Hate Your Family?

simon-cyreneWhoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. ~ Luke 14:26-27

Jesus says that the way to belong to a family is to hate your family and the way to enter into the life that Jesus offers is to hate life itself and to take up a cross – that is, to embrace death by execution – in order to follow Jesus. Luke has already said, back in chapter 9, that Jesus has “set his face” toward Jerusalem because the time has come for him to die. And now Jesus is telling us, his followers, we must also set our faces towards this destiny, take up our cross, and follow him.

The temptation comes now to try to wriggle out of it – does “hate” really mean “hate”? Does a cross really signify death? Is Jesus really God in the flesh speaking to us or are these perhaps merely the suggestions of a somewhat mentally unstable self-proclaimed prophet? And here’s where Luke becomes a really annoying writer. Just in case it isn’t clear, he drives the final nail in the coffin and quotes Jesus saying “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Darn it! Jesus, I can hate my family, but don’t tell me I’ve got to give up my golf clubs, my car, or my playstation 4! I don’t think any of us are really in the process of giving up all our possessions.

Or are we?

In a very real and legally binding sense we are all in the process of giving up all our possessions. We are all in the process of leaving our family. We are all on a narrow road towards a narrow door – a doorway called death, through which we may pass but none may come with us and none of our possessions – not even the clothes on our back – will be coming with us.

When you think of it in this way – and this is certainly not the only way to think of what Jesus says here – but when you think of it in this way there is actually a sort of very dry humor in this gospel lesson. It’s almost as though the following conversation is taking place outside a movie theater:

A 12-year old boy walks up to the ticket window and says “What’s a ticket to Star Wars worth?” and the clerk says “about 197  million dollars, that’s what it cost them to make the movie.”

“What?! I don’t have that kind of money.”

“Oh, well, what do you have in your pockets?”

“Six dollars, a golf ball I found, and a piece of string.”

“Good news!” the clerk says “we just set the price at six dollars, one used golf ball, and a piece of string.”

What Jesus is offering us is of staggering, unbelievable value – beyond anything we could ever afford to achieve. Jesus is offering us life – and not just existence, but an actual life that is worth living, a life that fulfills the very purpose for which we were created – and even though the value of that life is beyond all measure or estimation, Jesus lists the price as exactly the one thing we that we happen to have: the price is one death, no more no less.

And in his graphic description of that death in today’s parables, Jesus is just reminding us that it’s going to happen to us whether we want it to or not. There’s no escape, there’s no dodging it, there’s no getting around it. We’re going to have to turn away from family, give up our possessions, and go to the cross of death with Jesus. The question is not “whether?” but “how?

Will the cross be forced upon us or will we take it up ourselves? Will we be dragged to Jerusalem or will we, like Jesus, set our faces toward it? Will we embrace the family of God or worship our families instead? Will we be dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom or will we count the cost, see the value above all else, and follow Jesus willingly into the Kingdom? Because one thing is certain: the only thing worse than crucifixion is fighting against crucifixion.

~ Jonathan Stepp

5 comments so far

  1. Al Carden on

    Great article! Thanks!

  2. tjbrassell on

    Excellently Gospel interpreted and stated in my opinion! The late Robert Capon would be pleased, I think, at your taking scripture seriously without “wriggling out of it”, your discernment of dry humor, and your stating plainly our need to be dead – and kind of in ways that remind me of him! Haha

    Never heard it put this way, but I will certainly quote you on this marvelous way of putting things: “Because one thing is certain: the only thing worse than crucifixion is fighting against crucifixion.” Much food for thought there!

    Thanks and Every Blessing,


  3. jamesnewby on

    Clear, powerful and motivating. Thanks.

  4. Jonathan Stepp on

    Thanks guys!

  5. Natasha on

    Very insightful article. Hopefully we as humans will go with Our Lord willingly and not by force because His love.

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