Who can help you persevere in your relationships with your family? Who can enable you to change the way you relate to them?
Jesus said some surprising things about how we are to relate to our families. Listen to these startling words:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27)
You might be thinking, “How can this passage help me love my family? It seems like Jesus is encouraging me to do what I naturally want to do!” But Jesus isn’t saying that we are to actively hate our parents or siblings—that would contradict other places where Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and it would be a violation of the fifth commandment where we are called to honor our parents and provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). So what does he mean?
We get some help by comparing this passage to what Jesus says on the same subject in Matthew.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:37-39)
Notice that Jesus is using comparative language (more than) to contrast our love for him to our love for family. He is not saying we should actively hate our families. Instead he is saying something quite radical—you can’t be his disciple unless you treasure him above everything else. Our love for him must far surpass our love for anything or anyone else including family. Our devotion to him should be so unique that all other loves will look like hatred by comparison.
We all grew up in families where parents and siblings sinned against us and disappointed us. When our need for their approval is more important to us than our love for God, it’s easy to hold grudges and be angry and bitter for them not treating us the way we think we ought to be treated. But when God is first in our hearts, we can put their failures and sins into a bigger context of our primary relationship with God, and we won’t be eaten up by bitterness and disappointment. This won’t be automatic or easy—remember, Jesus said to “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23). You must die to yourself every day by finding your identity in what Jesus has done for you in his life, death, and resurrection.
For more on this subject, read Family Feuds: How to Respond Copyright©2008 by Timothy S. Lane