“I hate you!” my little brother wailed as we stood on the edge of our grandparents’ pool, staring down at what had occupied the top spot on his Christmas list for the past several months. His shiny new remote-controlled monster truck lay on the tiled bottom. Thankfully, my mother stepped in to shield me from his rage for waterlogging his prized possession. He was told to forgive me because I was his sister. For all our flaws, love of family (or at least absence of hatred) was a bedrock component of our childhood home.
Family values are such a strong, vibrant thread in our nation’s moral fiber that politicians often posture themselves on the platform of “family first.” Corporations make a point to market both their products and their work environments as “family-friendly.” A positive emphasis on family has become a cultural value, and a seemingly universal good.
Unlike the consumer and voter, Jesus doesn’t buy in. As kind as he was to people and children, he held no special regard for blood relatives. Jesus directed his disciples to leave behind parents and siblings and even “hate” them in order to follow him. The accounts of his life on earth chronicle this puzzling pattern over and over.
His subversive stance on family seems shocking. The Bible is so chock-full of exhortations to love — God, our neighbor, the leper, the foreigner — that we balk when Jesus throws out the word “hate.” Hate our brother? The same one you asked us to lay down our life for, a few verses ago? What’s the deal?
Language barriers sometimes skew our English understanding of what Jesus is asking us to do. Miseo, the Greek word for hate, is seen throughout the Bible as synonymous with “loved less than.” Jacob loved his second wife Rachel, and the first, Leah, was “hated” in comparison. Likewise, Jesus wants us to love God so much that, by comparison, the love we have for our families looks like indifference. His miracles drew great crowds, and so he challenged them with a description of the cost of truly following him: preferring him above all else, even kin.
Are faith and family incompatible?
Have you ever felt your faith pitted you against your family?
Does the instruction to hate negate the commandment to love?
© Revolworks 2018