Clarifying a Contradiction
One of Pearl’s friends from facebook read one of my recent posts and asked about the contradiction between 1 John 4:20 and Luke 14:26. The first says that whoever hates his brother or sister doesn’t love God. In the latter Jesus states that no one who does not hate his brother or sister can be His disciple. Is there a contradiction here?
First of all, I do believe that the words “brother” and “sister” in 1 John 4:20 are not referring to family members but to the people in our daily lives, our “neighbors.” But that doesn’t really clarify the contradiction.
The article Pearl’s friend was responding to was Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, a post about the use of the word “hate” in the New Testament. In that article I listed the five contexts in which the word was used:
- They will hate you because they first hated me.
- When You Hate
- Love Your Enemy
- Hating Yourself
- Loving Righteousness
1 John 4:20 belongs in the “When You Hate” category. Luke 14:26 belongs in the “Hating Yourself” category. I believe that what Jesus is saying in Luke 14:26 is that we must be willing to lose our identity completely in Him. When we live as true Christians, we are no longer black or white, Baptist or Catholic, American or German, all of these things that we cling to as being part of our identity should be secondary to the identity we have in Christ.
Here is the same verse but from the Amplified Bible:
Luke 14:26 (AMP)
26If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters–[yes] and even his own life also–he cannot be My disciple.
The key phrase in this amplification is “in comparison with.” I remember reading a book by the Faith Like Potatoes guy, Angus Buchan, where he wrote about a man on his farm who asked about being Zulu and Christian. Mr. Buchan responded by saying that he was a Scott and things like his kilt and his clans colours meant a lot to him. He will always be Scottish, but his dedication to Christ comes first and supersedes everything in him that is Scottish. In the same way, a man can be Zulu and Christian, as long as the Christ rules his life, as long as Christ comes first, before anything Zulu.
That is how I feel about anything cultural or family oriented in my life as a Christian. God comes first. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone sees it that way. Many Christians seem to be more culturally Christian than they are disciples of Christ. I believe this is a dangerous way to live. Your denomination does not make you an automatic disciple of Christ. Your family values do not make you a disciple of Christ. Your country’s laws and cultural norms do not make you a disciple of Christ. For as long as you put these first in your life, ahead of God, ahead of Jesus, you are not His disciple.
That is how I understand Luke 14:26. As Christians we need to be able to discern what is cultural and what truly comes from Christ. We need to put Christ before our “religion” and live with Him at the center of all our thoughts and actions. I do not believe Luke 14:26 is asking us to act hatefully towards our families. Jesus is quite simply saying that God comes first.
Another point worth making before I finish this is that the context of the section from Luke 14:25 to 14:35 is dealing with the cost of being a disciple. This is what it costs, to put God first in all you do…even when it means that you turn against family and cultural norms and practices.