What did Jesus mean when He said to hate your father and mother?

What did Jesus mean when He said to hate your father and mother?           By Jack Kettler

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NKJV)

Many young Christians have been confused when first reading this passage from Luke. Is Jesus teaching to hate your parents, wife, and children? If so, it would contradict other passages about honoring your parents and caring for your wife and children. 

This brief study will seek to clear up any confusion about this passage and show that it is not contradictory and is in harmony with the totality of Scripture.

First, the Greek understanding of hate will be considered. Doing this will help in a proper understanding of the Luke passage.

Hate from the Strong’s Lexicon:

Hate

μισεῖ (misei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 3404: To hate, detest, love less, and esteem less. From a primary misos, to detest, by extension, to love less.

In contemporary Evangelical parlance, a secondary meaning of “misei” is appealed to. The secondary meaning is “love less.” The passage is interpreted to mean that Jesus is not really teaching a disciple actually to hate but to love your family less than him.

While this understanding is correct, there is far more to the passage on discipleship that needs to be considered.

For example:

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31 ESV)

Abiding or continuing in Christ’s word is a characteristic of a disciple. In order to abide in Christ’s word, His word must be studied and known. 

Again from the Strong’s Lexicon:

Disciple.

μαθητής (mathētēs)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 3101: A learner, disciple, pupil. From manthano, a learner, i.e. Pupil.

In the following commentary selections, the importance and requirements of discipleship are seen.

From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges commentary on Luke 14:26:
“26. and hate not his father and mother] It is not so much the true explanation to say that hate here means love less (Genesis 29:31), as to say that when our nearest and dearest relationships prove to be positive obstacles in coming to Christ, then all natural affections must be flung aside; comp. Deuteronomy 13:6-9; Deu 21:19-21; Deu 33:8-9. A reference to Matthew 10:37 will shew that ‘hate’ means hate by comparison. Our Lord purposely stated great principles in their boldest and even most paradoxical form by which He alone has succeeded in impressing them forever as principles on the hearts of His disciples. The ‘love of love’ involves a necessity for the possible ‘hate of hate,’ as even worldly poets have understood.

Va, je t’aimais trop pour ne pas te hair.”

“I could not love thee, dear, so much

Loved I not honour more.” – Lovelace.

Yea, and his own life also] this further explains the meaning of the word ‘hate.’ The psuche ‘soul’ or ‘animal life’ is the seat of the passions and temptations, which naturally alienate the spirit from Christ. These must be hated, mortified, crucified if they cannot be controlled; and life itself must be cheerfully sacrificed, Revelation 12:11; Acts 20:24.” (1)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Luke 14:26:
“(26) If any man come to me, and hate not his father.—Like words had been spoken before, as in Matthew 10:37-39, where see Notes. Here they appear in a yet stronger form, “not hating” taking the place of “loving more,” and they are spoken, not to the Twelve only, but to the whole multitude of eager would-be followers. Self-renunciation, pushed, if necessary, to the extremest issues, is with Jesus the one indispensable condition of discipleship. He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves.” (2)

Cross-reference passages:

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37 ESV)

“Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25 ESV)

In conclusion:

The passage from Luke 14:26 and other parts of Scripture are in harmony and not contradictory.

The two commentary selections address the Luke passage and explain the meaning of discipleship exceptionally well. As Ellicott notes, “He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves.” The two cross-reference passages from Matthew and John provide a larger context to Luke. The next verse in Luke provides an additional understanding of what is required in discipleship.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 ESV)

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV)

Is Jesus your first love?

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Notes:

1.      F. W. Farrar, D.D., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Luke, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 251.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Luke, Vol.6, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 313.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

And the new book The Five Points of Scriptural Authority in Paperback,

The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura” Kindle eBook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B099NXWBQ9

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