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Hate Your Family?

Sunday, September 4, 2016, Reflection on Luke 14:25-33

by Elizabeth Dede

I’m getting tired of these hard teachings from Jesus. Can’t we just have something simple like “Follow me?”

In this Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us to hate our families and to renounce everything that we have. What does he really mean?

I learned this morning at my other church that in the original Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, there were no gradations of love and hate. There were no words to talk about dislike or like. So our little Judah sitting over there couldn’t say, “I don’t like Steve. I love Steve.” There was only love for Steve. Or hate for Steve, but, of course, Judah doesn’t hate Steve. So, perhaps Jesus didn’t really mean that we are supposed to hate our families. Maybe we’re just supposed to love Jesus more. I don’t know how I feel about these language games, though. And how am I, not a Bible scholar, and not knowledgeable in Biblical languages, supposed to know these things as I read the Gospel?

One clue I guess comes from other places in the Gospel. For instance, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs.” So there is a qualification to love. We are to love Jesus more than anyone or anything.

Even renouncing all of our possessions is a difficult thing. I find in life in community that it is easier to give things up. All of our needs are provided for. So I don’t have to own my own washer and dryer because the community provides a laundry house. I don’t have to cook my own meals because we eat together. I don’t even have to wash my own dishes all the time because we all share in that work.

But not everyone is called to live in community. So how can people working at a job, living in a house, needing to drive to work renounce everything to follow Jesus? I don’t know. I don’t have a satisfactory answer.

I can only guess that for many Christians, Jesus means that you should keep a light hold on possessions—don’t let them run your life. Be faithful to Jesus. Pray regularly. Worship with others. Serve the poor. It seems to me that it’s a delicate balance. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify! Simplify!” Have only what you need. Be aware of the difference between needs and desires.

And love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

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