There are some "hard sayings" in the Word of God. Jesus Himself made a statement that has been very difficult for some to accept. In fact, this statement has turned some away from a developing interest in becoming a Christian - it was just too much to grasp, and seemed contrary to all the sensitivities of what they had heard about God, Jesus, and Christianity. Notice Jesus' strong words:
"Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus and turning to them he said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life he cannot be my disciple"- Luke 14:25-26.
This Jesus presents as a condition for discipleship, and sometimes it goes down very hard - even for some of us who consider ourselves solid in the faith, and who have many years of walking with God, and to best of our ability have yielded ourselves to Jesus Christ. It can seem very unsettling to our logic, and cause tension for those who sincerely desire to obey Jesus Christ. This seems illogical and patently unfair, especially with a first read. Questions come to mind and abound, such as "How can love be quantified - love is love is it not?" And, "Isn’t love for each other just an extension of love for God the Father and Jesus His Son, so we just love all the same?" There are other questions as well. Nevertheless, this IS the word of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the Jesus to whom has been given all authority over ALL things in Heaven and Earth.
But can He really mean we are to HATE our family, our mates, our children, and our own lives in order to be a disciple...?
Notice to whom Jesus directed these words (Luke 14:25). He was speaking to LARGE crowds. Many, if not most, were only interested in His miracles, or being fed by a miracle, and for many other reasons other than a sincere desire to follow Him for the right reasons. Also, Jesus said many things that were designed to hide the meaning, illustrated by His statements to the twelve that to them it was given to understand, but to others it was not given - at least NOT YET. These words certainly impressed upon all who heard Him the necessity to "count the cost" of discipleship (Luke 14:28-33)!
This being said, what about the nagging feeling some have concerning the apparent contradiction between two extremes - Love and Hate? God IS Love - we are commanded to LOVE our neighbor as ourselves. How can we then "hate" them? And, are we to hate our lives - would this not be suicidal? Much of the discomfort over Jesus statements can be relieved by not only the context, but by looking at the word for "hate" in the Greek original. This word does indeed mean to detest or HATE. However, when used in the context of an apparent comparison to an opposite, it is intended to deminish the force of the opposite. By extension in such instances, it would take the meaning of LOVING "less by comparison". So in an indirect way, Jesus is EMPHASIZING the LOVE a disciple must have for Himself as God's Son, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit!
There are always PRIORITIES - even for LOVE...but the same "LOVE". But where does the love that can love LESS and MORE come from...?
The position and operation of the love of God, when understood, causes many things to beome clearer and fall into place. To some extent, our natural logic must be reversed. It is all about the DIRECTION of love. Jesus said that we must love God above all, and the second greatest commandment is like it, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that all the law - and by extension all the Bible - is summed up in these two commands (Matthew 22:37-40). Since God IS love, it follows that only God can LOVE (as an active verb), and all love (real love) is of and from Him. When God gave Israel the commandments to love Him and to love their neighbors, they were entirely UNABLE to do so - why? Because since God IS love, only He could really, and truly, LOVE. In order to love, they would have to RECEIVE love from God. They did not have the "love of God dwelling in them". This was proven throughout the history of the Israelites - from the Exodus to the Promise Land, and on either side thereof. This is one of the greatest lessons for Christians to grasp regarding the the Old Testament (Covenant) - THE INABILITY OF HUMANITY TO TRULY LOVE IN RESPONSE TO THE REQUIREMENT OF A COMMAND TO LOVE. When Jesus came, he perfectly fulfilled LOVE! As a result of this, our human failure and INABILITY to truly LOVE can be reversed!
Jesus FULFILLED love perfectly because He WAS God - and God IS LOVE (Matthew 5:17)! Now that our lack of ability to truly love has been forgiven (if we truly BELIEVE in Jesus Christ), we can now truly love without the REQUIREMENT to love. The HOLY SPIRIT IN US will empower our spirit with God's love. The love of God in us WILL NOW begin to LOVE others (our "neighbor"). But this love of and from God, is the ONLY love that will love God with all our heart, and WITH THE SAME LOVE, BE LOV+ING OTHERS LESS by comparison. Love is now no longer a requirement (a law written on stones) but a proof or evidence (now written on our hearts) that we ARE born again, and are true children of God. Now, our love from God by the Holy Spirit is manifested in loving others. This loving of others is now PROOF that we are now God's children (Galatians 5:22; 1 John 5:1))!
Jesus asked Peter a similar question three times concerning what seemed to concern only Peter's love for Jesus. But Peter apparently did not perceive as yet the love of God, and what Jesus wanted him to comprehend. If Peter really did LOVE Jesus, it would be that SAME love with which he should serve others. Peter was being asked to love what Jesus loved, and in the same way, in the same love. HE COULD DO THIS ONLY IF HE LOVED JESUS MORE. Only after Jesus' sacrafice would that love become available - for Peter and others to love God with all their being, and others as themselves, with the same love operating in a different sphere and for a different purpose.
Loving God AND loving each other - we WILL be doing BOTH. The love of God functions first vertical, and then lateral. Otherwise, we are not truly converted, and are not born again by the Holy Spirit - why? Because LOVE is no longer the REQUIREMENT- it is now the PROOF to everyone of what has already occurred - we have been born again of God. The world will not often understand love operating in this way (1 John 3:10-13). But we are now sons and daughters of the God of the universe, the God of all that is, and of all that will be.
The only thing we are to HATE is sin, not others. Now can we love others LESS with the SAME LOVE that we love God MOST...
"We know that we have passed over out of death into Life by the fact that we love the brethren (our fellow Christians). He who does not love abides (remains, is held and kept continually) in [spiritual] death." - 1 John 3:14 (Amplified Bible)
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