A friend asked me to explain what Jesus meant by this: Unless you hate your father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife and children, and, yes, even life itself you cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
I told my friend: It means I can’t be his disciple. I can’t meet that requirement even if “hate” in the original Greek text means “disregard” rather than “disdain.”
I imagine myself saying to Jesus, Sorry, but I can’t do that. And I imagine Jesus saying, That’s OK, brother. This path is not for everyone. Stay home with your family and be good to them. Nothing wrong with that.
Look, I told my friend, being a Christian is easy. Following Jesus is hard. I’m not about to sacrifice everything I love for anything or anybody. Besides, maybe Jesus is just testing us to see what’s in us, to see what it is we really love—for what, if anything, would we sacrifice our lives.
Once upon a time God “tested” Abraham. (Genesis 22). God said to Abraham, Kill me a son.
Abe didn’t hesitate. He set out for Mount Moriah to make a burnt offering of his beloved son. His beloved son Isaac went along. Isaac lugged the wood as Jesus would lug a cross two millennia later.
Isaac carried the wood. Abe carried the knife. Isaac mounted the altar. Abe raised the knife.
Now who’s being tested?
In a flash an angel swept in and stopped Abe. (Some say the “angel” was Sarah, Isaac’s mother.) Abe didn’t kill his son. Still, just by being willing Abraham won the veneration of three historic religions.
Abe could have said, Sorry, I won’t do that! Find yourself another devotee.
But he didn’t say that. He went along. He unsheathed the knife.
Which, I imagine, prompted God to say: I can’t leave that guy alone for a minute. People like that must be watched. I mean, who in their right mind sacrifices their only-begotten son?!
(photo: Abraham and Isaac by Jan van de Kerkhove (1822-1881) in St. Jacobs Church (Jakobskerk) Shutterstock.com)
Were not Isaac and Jesus willing sacrifices? Isaac could have overpowered his father, Jesus could have come out of the wilderness determined to live life as a good carpenter. If I were a god I would want to be worshipped by choice, just as we want to be loved by choice.
Good question. I’d say both men were as willing as any young person who goes off to fight and die for their country? Jesus seemed willing, but not really. “Let this cup pass from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” Or to paraphrase: whatever you want I’ll do even if I’m not willing.
You’ve put your finger on a tricky human psychologically quandry to be sure. You should have been a preacher!!
The Abraham-Isaac incident is my go-to when arguing online about the Gods of the Bible. Judaism evolved a lot in the centuries between the authoring of Genesis and the career of Jesus, and kept evolving in the centuries since (when’s the last time you saw an animal sacrificed at a synagogue?) Biblical literalist/inerrants really can’t handle this incident. What seemed to the authors of Genesis like a fair test of faith and obedience that justly earns Abraham a rich reward seems to most of us today like a shockingly cruel trick that reveals Abraham to be a dreadful parent. Either God changed or our conception of God did. Cultures change for the better or the worse, and their gods change with them.
It’s all about religious sycophancy. There’s plenty of that ricocheting around America today.
Great blog, Randy. I love the ending. Love the questions. I guess in the end, God/G-d/Dog/etc./ad infinitum, allows us (some/all?) power of choice in what we sacrifice – that double edged sword you speak on. Tricky thing, sacrifice. Gotta’ watch what’s killed, what’s given up – and why. Gotta’ constantly watch what I’m making my Gods. Shalom, my good brother. And thank you. ?
Highway 61 Revisited?
You caught me! Guess I should have given Dylan credit.