Luke 14.25-33 Why does Jesus say that I have to hate my family?

Luke 14:25-33

Who or what is the foundation of your life?
Who or what do you trust in, live for?

1. Family usually comes pretty high on people’s list of priorities
Parents, partner, children, brothers and sisters
It is your human family who give you your name, your sense of identity, your meaning. They can be the ones who believe in you, support you in time of trouble.
They can give you purpose and drive: you do things – usually subconsciously – to make your parents proud of you, or for your husband or wife, or for your children.
It is our family who give us our values, who shape how we see the world - and even if we rebel against our family and their values, it specifically your own family that you rebel against. 
And if your experience of family is not happy, often that drives you to make your own family very different.

2. Possessions
We live for money and the things that money can buy.
That is what gives you purpose, what gets you out of bed each day: do the trudge to the metro: you are going to work so that you can get money – and then go shopping – clothes, accessories, phone, holidays, dacha, car, flat
And when we’ve got money or stuff we feel secure and confident, with a sense of control.

3. Basically we live for ourselves
I’m afraid that when all is said and done, there is nothing and nobody that we care for, more than we care for ourselves.

But, says Jesus in our reading, if you want to follow me, you have got to put me before your family, possessions and even your own life.
If you are going to follow me, you need to make me the foundation of your life – the one you ultimately trust in – the one who you ultimately live for.

This is not an easy saying of Jesus – although as someone said, there are very few easy sayings of Jesus

1. Jesus says that our love for him must make our love for our family and our life look like hatred.

That is what he means when he says that we are to hate our father, mother, wife, husband, children, brother and sister.

That comes as a bit of a shock, especially for those of us brought up in cultures where there is nothing more important than the family or ‘family values’.

But this is the Jesus who commands us to love our enemies, so he is clearly not asking us to work to destroy our families, or even to cast them off, walk away and reject them – even if you can find that in some of the stories of the desert fathers.

This is not an excuse to walk away from difficult relationships.

I remember hearing the story of a vicar in Edinburgh who married a woman. The marriage did not start well. He began to think that he had made a bad decision, in fact the worst decision of his life. Not surprisingly his wife was depressed and negative. But then someone sat down with him and said, “Look – forget about whether you made the right or the wrong decision. The reality is that you married her, and you promised before God that you would be faithful to her. So you’ve got to make it work now: for your sake, for your jobs sake, for her sake and for God’s sake”.
He listened, took that advice onboard and began to make the effort to make the marriage work. He gave time to his wife instead of avoiding her. He praised rather than criticised. He began to listen. He began to serve her. And he was transformed and she was transformed and the marriage was transformed.’

The institution of the family, based on husband and wife, male and female, coming together and forming a new unit, is God given and is the foundation of society.

Jesus himself rebukes the Pharisees for not caring for their families (Mark 7.9-13) 
Paul writes to Timothy and commands that Christians love their families and show that in care of elderly relatives, and that if they do not, they are worse than the pagans (1 Timothy 5:8)

But however great a gift is the family, however precious the family, we must never make it God, and it must always come second to God and to his word.

Again, we see that in the life of Jesus.
In Mark 3.31-35, when Jesus mother and brother arrive to take him away – to look after him because they are concerned for him and think he is overdoing it – but Jesus does not go with them. In fact he seems quite hard. He uses the language of inside and outside, and Mary and his biological family is – at this stage – on the outside.

Many have had to make the choice between Jesus and family or tribe or culture.
They’ve been driven out, hounded, attacked by their family for choosing to follow Jesus

Think of N – CYM Ipswich
Think of S – Hydrabad. Family cut him off and would have killed him if he had not fled.

And for most of us it won’t be so dramatic, but there will be times when our family want us to go one way, when God’s word tells us to go another way.

