BY MICHAEL KELLEY
Three ways to apply Christ’s instruction to “hate” your family even as you love them.
There is a particularly troubling command from Jesus recorded for us in Luke 14:25-27: “Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, 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.’”
No one ever accused Jesus of being a great marketer. Instead of drawing the crowds, He dispersed them. Instead of making it easier to follow Him, He made it more difficult. Instead of telling them what they wanted to hear, Jesus told them the hard truth. And in this case, that hard truth was about family.
Jesus’ point here is one of allegiance. When we’re following Him, then everything else not only takes a back seat, everything else is irrevocably changed. All our priorities. All our expenditures. And, yes, all our relationships. Our allegiance to Jesus is of the highest order so much so that everything else revolves around it.
What, then, does it look like for us to “hate” our families in this sense, especially when we love our families? Let me offer these three suggestions.
Let them go. When Jesus and His kingdom are our greatest allegiance, then we come to understand that our families are another part of our stewardship for the sake of His kingdom. If we’re to “hate” our families, it means we must be willing to let them go for the sake of His kingdom.
For some, that means walking away from the family values and priorities that don’t align with Jesus and His kingdom. We must be willing to break from that authority when it competes with the authority Jesus lays over us.
But for others this means we must be willing to let our children go. We must be willing to encourage in them the desire to take the gospel to the nations. We must be willing to love that they might not ever be married but instead remain single so that they might have greater mobility for the sake of the gospel. We must let them go and live far away from us.
Reflect kingdom priorities. “Hating” our families in this sense also means that we must be committed to having kingdom priorities. That means all the opportunities our families have (and there will be many) must be held in light of what we know about the kingdom of God.
There are all kinds of implications here, each of which might make our family less comfortable. It might mean that instead of spending more on family vacations, we choose to allocate our money to give more generously. Or it might mean that a travel sports team has to take a backseat to church attendance. Or it might mean that certain relationships with other kids have to be questioned by parents. All of these things are filtered through the lens of Jesus’ kingdom — and there is a cost to each one.
Point them to Jesus. One final way we “hate” our families when we love them is that we’re always, always, always pointing them to Jesus. In our discipline, we point to Jesus. In our conversations, we point to Jesus. In our playtime, we point to Jesus. In all things, Jesus is center.
No doubt, a thing like this might get tired and old to certain family members, especially of the younger variety. They might even think we’re more concerned about Jesus than we are about them.
Good, because that’s true. And it should be. Kids ought to understand that they aren’t the center of the family — Jesus is. And for a time, this might seem to them as though we hate them. But we don’t. We love them. But we love Jesus more. And because we do, we’re doing all we can in light of both.
Jesus was serious when He told us to count the cost in following Him, for the cost is great. But He was also serious when He told us that those who do count the cost and do follow Him would find true life on the other side of the loss.
Jesus was serious when He told us to count the cost in following Him, for the cost is great.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats, and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life; and Growing Down.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (August 2018). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.