Luke 14:25-33 – The 16th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, September 4, 2016
“Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
I hate you! Hear me as a seven-year old kid yelling at my older sister because she did or didn’t do something that seemed unfair.
I hate you! Hear my anguished thoughts about my soon-to-be-former wife (who I no longer loved, honored, or obeyed) as I staggered through a divorce in my mid-twenties.
There are other voices . . .
I hate you! Hear the malicious anger of a white male in 21st century America who is convinced a woman or person of color or gay man received preferential treatment for a new job and/or a raise.
I hate you! Hear the Trump supporter belittle Clinton. Hear the Clinton supporter demean Trump. Hear or read the regular, relentless, roiling, raging voices streaming through flat screen televisions and high-tech phones and tablets, as 24/7 attacks are unleashed on “the other.”
Are you a Christian?
Oh how I (try, try, try to) follow Jesus.
Jesus proclaimed, “Love you neighbor.”
On my best days—which are also rare days—I come close to honoring Jesus’ essential command. I treat the stranger with respect. When about to launch a torrent of words against an irksome “friend” on Facebook, I remember Jesus’ hope and choose the delete key for my final strokes. No despicable words (that I’d regret later) were delivered. I tell my wife I love her. I listen to a hospice colleague or a grieving “clients,” and give them my undivided—and yes, love-inspired—attention.
Love your neighbor . . . who is the stranger and buddy and co-worker and social media participant and the homeless woman and the literal next-door neighbor and sibling and cousin and presidential candidate and, well, everyone.
Who isn’t my neighbor if I’m straggling along after Jesus?
If only Jesus had kept his mouth zipped shut to make the nearly impossible act of loving all at least probable! The Prince of Peace, you see, apparently contradicted himself with:
Whoever comes to me and doesn’t HATE father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple.
Is love . . . abandoned?
Is love . . . discarded?
Is love . . . devalued?
Though studying the New Testament’s original Greek is a chore for my aging, easily distracted mind, I rallied a few unsuspecting brain cells for a “hate” search. Including “hate” in that verse from Luke’s 14th chapter had to be a lousy translation, right? Jesus really wouldn’t have used that word, right?
MISEIN is the English version of the Greek word found in Luke 14:26.
I did my research. I opened several literally dusty tomes from my long-ago seminary adventures. I found the truth!
Jesus meant hate.
Alas, I don’t think Luke misquoted the Lamb of God. Many reputable scholars have suggested that Matthew’s version of this passage (Matthew 10:34-39) softened and sweetened Jesus’ original nastiness.
In Matthew, gentle Jesus said, “. . . whoever LOVES father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”
Better than Luke’s version, huh? Nicer, right?
And yet, gulp, what if Luke’s version was nearer to Jesus’ intention?
I might’ve told my parents once or twenty times that I hated them. I didn’t. I might’ve claimed to hate a friend or former wife or presidential candidate. I didn’t.
I don’t hate! I try, try, try to love!
What meaning am I missing about misein?
On those infrequent best days I have, along with the many average and occasional dreary days, I believe the Jesus I’m (mostly) following was intentionally confrontational. The one who healed and nurtured, who revealed a God of endless forgiveness and ongoing creation, also chose to startle people. Jesus willingly yanked the rugs of contentment and complacency from beneath his followers. He never hesitated to challenge authority. His parables were banana peels tossed in front of every listener’s next step.
I hate the thought of faithfully hating my wife (or friends or colleagues or a homeless guy or even Donald Trump when he makes fun of a disabled person) as a way of demonstrating my love for Jesus.
And yet therein lies the twisty twist.
In following Jesus, I must prioritize love. Forgiveness. Mercy. Compassion. Sacrifice. Generosity. Empathy. In following Jesus, all petty, self-serving human hatred must be discarded. I am called to hate hate. If, on Jesus’ terms, I willingly hate the people I love the most, then God’s endless, selfless love is the only guide for my words and deeds. If, on Jesus’ terms, I treat those I “hate”—those who disagree with me, who are different than me, who scare me, who ignore me—with God’s non-judgmental love, then I glimpse the cost and power of what it means to be Jesus’ disciple. As I have written before, and will probably always struggle with, the path of Jesus is not about changing “the other” to my way. It’s about changing myself to God’s way.
Jesus’ message about misein demands love without limit.