Read: Luke 14:26
“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.” (NIV)
There is a book on my shelf that I turn to periodically it’s “The Hard Sayings of the Bible” published by Inter Varsity Press a well-respected conservative Christian publisher. The book takes on the challenge of researching and explaining passages of the Bible that are hard to accept. Often the scholarly insights are very helpful in understanding tough Bible verses. Those insights can be very satisfying.
Recently a new Christmas/Advent tradition has grown up; it involves reading the Gospel of Luke one chapter per day from December 1, until Christmas Eve. Luke’s Gospel has 24 chapters, so it works. However, when you get to Dec.14th, Luke 14: 25 contains the hardest thing Jesus ever said. It is so difficult that pastors avoid it like the plague, and you never hear it read in church.
I‘ve wrestled and researched that passage without much satisfaction. Jesus really uses the word “hate” and the Bible really does say what our Bibles say. It is perplexing. Bible scholars agree that Jesus is using a form of communication called hyperbole. Hyperbole is when you state something in an exaggerated way so as to emphasize a point or truth. Jesus is telling His disciples that NOTHING should compare to our love for God and our commitment to be His disciple, not even any of the things that normal healthy faithful people love, like their spouse, family, or life. That takes some of the angst away; it also raises some other important insights.
Using hyperbole, Jesus makes His point SO strongly that if you were to state the exact opposite – it would also be true! Try it! Substitute “love” for “hate” and read it again. The point is there are verses in the Bible that cannot be taken literally and were NEVER INTENDED to be taken literally. This is one of those passages. How do we know when we should or shouldn’t take verses literally? For John Wesley hard verses were always read in light of the whole Bible. Scripture helps us to interpret scripture. Also, in the Wesleyan heritage we use the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” of Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience – all four, to understand God, God’s word, and spiritual truth.
Pastor Rob Nystrom