoung, one of my favorite modern day theologians, frames the question of our ultimate allegiance(s) in terms of the first commandment versus idolatry. Here is a quote from his blog: “What must we leave behind if we are to follow Christ? The simplest answer is that we must leave behind idolatry. That’s the very first commandment–you shall have no other gods before me. They don’t have to be obvious representations of the divine; they don’t have to be stone or wood or marble. There are all sorts of gods: education, athletics, marriage, choice, power, self-expression, beauty, achievement. Whatever you give your whole life for, there’s your idol. If only I had ______ then I would be happy. If only I had ______ I’d be worth something. If only I had ______ I could truly live a fulfilled life. Whatever you put in the blank, that’s your god. That’s what you are living for. That’s what you worship. Marriage may be in your blank, or your dream job, or better parents, or better kids, or fewer pounds, or more influence. Many of these are good desires, but they must not be ultimate. They are not meant to be gods.”
Lord, in light of all of this, I want to take a moment now to ask you to help me see what I might to need to lay down. What do I need to leave behind so that I can pick up my cross and follow Jesus in fully devoted discipleship? Please open my eyes and then please give me your tender grace and the strength that I need to obey.
In Jesus’ name I pray,