To love less

“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.”

[Luke 14:26 ESV]

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This verse has made me feel uncomfortable since the day I first read it.

I have been a christian for around 10 years (whoop whoop, praise Jesus), however, there are still many parts of God’s word that I wrestle with.

Luke 14:26 is one of them.

HATE my family?

My parents?

My sister?

My dog?

Myself?

Every time I come across this verse I quickly dismiss it and move on to something different. I don’t like to confront the idea that God may be asking me to do something that doesn’t make sense to me.  

Last week I finished packing up all of my things & moved out of my house completely for the first time in my life.

I couldn’t hold back the tears rolling down my cheeks and the anxiety that took my breath away.

I was shaking, trembling, and honestly heartbroken.

Life as I knew it for 21 years was about to the flipped upside down and I wasn’t ready.

I love my family more than anything in this world, & in many ways my parents home is my safe haven. My sister is my joy. My sweet puppy is my peace.

I was excited to move in with my husband; I was excited to decorate the apartment; I was excited to start figuring this whole “adult” thing out.

But I was also at a loss.

The time went by too fast and it felt like I was losing such an important part of my life.

Saying “see you later” just didn’t quite have the same ring to it.

I knew I would see my family later, but when? A few days from then? A week? A month? Longer?

I didn’t know how to process all of the change, so I did the only thing that I know to do in these types of situations: I opened God’s word and asked him to speak.

I was looking for a “feel-good” verse, something that would bring me comfort, reassurance, and relief.

I eagerly opened up my bible, the word that has nourished my soul with love, joy, comfort, encouragement, and peace. I was ready for what God had to say to me. I wanted to hear his voice. I needed some insight into this situation.

I put on my pajamas, brushed my teeth, turned on my side table lamp, & began reading the first verse that I had found that related to “family” in my bible index:

“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.” 

[Luke 14:26 ESV]

Why did Jesus direct me back to the same verse that I have wrestled with for so long? Out of all of the verses in the bible, why did he lead me to this? This wasn’t making me feel better…if anything, it made me feel worse. 

So I started processing:

I know that God loves everyone.

I know that God is a God of relationship and fellowship.

I know that God loves me.

I know that God loves my family.

I know that the bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

I know that God’s word tells us that love covers a multitude of sins (I don’t see anything about hate in there). 

I know that we are called to bear with one another in love.

My own understanding wasn’t enough. I decided to dig a little deeper & do some research.

In the original greek, the word used for hate in this passage is miseō. Strong’s concordance has a few different definitions for this word: 

  1. To hate  
  2. To detest 
  3. By extension, to love less

A lightbulb turned on in my head:

In this verse, Jesus isn’t commanding us to spew words of hatred towards the people that we love (or ourselves). He wants to emphasize that we need to love him more than we love anyone or anything else. To hate means to love less. “If anyone comes to me and does not LOVE LESS his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” 

Why? 

As Tim Keller simply states in his book, Counterfeit Gods, “Human make terrible Gods.” As much as I love my family, there have been many, many times when I have hurt them or have been hurt by them. As much as I love myself, there have been many times when I have chosen what has hurt me rather than what would have kept me safe. We are all fallen and imperfect. If I place all of my trust into my family (or myself), I will be crushed when they disappoint me (or when I disappoint myself). To believe that humans were created to satisfy us more than Jesus is to believe the lie that God isn’t who he says he is.

When I choose to run to Jesus before anything else, it actually enables me to better love my family, because God’s spirit will produce in my joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, & peace.  

God isn’t asking us to hate our families, but he is making it clear that I cannot be his disciple if I don’t love them less than him.

I’ve been very lucky to grow up with a family that loves Jesus and reflects his glory on a daily basis. I am confident that God uses them to encourage me and love me in tangible ways…but if given the choice, the deepest parts in my heart would always choose Jesus first, even when it’s hard. 

Why? 

It is only God who can produce inexpressible joy in our hearts. It is only God who can flood us with peace that surpasses all understanding. It is only God who can heal my deepest wounds and redeem my life from hell and the grave. 

My family and I weren’t made to do that.

I cannot be his disciple if I let my family determine every decision that I make and action I take. 

I cannot be his disciple if I rely on my family to be my Holy Spirit. 

I cannot be his disciple if I rely on my family for salvation. 

I cannot be his disciple if I don’t love him more. 

I cannot mature in my relationship with Jesus by always staying in my comfort zone. 

No one can. 

 

I don’t always put God before my family… it’s a very difficult thing for me to do. 

I seek first their opinions. 

I crave their love. 

I desire their approval. 

I want them to satisfy me in ways that only God can. 

I want to be comfortable with them. 

Family is such a beautiful blessing from God. He created it the ultimate family model in the father, son, and holy spirit. God created families and desires to be glorified in them on earth and in heaven. It’s such a sweet gift to be able to walk in a family that encourages, prays, uplifts, and gives life.

But when I place my family on a pedestal, I elevate them into a place that only God can rightfully reign, and I begin to become bitter and angry when my family doesn’t do what I think that they are supposed to. I have to guard myself against this temptation.

Loving Jesus more than I love my family produces freedom that can only be found in the union with christ.

For me, loving Jesus more is being okay with moving out and going out into the community and working, because that means that I will have more opportunities to share the gospel and bring God glory. I have to be okay with going where Jesus wants me to go, no matter where my family is. 

For others, that may mean removing yourself from a toxic situation, speaking out about your faith, or providing your child with the resources to head oversees to share the gospel. It also may mean risking your life, status, or position in your family all for the sake of Christ. 

For everyone, loving Jesus more & the world less means: understanding who Jesus really is: the savior the world, king of kings, prince, of peace, fountain of life, living water, good shepherd, lover of our souls, ultimate sacrifice, high priest, intercessor, and our only redeemer. 

Our God is not a withholder of good; he knows what we need, when we need, & why we need it more than anyone else on this earth, even ourselves. 

Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, & even when it doesn’t quite make sense:

Love less so that you can love more. 

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