Now large crowds were going along with 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. (Luke 14:25-26)
These are hard words! It is difficult to understand such a severe statement by Jesus, who preached love, grace, and deliverance. We tend to dismiss these statements as hard to understand, before moving on to other words of Christ that are more meaningful to us…that better fit our understanding of what Jesus is all about.
Most Bible scholars agree that in this passage Jesus was intentionally overstating His intent to make a point. He isn’t really calling on us to needlessly reject and hate our family members, but rather to be willing to lose all other relationships, and even our own life, in comparison to how much we love and pursue Christ. This understanding makes the most sense to me, as well.
But that doesn’t quite let us off the hook, does it? If this is an important enough topic for Jesus to intentionally overstate His position in order to call our attention to it, then we really need to pay attention.
What, then, does Jesus want us to do? How is this passage relevant to our lives, today?
The issue seems to be one of priorities and focus. All relationships, even familial relationships, are to be considered expendable and rejectable in comparison to our love, devotion and loyalty to Christ.
The Apostle James said something similar, using the covenant terms friend and friendship:
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
The Apostle Paul also used strong covenant terms in a similar admonition:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (1 Corinthians 6:14)
This is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. We are to reject and dissolve any relationship, any covenant, that does not honor Christ, that distracts us from our relationship with Christ, that leads us away from Christ, or that intimately joins us to someone repeatedly behaving in opposition to Christ.
So…consider this question. Under what circumstances would you divorce your spouse?
I know…you’re probably thinking, “God would never ask me to divorce my spouse! He has called me to love my spouse all my life.”
I understand. But…Jesus clearly calls us to be willing to sacrifice all other relationships, including our marriage.
So…under what circumstances would you divorce your spouse?
What if your spouse became an adulterer? An abuser? A drug addict? A drug pusher? A rapist? A pedophile? A serial killer? A mass murderer? A persecutor of Christians? A Satanist? Would you then reject your marital relationship and file for divorce?
Now you’re probably thinking, “But my spouse would never do that! I don’t have to consider those possibilities, because it will never happen.”
Again, I understand. I feel the same way about my wife. I trust her completely, because I know she is trustworthy.
So, let’s reframe the question from a less personal perspective.
Say a dear Christian friend came to you, asking for advice, and confided that their spouse was unrepentantly involved in some horribly immoral stuff. At what point would you advise your friend to seriously consider divorce?
If you cannot think of any circumstance in which you would ever advise a Christian friend to pursue divorce, isn’t that idolatry?
Based on the above referenced words of Christ and the early apostles, shouldn’t every human relationship be considered something we are potentially willing to sacrifice? Isn’t our relationship with Christ the only relationship worthy of our full undivided loyalty and devotion? Shouldn’t every other relationship have a potential limit beyond which our loyalty cannot be stretched?
And if any other relationship has such a high priority in our lives that it is unthinkable to even consider the possibility that it should end, isn’t that relationship being given a position that is supposed to be reserved for our relationship with Christ?
Isn’t that idolatry?
Please understand, I’m not proposing that we all run out and file for divorce to demonstrate our loyalty to Christ. That’s not my meaning at all!
But if we cannot even imagine a circumstance in which we might advise a dear Christian friend to consider the possible need for divorce, isn’t that idolatry?
What do you think?