Luke 14:26, “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.”
When I first read this scripture, probably 40 years ago in Sunday School, my first thought was, “Luke must’ve gotten it wrong! Jesus didn’t say that!” How can the Son of God, who commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), who tells us the greatest of all commandments is to love one another (Matthew 22:37-39), who tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), say such a thing? You mean I have to hate my dad and mom? My sister? Hate myself?
As I’ve grown older and a little wiser, I have learned what Jesus was describing, what He expected from disciples; and it is no easy walk. Love to Christ is absolute. The definition of absolute according to Merriam-Webster reads, “A value or principle regarded as universally valid or viewed without relation to other things.” If you think of it in terms of absolutes and opposites, love for Him is absolute, and therefore every other love in comparison is hatred. Our love for Him is to be absolute. When it is, no other love even comes close in comparison – not love for a person, a car, a pet, a career, a hobby, a home; nothing should compare. The love we have for our wife or husband, our children, our parents, and our siblings is secondary when ranked next to what He expects from us if we are His disciples.
Like most things, it is easier for us to think of victory, Christ resurrected. I remember reading to my children the scriptures regarding the Cross and the crucifixion. One of them yelled out, “Daddy, just get to the resurrection!” Aren’t we all a little like that? The crucifixion is messy. It is horrific and grueling. It turns our stomach. The pain He endured is incomprehensible. We just want to get to the part that saves us – the part that tells us we are going to Heaven – the part where Christ wins! Just skip the other parts, particularly when it tells me I have to be totally sold out, absolutely in love with Christ.
Christ longs for us to understand the requirements of being a disciple. That is why He clearly articulates the need for absolute love for Christ. “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Hold on, I have to carry a cross? Yes. And part of that cross is placing Christ on the throne of our hearts, making Him such a priority that everything else pales into insignificance.
It is a higher calling to be a disciple of Christ, a calling that requires suffering at times; a calling that requires disobedience to acts of government that go against the teachings of God. A sold out heart worships God, “Lion’s den or no lion’s den,” to summarize Daniel’s words. Saying “no” to political correctness; to peer pressure; to cultural acts contrary to God’s law. How would you respond if you were outside the safety of the United States. We read and study the word, worship and praise God, and walk safely in the assurance of religious freedom; but would we seek Him fervently in China? In Iran? In areas of the world where worshipping God is a death sentence? Are we praying for God to bring peace and prosperity to our nation, to our world, while refusing to allow God to bring it through us? Are we the disciples Christ has called us to be?
If you take the word Christian and remove the letters CHRIST, you are left with IAN – an acronym for I AM NOTHING. Without Christ, we are nothing, simply beings, living and breathing the goodness of God with no regard for Him.
Christian discipleship is about walking with Jesus; carrying the cross you are asked to bear; loving one another; and being committed wholeheartedly to Him.