Playing With Dynamite
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” (Luke 14: 25,26).
Hate. Hate sounds hateful. Mean. Ugly. Where is the love in hate? The phrase “to hate” is an expression used in Semitic languages to mean turn away from or detach oneself from. Maybe that softens the blow but it still stings. In the culture of Jesus your identity was found in your family. You were know by your family. When Jesus came back preaching in his hometown the people said, “Is this not Mary’s son?”
Jesus is saying, “Unless you walk away from everyone and everything that has come to define you up to this point then you cannot be my disciple.” He is asking us to disconnect from everything that has since defined us as a person. At the moment we encounter Jesus we are no longer defined by our past. Our identity is no longer wrapped up in our allegiances, our experiences, our nationality, or our bloodline. As a follower of Jesus we are not defined by the past. Instead we are defined by our present relationship with him.
We don’t talk like this in the church. We talk about how easy it is to follow Jesus. Jesus will take away all your troubles. Jesus will give you a better marriage. Jesus will make you more loving. Jesus will fix your problems. Not according to this passage. Jesus will cause more trouble for you. Jesus will frustrate your relationships. Jesus will mess you up.
Annie Dillard once observed, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”
What do you think Jesus meant in this teaching? What was he trying to get across?