“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27, ESV).
These are some pretty harsh words from Jesus. Here, Jesus is laying out the true, often unused path to being His disciple.
Too often, the church has watered down what it truly takes to follow Jesus. We can make it seem that it is so easy, so simple—but it’s not. Following Jesus is anything but easy. In the above passage Jesus uses the word, “hate” ( the Greek word miseō, literally to detest) in reference to the three most important relationships in our lives: our parents, spouse, and children. Why would Jesus, someone who is the epitome of love and compassion impose such harsh restrictions on those who wish to follow Him? Doesn’t this passage contradict everything else Jesus said?
I don’t believe it contradicts a single thing. What does Jesus mean when He tells us to “hate” things? Here’s what it boils down too: you must put everything—parents, children, spouses, whoever, under the lordship of Jesus Christ. If any one of these relationships causes you to put something on God’s throne other than Him, it becomes a problem.
Our God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5) and is not happy when His glory and honor are given to something or someone else. What Jesus is saying here is not to hate your family, or everything in life. He is saying that it costs so much to follow Him that we must be willing to always let him sit on the throne of our lives. That includes getting rid of our selfishness, out dreams, our ambitions that we want and submitting every single area of life to the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ.
Jesus concludes the statement from Luke above by talking about a construction worker and a king. He says,
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28-33, ESV).
The point Jesus is making is this: If you want to follow Him, it will cost you everything. It will not be easy, so you better count the cost before committing. “Don’t let your mouth write a check that you can’t cash”, as the proverbial saying goes. Following Jesus means losing your life by gaining His. His life is the only life that will save us, His way is the only way, and His truth is absolute. Following Jesus is not for the weak-kneed and lackadaisical. It takes everything you have.
The cost of discipleship is extreme, but worth it. We must get out of the driver’s seat and put Jesus there, because we must “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 1:13-14, ESV). Are you on the narrow road? If not, what’s keeping you from it? Is it time for a change? Just something to think about.