31 August 2015

Luke 14:25-33

“He turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’” (vv. 25-27)

Psalm: Psalm 77


This statement of Jesus seems particularly shocking to us; how on earth can it be Christian to "hate" our family. It is worth remembering that Jesus lived in what social scientists often call a group-oriented society. Those of us who live in an individualistic society will get most of our sense of being valuable from our own achievements. Jesus, however, lived in a society which was much more focused on groups (your family, your village, your nation etc). In his world a person's sense of self-worth was closely tied to the way in which their entire family was perceived by those around them and whether or not their own actions brought honour to that family. So not only did it matter to be, for example, one of the, sons or daughters of James there was also a strong perception that the actions of James's sons and daughters reflected on him and vice versa. We still have some sense of this today, but it was a far, far greater issue in Jesus day.

Read this statement alongside the next and what does it say? Crucifixion was the most shameful death possible in the Roman Empire, yet Jesus challenges his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. I suspect, that what Jesus was trying to get across was the possible cost to a family if one member became a disciple.

Part of the cost of discipleship which Jesus asked the crowds to consider was, 'what if following Jesus involves actions which dishonour my mother, father, sister, brother etc'. What if he asks me to do things which others would despise me for? What if he asks me to share table fellowship with publicans and sinners and therefore be labelled as one of them? Most of us today, do not have the same worry about what our discipleship might cost our family but the entire passage asks us, nevertheless to contemplate that following Jesus is not an easy thing.

To Ponder

  • Do you know of anyone who has found that following Christ has conflicted with family loyalty? Spend some time praying for them.
  • In Jesus' day, a person's sense of being valuable was (at least partly) caught up in how their family was valued by others and how their family valued them. What factors contribute to your sense that you are a valuable person? Has following Christ ever conflicted with this? How did you respond? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.