Of course, and I repeat, this does not mean that we reject our families.
If there is any rejection it comes from them, not from us as believers.
As far as we are concerned, if we are rejected because of our faith, we have to do all that we can to work for reconciliation – but without compromising our decision to follow Jesus.

We need to put God first.

2. And Jesus says that this has to be true of our possessions

He says, ‘Anyone who does not give up everything that he has cannot be my disciple’.           

Again, I am not sure that Jesus is calling every one of us to live the life of a wandering beggar, or even to a monastic life.
Clearly some of the early Christians had private property, and kept that private property

But what Jesus is saying that we need to be prepared to give up all our possessions for him, and more than that, that  – in fact – all our possessions do belong to him. When we give him ourselves, we give him everything that we have

We teach tithing – as a model of giving
But actually everything that we have belongs to him.

3.  And we have to put God before our own lives.

Jesus says that we have to hate our own lives:
Again, that does not mean that we are not all to go out and commit suicide, but it does mean that we are to put our own lives, our own self interest second to him.

He calls us to take up our cross.

If you saw a man or woman walking along a street in Jerusalem carrying a cross, you knew that person was dead. They were being led to the place of execution
So when Jesus tells us here to take up our cross he is telling us that we need to live as people who are dead to this world:
Dead to our abilities, gifts, looks, intellect, strength, fitness, will-power: all those things that we rely on and therefore value and therefore turn into gods.
Dead to the praise, or condemnation, or judgement of this world; dead to the things that this world values – including  - family or tribal identity, money and possessions

And we need to follow him: to put Jesus and his Word first.             

This is a constant theme of Jesus teaching.

We can’t serve him and at the same time serve something or someone else

We can’t call him our Lord and God, and yet at the same time live as if something else is our Lord and God.

In fact, the consequences of trying to follow Jesus and family, Jesus and possessions, Jesus and self are disastrous.

1. We get pulled in too many different directions
There are already many demands on us: family, work, children’s clubs, school, church, friends, inner expectations
And if we just add God to the list, then it becomes even more pressurised.

I like the story told of the Admiral who was about to be taken on a small boat to the ship to receive the salute of the crew. He put one foot in the boat. Unfortunately, the rating who was meant to be holding the boat to the quay was distracted, and the boat drifted away from the quay. The admiral found that he had one foot in the boat and one foot on the quay, and the distance was getting bigger and bigger. And you can imagine what happened next.

But we are not to do that. We need to decide where we are going to stand: with Jesus or with all the other stuff.
And if we are going to follow Jesus, he needs to take first place above all those other things: above family and possessions and self.

2. If we try to serve Jesus and to serve those other things, we will end up with half built towers.

You can see them around here: where people started building and they ran out of money. And their memorial is a half-built tower block.

Listen, says Jesus, if you say that you will follow me, live for the kingdom, but still try to live for your family or possessions, then it will not work. You will crash, and you will be shamed
Don’t dream your own dreams and then tell me what to do so that you can have your dream.
Don’t say that you trust me when in fact you trust in your ability or your wealth or your family.

3. If we try to serve Jesus and to serve those other things, we end up facing certain defeat.

You’ll be like a ruler going to war, without realising that he cannot possibly win that war.

If we are going to follow Jesus, to trust him, to make him the foundation of our life, then it makes sense to put him first.
And the astonishing thing is that all the other things seem to slot into place.

Perhaps for you it is about having certain anchors.

I will go to church – whether I want to or not, because I’m going to put Jesus first
I will wear a cross so that I can be identified as a Christian
I will spend a few minutes each morning in prayer, focussing on him
I will spend a few minutes at the end of each day in prayer, refocussing on him
I will listen to his word – whether reading on my own or in a group.
I will tithe – as a token recognising that all my possessions belong to him

And if you do that, and if you spend time with Jesus, receive from him, listen to him
Then I think that your love for your family will deepen
Your possessions will become a spiritual blessing for you and for many
And you will lose your life here, but you will gain a glory that is beyond comparison there.


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