On Hating Father and Mother

(This guest post by Courtney Wyrtzen was sent to me some time back when she was wrestling with the meaning of the word ‘hate’ in the teaching of Jesus.  –geno)

How could Jesus say to us:

“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 NIV

Hate is such a harsh word, perhaps even shocking when it comes out of Jesus’ mouth…and in reference to our own mother and father who the Jewish listeners had been admonished by their religious leaders to HONOR since they were tiny tots.

Hate is a bit flashy, irreverent; we aren’t supposed to hate. Is it kind of fun to preach on that word? Rustle people up a bit? Make them uncomfortable, perhaps a bit…confused? Just curious~~

We all know what it means without having to think too much about it.

Webster’s

a:  intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

b:  extreme dislike or antipathy :  loathing

Oh wait, maybe when Jesus said it, it meant something else.  The original Greek word used here is: miseō.  VERB:  to hate, pursue with hatred, detest–

That’s pretty cut and dry. And awfully close to Webster’s. Jesus is confusing. Let’s all go home.

Waaaaaaait a minute. Miseō  occurs 40 times in 36 verses of the New Testament. Using a handy concordance tool like blueletterbible.com (and Vine’s Expository Dictionary), we can parse the word all the way down to the way it was used in THAT particular verse of Luke 14:26:

(c) of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another, Mat 6:24; and Luke 16:13, as to the impossibility of serving two masters; Luk 14:26, as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ; Jhn 12:25, of disregard for one’s life relatively to the claims of Christ; Eph 5:29, negatively, of one’s flesh, i.e. of one’s own, and therefore a man’s wife as one with him.

What is the difference between a teenage child screaming “I hate you!” to mother and father…and a Child of God hating a mother or father in order to be a disciple of Jesus.

HUMILITY.

I have heard Christians speak and behave hatefully a time or two citing this verse as justification.

 What I think it really means. 

(c) of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another, Mat 6:24; and Luke 16:13, as to the impossibility of serving two masters; Luke 14:26, as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ; John 12:25, of disregard for one’s life relatively to the claims of Christ; Eph 5:29, negatively, of one’s flesh, i.e. of one’s own, and therefore a man’s wife as one with him.

So, there’s still a discussion centered around meaning (flashy hate vs. humble hate) but according to this, Luke 14 is more about relativity (you love your mom and dad so much and yet it will look like hate compared to the love my disciples have for me! AND they may stake a claim and you choose me instead) rather than the preference found in Matt 6/Luke 16 (I prefer Christ and choose Him over all else/other masters including money).

Either way, my desire would be that as disciples we would communicate with humility and love, even when we are called to “hate” by Jesus Himself. Jesus certainly said it, but I can’t imagine that he had spit flying out of his mouth and acid in his tone when he did, ya know?

Oh God, mercy, that I would prefer you over all others, dare I say PASSIONATELY? And should the time come when I am face to face with someone who might ask me to choose them over Christ, to obey their wishes or demands and not the clear instruction and invitation of my Lord, may I graciously and in brokenness, hate them, lovingly and humbly preferring Jesus in such a way that the person I hate might want to follow Him, too.

–Courtney

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