Jesus says some extraordinary things. But, few are more extraordinary than his call to hate our families and ourselves:
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 (Lke 15:26).
These words make us wonder. Surely no sane person will hate his own life - after all, the Bible tells us that this life is a gift from God. And again, the Bible tells us to honour and care for our families (Ex 20:12; 1 Tim 5:3-8) - isn’t it unfilial to hate them?
What is Jesus really saying? A glance at the Scripture shows us that he is talking about what comes first in our list of relative priorities.
The logic goes like this. Whatever comes first in our life shapes all else and is our god. Families are good gifts from God, but if they come first we have made a god out of them. Is our family so important that it pushes everything else aside? Again, our own life is given by God (Job 1:21). But, is the preservation and comfort of life really worth coming first?
For the Christian, nothing is more important than loving the Lord our God (Mk 12:30). We believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that he is the only way to connect with God (Jn 14:6). If this is true, then nothing can be a higher priority for the Christian than to follow Jesus. In following Jesus we follow the Lord God himself - which is exactly how we were made to be.
When we follow Jesus, other things come into their proper place. We then look after our own life and health because it is from God and we want to serve Him with our life. We will also honour and care for our families because they are God’s good gift and because God tells us to honour and care for them. But notice the order - these things are now safeguarded from becoming idols because we have put Jesus first. In turn, they are safeguarded because we have put Jesus first.
Heavenly father, I thank you for the life you have given me and for the family that surrounds me. Please help me to care for both, because they are from you. Above all, please help me to give you the place you deserve by keeping first things first and by following your Son Jesus in all I do.