Should Christians Hate Their Families? Part 2

Should Christians Hate Their Families? Part 2 June 17, 2011

“Whoever 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.”

Jesus of Nazareth
Luke 14:26

Yesterday, I shared here one of my Daily Reflections. It dealt with a particularly troublesome passage in the Gospel of Luke. Today, I’ll share my second reflection on this text.

Yesterday, I began considering Luke 14:26 with its troubling instruction about hating our family members. I suggested that we need to be wise interpreters of this verse, recognizing that Jesus is using the rhetorical form known as hyperbole (exaggeration). Jesus does not want us to hate our closest relatives by stirring up bad feelings for them or treating them poorly. But he does want us to be shaken up, so that we might see in new ways what it means to be his disciples, and how this leads to a new way of relating to all people, including our family members.

In fact, one prevalent barrier to Christian discipleship is too much attachment to family, especially as defined by cultural, traditional, and personal values. I think, for example, of a friend of mine whose mainstream Protestant parents did not approve of his call to pastoral ministry. They used all the tools at their disposal, including financial leverage and shame, to get him to pursue a more profitable career as a doctor or a lawyer. In the end, my friend found the courage to be faithful to Christ in spite of his parents’ disapproval. In a sense, he had to “hate” his parents in order to be an obedient disciple of Jesus.

The sanctuary of Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served as Senior Pastor for sixteen years.

During my parish ministry, I watched good church-going parents use the “priority of family time” rationale to get in the way of their teenagers’ growth as disciples of Jesus. Family time would preclude the regular involvement of their kids in Bible study groups. Family vacations kept their teenagers from being part of life-changing mission trips. In some cases, the parents who prized family so much were the ones who later blamed the church when their children wandered away from the Lord in college.

Now I realize that there are times when parents rightly choose to have their children involved in family rather than church events. But, as a parent, I know how easy it is to choose what feels best for me without considering what’s best for my kids and their discipleship. After all, I “hate” it when they’re not around for family events and trips. There are no simple answers here. I want to encourage parents—and all of us—to take a fresh look at our family relationships in light of our primary commitment to Christ.

In fact, faithful parents can often help their children grow in their discipleship, rather than impede it. If we model commitment to Christ in our lives, our children will be encouraged to imitate our example. The same is true for other adults who influence young people with whom they have relationship. No matter what we say, our actions will speak loudly and clearly of what authentic discipleship is all about.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Can you think of adults whose example of faithfulness to Christ has influenced you? Are there people in your life who are being influenced by your discipleship? Do you ever find a tension between your discipleship and your family relationships?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I do want to follow you faithfully, to seek you first and foremost in my life. Yet, there are many times when I feel torn. Sometimes I’m not sure how best to follow you. Other times, I know what discipleship requires, but I’m just not sure I want to do it. So, help me, I pray, to know how best to follow you and to choose the path of discipleship above all.

Help me also, Lord, as I seek to set an example of faithfulness for my children. May I live in such a way that they are encouraged to seek you above all in life. May they know that when I put you first, I am better able to love them in a way that honors you and helps them grow as your disciples. Amen.

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  • Evan


    A major reason for “children (who) wander away from the Lord in college” may well be that they receive the same overwhelming message that I received when I hit the university in the mid-70’s:

    1) You are now legally FREE to do whatever you want! (We could even legally drink alcohol at 18 then.)

    2) We are here to tell you that there are two sides to every story, and your parents have not told you “the other side.”

    3) We the professors are about the same age as your parents, and many of us have kids ourselves. Everything your parents told you NOT to do, because it is “BAD” for you, is actually harmless and fun.

    3a) Just make sure nobody gets pregnant, a disease or killed (as in, say, an impaired-driving wreck.) You DO have to be smart about things, you know. As long as you avoid this, no harm and no foul.

    4) You now have the freedom to “decide for yourself” what is Right or Wrong, and you have never before been provided with “all the data.”

    5) The most important of the data you did not have is that “There is No Absolute Truth. There is No Absolute Right or Wrong. EVERYTHING is neither Good nor Bad, but Shades of Gray.” YOU decide. YOUR actions are the RIGHT actions.

    6) Go for it.

    I for one have not been surprised when my own kids got this exact message upon hitting the campus.

    As with many things, there is some truth mixed in, but what it omits is the poisonous, corrupting and ultimately fatal spiritual component of sin, even if you somehow avoid any physical effects. Will you betray your spouse before you even meet them? Is the way to find your “soul-mate” to “test-drive” every candidate? Put another way, is anyone really surprised to hear that the campus horn-dog later broke up his marriage with infidelity?

    The spiritual training of young people has to anticipate this sort of message (which actually is just another variation on the Serpent’s message to Eve) and have them prepared to deal with it when it is presented authoritatively at college. When I taught 12th-grade seniors in Sunday School, I tried to weave in the logical flaws in the above and the Scriptural foundation for the deceit of Sin, and the reality of the Resurrection. The Sunday School materials provided, written by sincere people, often were extremely simple and would teach on an “always love Jesus” level. We once spent a month on Noah and the ark, and it was about as sophisticated as the flannel-board presentation I saw on that in kindergarten. It was often frustrating.

    Church activities should only bolster what the parents are modeling and teaching already. You have correctly noted the tensions in raising kiddos. And you have nailed the poisonous nature of temptation and sin in your posts on the Weiner situation. Hopefully, the kids “get it” spiritually before they leave home. You can only do your best. Adam and Eve had only one parent, and He was the perfect Living God, and they STILL messed up. And they didn’t even go to college.


  • Anonymous

    Great insights here. Thanks!