Summary: An examination of the hierarchy that Christ has established for prioritizing our life: God, family, and then ministry.
This passage, undoubtedly, makes you a little uncomfortable. Why? Because of the connotations that the word “hate” has in the English language. It is for this reason, as I said at the beginning, that I have wrestled in my mind over the years with these words of Jesus. We understand the word “hate” to mean a complete cut-off with whatever, or whoever we use this word to refer too. Webster defines hate this way: to dislike intensely. So, we naturally are opposed to Christ’s words because we know that we could never feel this way about our parents, spouse, children, or siblings. But hang on just a moment; I want to take away the stigma attached to this word before we go any farther.
In verse 25 we have these words, ‘Now great multitudes went with Him… ’ Brett I thought you were going to clear up the “hate” problem first? What does that have to do with the word “hate”? Stay with me for just a quick moment. We have to understand why Christ used this word, before we can talk about the word. ‘Great multitudes were with Him because they were fascinated by His presence and bearing, or struck by His teaching, or marveled by His mighty works. And these men and women were far from entering into His Spirit or sharing His high purpose.’ They were following Him because they believed He was the chosen King of the Jews, who would not die, but who would lead the revolution against the Romans. They did not understand at all, who He actually was. ‘Therefore it was imperative that Christ use such bold words to make the people understand what discipleship to Him actually meant; the absolute self-surrender that was involved with it.’ It was time for them to understand what the Son of Man was really all about. ‘And He turned and said to them, “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. ’ So, what about this word “hate”. First and foremost, ‘Jesus, who is Love Incarnate, is not the author of hate.’ So, obviously we know right from the start that whatever He meant by “hate”, it is not as strong as: to dislike intensely. Whatever it may mean, it most certainly doesn’t mean that. We know that the Bible was written in Greek, but Christ spoke mostly in Aramaic. It was the language of the common people in that day, and we know that Christ spent the majority of His time with the common people—people like you and me. So Christ did use the word “hate” in Aramaic. So Luke wrote “hate” in Greek. And the NKJV translators wrote “hate” in English. ‘But the Aramaic word used for “hate” really means “to love a great deal less.”’ This is why I like the NCV translation of this verse better. ‘If anyone comes to Me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even life—more than me, he cannot be my follower. ’ ‘In NKJV Matthew 10:37 expresses the true meaning of the word, when He says, He who loves father or mother more than me. In chapter 6 verse 24, Matthew uses the word hate in the same sense. When we read Romans 9:13, Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” ; the meaning is simply, I have loved Jacob—the Israelites, more than Esau—the Edomites.’
Christ in this one verse has set-up the hierarchy for our priorities in life. I’d like to look at the top three priorities as described in this and the following verses. God is the first priority, followed by family, and then by ministry. These are to be our main priorities, with God being at the center of all that we do. God is to be the One who is loved more than even our parents, spouse, children, or siblings. ‘He whom we love the most is He whom we study most to please, and whose will and interests we prefer in all cases.’ If God is in the center of your life, than no matter what decision you make, no matter what place you go to, no matter what activity you participate in, the question will always be asked in your mind: will this decision, will my going here, will this activity be pleasing to God? We have this question in the forefront of our minds at all times because we prefer His interests and His will to be done in every circumstance of our lives. ‘Jesus is calling not for spectators but for recruits. When He called people to follow Him, He meant them not to tag along behind Him out of curiosity, but to throw in their lot with Him in commitment.’ The Christian life requires action on our part as well. As God does the leading, we must be willing to do the following no matter how hard or scary the path may seem. The healthy Christian life seeks to commit everything to Him. ‘I think Jesus means that if God and His Kingdom are of all-consuming importance, then all other loves are far less by comparison.’ ‘What Jesus is talking about is a conflict of loyalties. Our first commitment must always be to Christ, never to anyone else. We cannot permit anyone, no matter how near and dear, to come between us and Him.’ ‘Nothing less than the first place in the heart must be offered unto Jesus. He insists on being put before father and mother, before spouse and children, before brothers and sisters. All relations are to be put below Him. He must be more than them all. It is a great demand, and yet a most reasonable one. It’s reasonable because He died for your salvation; not your mother or father. He died for your justification; not your spouse or your children. He died for your forgiveness; not your siblings.