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Must Christians Hate Their Parents in order to Follow Jesus?

by Robert Driskell  
11/11/2011 / Christian Apologetics

Jesus said, in Luke 14:26:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (ESV).

There are some religious skeptics who, upon reading this passage (Luke 14:26), cringe at the thought of 'hating' one's loved ones. On initial reading, this does appear to pose a problem. There are no doubt Christians who struggle with the correct interpretation of this passage. However, if one is willing to put forth the effort to dig a little deeper into God's word, the full meaning of this passage is revealed.

First of all, one cannot miss the many verses that say one should love one another, honor your mother and father, do not hate. There is too much emphasis on love throughout the Bible for Jesus to be advocating the hatred of one's family and one's self. The more obscure passages must be interpreted by the clearer passages. It is dishonest to pick a verse or passage that seems to say the opposite of what the rest of the Bible teaches, then present that verse or passage as representative of the Bible's entire message.

The Bible is packed with statements revealing God's love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7 ESV).

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 ESV).

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:16 ESV).
The Bible leaves no room to suggest that God does not love us. The biblical record also makes clear the fact that the greatest expression of God's love is seen in sending His Son to die on a cross for the sins of humanity. He loves us enough to send His Son to die on a cross to pay for our sins.

Anyone who cannot see what the Bible says, concerning the love God has for us, is either dishonest, willfully ignorant, or has never looked inside the pages of the Bible with the intent of truly understanding what it contains.

The simplest way to resolve this issue is to look at the parallel passage in Matthew:
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37 ESV).
This verse reveals the true intent of Jesus' words, which were intensified for His audience in Luke. The 'hate' spoken of in the Lukan passage is simply, although seriously, a means of arresting the attention of His hearers.

A deeper look into what commentators say about this passage, and the Greek word for 'hate', is insightful:

The Wesley Study Bible:
Here, hate means to "love less." Our love for Jesus must be greater even than our strongest human ties. We must value Him more than life itself. 1

Jesus and The Gospels:
"hating" was a vivid Semitic hyperbole for "loving less." Still, in a contemporary conservative Christianity that often seems to stress commitment to "family values" above radical service for Christ, there are strong warnings here. 2

Apologetics Study Bible:
Jesus' point is not that all who follow Him must sever all family relations (cf. 1 Tm 5:8) but rather that nothing, not even family, should be allowed to keep one from discipleship. The statement was intentionally shocking to drive the point home (see Mt 10:37). 3

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:
Like God himself (Deut. 13:6 ff.), Jesus thus requires that obedience to God must take precedence over all human obligations. 4

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:
The reference is not to hate in the psychological sense, but to disowning, renunciation, rejectionas in the Wisdom literature of the OT. Those who become disciples of Jesus must be committed exclusively to Him; they cannot be bound to anyone or anything else. 5

This is not a hate that desires harm to someone else. Rather, this is a state of mind, in which we are willing to separate ourselves from, or outright reject, those hostile to Jesus even if they are those nearest and dearest to us.

On the other side of this issue, we must keep in mind that, whatever we must give up to follow Christ, what we gain from that relationship far outweighs anything we forfeit:
And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life" (Luke 18:29-30 ESV, cf. Matthew 19:29-30, Mark 10:29-31).


1. The Wesley Study Bible, New King James Version. Thomas Nelson, 1990. p. 1550 (Note on Luke 14:26).

2. Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels. Broadman and Holman, 1997. p. 292.

3. Apologetics Study Bible. Holman, 2007. p. 1544 (Note on Luke 14:26).

4. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Colin Brown, Editor. Regency Reference, 1971. Volume 1, p. 556

5. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Gerhard Kittel, Editor. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967. Volume IV, p. 690.

Seeking to introduce people to Jesus Christ and to help them become "transformed by the renewing of their mind."

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