Q: Does Jesus really ask us to hate our father, mother, wife, kids, brothers an sisters in order to follow him?

A:  There is a verse in the Bible that does sound like Jesus is saying that.  It is Luke 14:26.  But to really get at it, we must consider not only the context, but the original language in which the New Testament was written – Greek.  As well, we must follow our number one rule of Bible interpretation, and that is that Scripture must interpret Scripture.  It is doubtful that you could make the case that the rest of Scripture indicates that Jesus wants us to hate anyone, let alone our closest family.  So let’s consider the language of this verse:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NIV)

The Greek word “misei” that is behind the English word which is here translated “hate,” brings up what I believe is an interesting situation that happens occasionally in New Testament Greek.  That is that just as we sometimes find it hard to put the right English translation on a Greek word … so did the GREEK have a hard time properly expressing the shade/nuance of a HEBREW word or expression!

What this means is that this word does typically mean “hate” – a strong hostility or detest – in the Greek.  But in the case of Luke 14:26, it is suggested that the writer was trying to express in Greek something that Christ would have likely said in Hebrew or Aramaic.  The way the Friberg Analytical Greek Lexicon (dictionary) denotes this is to show this second meaning for this Greek word:

“Hebraistically, requiring single-minded loyalty in discipleship prefer less, love less (LU 14.26)”

In other words, the editors recognize that it is possible that this Greek word was used to translate a Hebrew word or expression that had more-or-less the idea of loyalty… putting one thing in priority over the other – rather than disgust or hate.

Armed with this information, it’s interesting, because now when we go back to the English, it is easier to understand how even “hating oneself” is to be understood.  Because clearly, God doesn’t want us to “hate” ourselves.   To the contrary, He instructs us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves!  And He tells us that GOD loves us – even enough to send His Son to die for us.  Why would He want us to detest someone whom He loves enough to allow Jesus to die for?  No.  He loves those people, and us.  Therefore I believe this understanding of the word as simply one of priority/loyalty/preference is the best understanding.

Loving God, neighbor, AND family, 

Pastor Augie