Did Jesus really say that we should hate our parents?
Hate is a strong word. Should we really hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even ourselves?
Hate father and mother?
“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.” Luke 14:26.
It is pretty obvious that Jesus didn’t mean that we should actually despise our father and mother, because it is also written that to honor your father and mother is the first commandment with promise.
Why does the Bible seem to contradict itself here? What does Jesus mean? Why use such strong language?
“Be My disciple”
To be a disciple of Jesus means that we follow where He leads. In order to do that we have tools at our disposal. We have God’s Word, which is the guidebook for how we should live, and we have the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us. This is the guidance that we should follow in order to be disciples.
That means that if other people give us advice, opinions, or comfort that goes against what the Spirit is leading us to, then we have to make the sometimes hard or uncomfortable decision to stand firm in our commitment to be obedient to our faith. Jesus is telling us here that we need to be willing to give up whatever it takes in order to be His disciples.
The same thing goes for any relationship or friendship. The cost of being a disciple is that Jesus always has to come first. So if that means that we have to make a very clear separation between ourselves and others, then that is just what we have to do.
Friends and family can try to convince us that something “isn’t that bad,” or that we can do something that we know in our hearts would be wrong for us as a disciple. When that happens then we have to put our discipleship above all else. We have to be firm and make it clear where we stand and not allow ourselves to be influenced by them. That is when we must hate mother and father, friends and anything that comes in the way of discipleship. That is putting Jesus first, and loving Him above all else.
It isn’t always easy. We often have to give up something that we naturally want to hold onto. Maybe we know that people without a spiritual sense will think less of us, or we will lose a relationship. But Jesus also said: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29.
Read more here: Aren’t Christians supposed to follow Christ?
Should we hate our own lives?
And when Jesus says that we should hate our own lives also, He is not encouraging low self-esteem. He is talking about our own human reasoning and feelings which often try to convince us to go against what we know in our hearts the Spirit is guiding us to do. Often there are things that we need to give up that have nothing to do with other people. When we see how lazy we are, or how stubborn, or how selfish, or how proud we are, then isn’t that something that we need to hate? Don’t we need to love Jesus more than these things so that we can follow Him and learn self-control, love, humility, gentleness, etc. from Him?
The bottom line is that we need to love Jesus so much that we are willing to put Him before all else. That is what it means to hate father and mother, and even our own life. Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His place in heaven for us. Nothing we have to give up compares to this. And this mutual love relationship will give us so much more than we ever have to lose.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about disciple life, or in the following articles:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.