Did Jesus Say “Hate Your Family”?
“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
Question #3: What did Jesus mean when He talked about following Him and hating our family?
This is essential doctrine regarding family relationships. The key to understanding this teaching in Luke 14 is the context. Jesus is speaking to the crowds. This is a message to the lost. This is a message to those who are enemies of God.[i] Just as Jesus made it clear following Him might mean your family members will execute you, here He makes it clear following Him might require breaking relationships with a hostile, unbelieving family.
Jesus practiced what He preached. In Mark 3, Jesus’ family [ii] not only did not believe He was the Messiah, they may have thought He was crazy. They tried to force Him to come back home. In Mark 3:31-35, Mary and Jesus’ brothers were outside a house where Jesus was teaching. They sent someone to bring Jesus out, but He refused to come.
What should we conclude? Do we think Jesus hated his family? Do we want to make the case that Jesus had hatred in His heart toward His mother and His brothers? Such an argument is absurd. To conclude this would be to accuse Jesus of sin. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 1 John 2:9, which are no less the words of Christ, says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” Again Christ speaks in 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.”[iii] Jesus directly quotes from the Old Testament in saying: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’” —Mark 7:10
In Luke 14, Jesus was teaching the truth that following Him may require separating one’s self from a hostile, unbelieving family. This is as true today as it was in the first century. This message has nothing to do with Christian families. It has no application to how a Christian should relate to believing parents, siblings, or children. If a text like this is used to call Christians to “put their ministry ahead of their family,” it is both an abuse of people and abuse of God’s Word. [iv]
[i] Romans 5:10.
[ii] Mary and Jesus’ brothers. After the age of 12, Jesus’ father Joseph is not mentioned and it is assumed he died at some point prior to Jesus beginning His public ministry at age 30. See Mark 3:31.
[iii] Note also in 2 Timothy 3 the Apostle Paul encourages Pastor Timothy to appreciate and honor his mother and his grandmother who led him to the Lord. If the Christian duty was to “hate your mother,” then Paul most certainly would have communicated that to Timothy. Instead, he did the opposite.
[iv] Sadly, I have talked with many missionaries who have told me their sending agencies have told them, “You need to focus on the Kingdom of God and let the Lord take care of your children.”