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)