Sometimes as we read the Lord’s Word, we come across some of His statements that just can’t mean what they seem to say at first.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-26)
Is the Lord really saying that we should hate our family members, those who care for us and dearly love us? We can readily acknowledge that the Lord deserves our love more than our father and mother, but ‘hate’ seems much too strong. There are also lots of places where the Lord tells us that He wants peace, not discord, for us (for example, see John 14:27). Could it be that the Lord is using the idea of hating our family in order to instruct us about something else?
But what could that ‘something else’ be? Just because we sense that the passage must mean something else doesn’t mean we have any idea what that deeper meaning might be. Thankfully, the Lord has revealed the deeper meaning of His Word in the theological works of Emanuel Swedenborg. We learn that, in this case, the Lord is not talking about family discord but the struggle we all face as we try to live His Word. The Lord is reminding us that there are things close to us, as close as family, that we must fight against. In this passage, the ‘father and mother’ we are to hate are all the evil loves and desires that we are born with and must resist. The ‘wife and children’ are those falsities we bring into our lives and nurture, much to our own misery. We should of course love, not hate, our brothers and sisters, but here the Lord is talking about harmful ways we see the world and people around us, such as the terrible idea that the Lord loves our suffering. These are all things we should ‘hate’ in the sense of rejecting them because they lead to misery, not to the Lord’s love.
The Lord even asks that we hate our own life. We shouldn’t take this to mean that the Lord wants us to treat our lives as worthless and contemptible. Instead, He wants us to reject the terrible idea that we are the source of our own goodness—an idea that works directly against the Lord’s plan for our happiness.
The Lord knows we have struggles, and He is dedicated to helping us. The passage in Luke is about recognizing that there are things in us that must be resisted. Far from being a disturbing message of strife, this passage is a merciful reminder that we don’t have to accept ourselves as we are. The Lord has much more in store for us.