Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
- Luke 14:25-27
“Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple’ (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, ‘If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.’ A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, ‘Now I see who Jesus is!’— that is the source of devotion.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I know of many who detest the Scripture above. They skip over it. They cannot fathom their Jesus saying such words. Jesus hate? Jesus telling us to hate?
In a way, they are proving Chambers’ point. They are impressing their way of thinking onto others, and they would impress their way of thinking onto God if He were here. But wait, He is here.
But what is Jesus saying? He is saying that to follow Him, we must not have anything to distract us. Our focus must be on Jesus. I had family members who tried to talk me out of my conversion. I had been a good Presbyterian. The family did not want a Jesus Freak, living in a commune, eating wild berries and honey and locusts. (How it got from accepting Jesus as my Savior to living in a commune, I will never know.) I was forced into some Godly hate early in my walk with Jesus. I still loved my family members. I never ran away from home, but I held firm to my belief that Jesus was my Lord and Savior in reality, not just some words to say so that I can take communion. I would not allow family to get in my way of worshiping and serving Jesus – although I sat at the far end of the same pew with them.
We need to pray for others in this situation, those distracting us from Jesus. Mine was a war of words, but in some countries in the world, Christians are persecuted. In some cases, they are persecuted by family and neighbors who believe differently. In some cases, the government institutionalizes the persecution. Do the new believers hate their parents for the persecution? No, they love their parents, but once Jesus is a part of your life, you’d rather lose your life than to turn away from Jesus.
But notice that Chambers states that there is no pressure to follow Jesus. Those that follow Jesus do so willingly, but the next statement is telling. It’s like you turn to say farewell to your parents, “Hey, Mom and Dad, you did not support me when I followed Jesus, so I am leaving. I am going to follow Jesus all the way to the sacrifice of my own life. Good-bye.”
Yes, Jesus goes straight from ridding ourselves of the family members who would discourage our faith to taking up our cross and following Jesus to death – death of our old life as a minimum. Jesus may have said those statements without a breath in between, ‘hating family’ and ‘taking up your cross.’
But let’s take the ‘hating’ a bit farther in light of Chambers’ warning for us to simply feed the sheep and not impress our way of thinking upon them.
I recently saw an old recording of Mark Lowry, younger. He was introducing his comedy routine for the night in a large auditorium. In typical fashion, he asked if there were various denominations in the audience. In this video, he claimed the Methodists were the ones in the cheap seats. He has claimed Presbyterians at other times. He usually has a humorous quip for each denomination. But this time, he ended with an addition to his denomination inventory. The audience was a mixture of many denominations. All were sitting peacefully next to one another. Then he quips something along the lines of, “Isn’t it amazing that you are all here sitting peacefully amongst each other, and some of you are wrong?”
He says it with love in his heart and a smile on his face, but I could amend his comment by saying, “All of you are wrong.”
In our zeal to get the interpretation of the Bible correct for the people of our flock, we make it exclusionary of the ideas of the flock down the road. Jesus told us to feed His flock, not make them Presbyterians, or Baptists, or Catholics, or any other religion.
I got burned out as the elder in charge of Evangelism many years ago, because the team wanted to get the word out to increase membership in the church. I wanted to make disciples of Jesus. They could then decide what denomination to follow. The conflict is not a new one. Of those who witnessed to C. S. Lewis, one of the strongest among them was J. R. R. Tolkien, a Catholic. When Lewis became a Christian after many discussions with his friends, he joined the Anglican church. For a time, Tolkien and Lewis stopped speaking, because Tolkien became enraged that he had done all this work, and Lewis joined the wrong denomination. In time, they got over it.
When people go out on an evangelistic mission for the purpose of a church membership drive, they are doing it for themselves and not God. They may find their efforts bearing little or no fruit.
If you are born-again already, show Jesus to those around you. Your denomination should never get in the way of that. If so, you are in the wrong denomination. If you are not born-again, look to Jesus. Accept Him as your Savior and trust in Him in everything, leaving nothing back. Anything else, and it would become just another person’s way of thinking.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.