by: Chris Kaufman
Why I Hate My Parents
Wow! That is an aggressive title! Am I trying to clickbait* you?
Yes, and kind of no, but mostly yes. I don't literally "hate" my parents, but my father's birthday is in a few days and I thought this would be a fun way to razz him a little bit. I didn't just write this because I wanted to see my dad's blood pressure rise from several states away though; call me crazy, but this does have Biblical implications that we should probably address.
In Luke 14 Jesus is roaming around the countryside while huge crowds are following Him. In verse 26 He turns to them and just let's them have it; "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple".
Somewhere deep inside me the little punk who used to be just let out an excited "amen!" Joking aside though, Jesus just legit told us to hate not only our parents but our siblings and our selves! That's a tall order.
For some of us hating our family might not be to hard. Perhaps you grew up with a strained relationship to your parents. For me, I grew up in a very loving and supportive home. But however you grew up hating someone you are supposed to have affection for is a hard thing. Even if the relationship has been terrible, biologically humans are programed from birth to have affection for their parents. So how can Jesus expect us to deny what God programed us to feel at birth?
You're probably thinking to yourself, oh, this is the part where Chris tells us the Greek word doesn't really mean hate but really just loving someone less than someone else. But you are wrong! The Greek word here is pretty well translated as the word hate.
It is true that loving someone more than Jesus is a form of idolatry, so maybe that's what Jesus is getting at here. But I think it goes deeper than that. See, Jesus' community was supposed to be counter-cultural. The Kingdom He preached is innately different than the empires the world builds. To the first century Jew, family was everything.
You owed your life to your parents. You grew up knowing that you'd take over your dad's business. Your parents lived in the same building as you until their death. Often, you married someone just so it could advance the wealth of your family. Whatever you had to do to forward your clan, you did, no questions asked and no fuss made.
But Jesus comes on the scene and tears those ideas down. He preaches a Gospel that doesn't seek the benefit of its self or its family unit. Instead, the Kingdom seeks the betterment of all mankind. It seeks to reconcile all of fallen humanity with God, not just your household. If you were going to follow Jesus you weren't pledging to be concerned with just your family but the whole family of God. Even if it came at some cost to yourself or your family.
Jesus goes on in Luke 14 to tell about a person getting ready to build a tower and how they sit down and plan the cost before they begin construction. He talks about a king planning to go to war and how the king decides if he is able to win the fight or if the cost will be too much. Jesus is trying to broaden the Jewish idea of family. It no longer includes those closest to you physically, it includes those not blood-related too.
Let's be honest with ourselves for a second. It isn't just the Jews who are hyper focused on family. It's us too. The American Dream is to have a white picket fence surrounding your property that holds you, your spouse, your two and a half kids, and whatever pet you couldn't say no too. That's the nuclear family.
But the nuclear family isn't a Biblical concept.
Yeah, I know, that's a tough pill to swallow. We often talk in churches about the importance of marriage and immediate family, but those priorities aren't what Jesus is most concerned with. Instead, Jesus prioritizes the church, the vulnerable, and the world. Jesus' mindset is community oriented, not family oriented. It's why Jesus can claim that His followers should hate their parents, because their focus isn't on ensuring the family line is advanced and protected. Jesus' followers have bigger fish to fry.
Now, all that is not to say that we shouldn't care for our parents. Jesus did that too. Jesus from the cross made sure that John would take care of His mother after His death. But, Jesus only did that because he was confident that the community He had created and sacrificed Himself for would step up and care for His mother. Jesus didn't go to the cross to protect His mother. Heck, it probably hurt her more than anything. He did it because the community needed His sacrifice, and because He knew that life would be better for His mother in this new community.
What am I getting at? Jesus calls all of His followers to count the cost of following Him into this new community. Being a Christian is a complete life-change from the ways of the world, and that includes how we interact with our family. If the cost of yourself or your family is not worth the pursuit of this new Kingdom to you, then perhaps Jesus is asking too much. Perhaps this new way of life isn't for you. But for those who dare to embrace this new community, Jesus knows better than any of us that it is worth dying for.
So happy birthday Dad, thank you for bringing me up with the example of a heart for the church, the vulnerable, and the whole world. I hate you :)
*Clickbait is the action of posting an outrageous title to get people to read your article that isn't as outrageous as the title let on.