Many Christians and non-believers alike get confused on this saying of Jesus and don’t quite understand how a loving savior could say to hate your own family, “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 disciple.” (Luke 14:26). What did Jesus mean by this odd statement? How can someone hate and love at the same time? Let’s take a closer look at the verse as well as other verses that help clear this much misunderstood teaching.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8). God is love, but we must hate our family to be His disciples? Jesus often spoke in parables and this is no different from the other sayings as the word hate in which Jesus referenced to is miseho in Greek which means to hate, hatred or to love less. He used this word in reference to the meaning of loving less. We should love our family, friends and even our own self less than Jesus and God the Father. This saying is phrased differently in the gospel of Matthew, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37).
Another reference to this is when He is speaking with His disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24,25).
We must regard our own lives as nothing before God and even put Him before our own family and friends, but this does not mean to not take care of our family or body. Paul shows us this in first Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5). Paul also goes on to explain the importance of taking care of our own bodies, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
We must give ourselves completely to God and serve Him to the utmost, presenting our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1). This is what Jesus was meaning by loving family, friends and ourselves less and loving and serving God more. When God is first in our lives, then everything else will take care of itself as the Holy Spirit flows through us and teaches us and shows us what we should do for Him whether it be in the church, community or even in our own households. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10). We should be filled with God’s love and show His love to all people as long as we keep God as our first and main love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:2).