“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:33]

Today, in our Gospel lesson, we have a strange statement:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Now, it is not too often that the Lord tells us to hate. We know God hates sin. He hates violence; He hates the mistreatment of the weak and the powerless. However, He hardly ever compels US to hate. Additionally, we also know that God is Love. So, when He tells us to “hate,” it behooves us to wake up and take notice.

When I read this section, I thought, “This cannot be correct. They must have mistranslated the Greek.” So, I looked it up, first, in my Roman Catholic study Bible. They said it was an idiomatic term meaning, “to love less,” but I found that unsatisfying. Then I looked up the Greek.

The Greek words used comes from the Greek phrase that means, “hatred.” The phrase used in our passage for today means, “to detest” and especially, “to persecute” and by extension, “to love less.” Thus, most translate this phrase as, “to hate.”

So, now we have a dilemma. God, in the Old Testament, calls for us to honor our parents. It is the Fifth Commandment and one we recite once a month when we read the Decalogue. In fact, our Old Testament lesson for today tells us that we must follow God’s commandments if we want to be blessed:

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil: in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes, and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”

But Christ, who IS God, is telling us that we need to hate our fathers and our mothers – and more.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

We are to hate our wives and husbands, our children and our siblings. We are even to hate our own lives. Is Christ contradicting God? In other words, is God contradicting Himself? God forbid!

It is a very basic tenant of Christian Biblical interpretation that there CANNOT be any contradictions in the Bible. The Bible MUST be read consistently. If we see any contradiction, we must be wrong. We need to go beyond the surface to the deeper meaning to make sure that no contradiction exists. And, when we do this, we always discover that, in fact, there is no contradiction. Our lesson for today is no exception.

Jesus here is not literally commanding us to hate our kith and kin. What He is really telling us is that no one and no thing should prevent us from loving God completely.  We are to hate how our relationship with others can possibly hinder our total dedication to the Kingdom of God. That dedication, Jesus is telling us, is to take precedence over our family ties and EVEN our lives. And we know this from what follows:

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’”

Jesus is trying to make absolutely clear to us what may be asked of us when we choose to be Christians. It is a foreign concept to most of us, being brought up in a Christian nation, but things ARE changing.

Jesus knew that those who chose to follow Him may be put out of the Synagogue. They may be disowned by their Jewish families, especially after the doctrine that Jesus IS God was adopted. To Jewish people, this is blasphemy. After all, there is no other God except Yahweh. And how can God become Man? It was absurd to them.  After the concept of the Trinity was adopted, it became patent to faithful Jews that Christians were polytheists, despite the fact that Christians maintain they only believe in one God.

Then came the persecution of the Romans. Rome had no problem with religious freedom IF the religion was an ancient one. But they opposed violently the creation of ANY NEW religion – and they saw Christianity as a new one. For that reason, several Roman Emperors attempted to eradicate Christianity through persecutions and executions. And these reasons are precisely why Christ says,

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

This statement is still true today. We MUST be prepared to take up our cross. If not, then our faith is a sham.

Thomas Paine once wrote during the American Revolutionary War:

These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

As Christians, we are NOT to be summer or sunshine believers, who are faithful only so long as it does not cost us anything. We are to know the cost, and then, when called to do so, to pay the price. That is why in our Baptismal Service, the priest seals us with the sign of the Cross and prays: 

WE receive this Child into the congregation of Christ’s flock; and do sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. Amen.

Things ARE changing. Being a Christian is not as easy as it once was. And there may come a time when pronouncing our faith may cost us. It may cost us our job; it may cost us our marriage. It may cost us our family; and it may cost us our friends. It may even cost us our lives.

Jesus’ statement is NOT to teach us to hate. Rather, it is given in the spirit of full disclosure. No one should become a Christian without understanding its cost. But please, we must also remember its rewards.

With our faith comes blessings from God. We are given eternal life bathed in God’s immeasurable love. We are NOT given a perfect life, but we are given a life where many things are much more understandable. And we know that many things come our way to make us better Christians and better citizens of God’s Kingdom.

There is one more thing of which we should be aware. In this section, Christ uses the image of a tower to make us realize that we must be cognizant of the costs for our faith before we embark on our journey following the Lord. Saint Paul uses the same image of the tower in his First Epistle to the Corinthians to convey to us our great mission. It is NOT in our lessons for today, but it speaks volumes:

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man’s work shall be made manifest. For the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved: yet so as by fire. [1 Corinthians 3:10-15]

Our faith has a cost, and sometimes a great cost. But, our faith also has repercussions for others and their faith. Our acts of faith help to build the Kingdom of God, and each act we do helps to form the foundation for future generations. The perfect example of this is our own church.

I have heard pastors talking about their congregations. Some will speak of theirs in glowing terms. Others have confided that their parishioners are only concerned with themselves. They want a place to worship, but when they are gone, they could care less if their church folds or continues. As a consequence, they could care less about growing and attracting others. The former churches are creating a foundation for future generations to survive the test of time. The latter is not. One good fire, and they are gone. The question we must ask ourselves is, “What kind of church are we?” Are we the one building on its foundation that will survive the test of time or are we the church that will disappear once we are gone?

We must also ask ourselves, “What kind of Christian are we?” Are we sunshine Christians whose faith will disappear as soon as it costs us something or are we the type of Christians who walk the walk as well as talk the talk? Will we withstand the test? Will we “manfully” proclaim the Gospel even if it cost us our lives? These are critical questions that none of us should avoid and all of us should answer.

God very rarely commands us to hate. He always commands us to love. But our God is an honest God who hides none of the costs that involve loving Him. It is time to own up and decide whether we are willing to be His disciples or not.

Amen.

Categories: Sermons

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