I remember the first time I heard Luke 14:26 spoken out loud.
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. – Luke 14:26
I was shocked. Up until that point, I thought of Jesus synonymously with safety, hope and comfort. How was the Lord, who came to save me and those I loved, now telling me to hate them? It just didn’t make sense. It shook me up, and I remember crying at the thought that someone I was just beginning to know could disappoint me so bitterly.
I look back now and recognize that moment as yet another time where Jesus was drawing me closer to Him in a mysterious, inexplicable way. I didn’t know it then, but shortly after hearing that verse, I would learn what we all must someday: that our family members, no matter how much we love or respect them, are human. Human imperfections don’t discriminate, whether we are a child or a parent. We all fail and make daily mistakes.
As a teenager, my relationship with my father took some very deep blows. That time left some painful and long-lasting scars which I carried into my early adulthood. To make matters worse, I purposely avoided God because I couldn’t face the thought of getting close to another Father, only to experience pain and deep disappointment. My father may have been a disappointment to me as a parent, but I disappointed my Father with my pride.
I wonder, now, how different my early 20’s would have been if I’d understood what Jesus was trying to teach me in Luke 14:26. Where I read His words with my and others’ human failures in mind, He spoke them with love in His heart. He does not teach hate, but a love so overpowering that everything else pales in comparison. In other words, what we feel for our Lord should be reflected in the depth of our commitment to Him. That depth is most truly revealed in our willingness to seek Him above all others, even our family.
That’s not to say that God devalues family ties. We know there are dozens of instances in the Bible where the Lord teaches us how family life should reflect Him. His Word is full of peace and protection of the family.
God knows, however, that everyone we love will inevitably disappoint us at some point. In His infinite grace and wisdom, He gave us the example of Jesus for this very reason. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to let those disappointments define us or our relationships with family. We are already defined, first and foremost, by our relationship with Him. Jesus calls us to seek Him, to know Him, and to let that journey become our life’s sweetness. Family is, of course, precious, but Jesus is priceless.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13