Jesus Calls Us to HATE Everyone! What’s With That? (‘Cause I’m in Love!)
[Editor’s Note: Recently, David Bryant was asked to address, separately, two relevant issues: (1) Why did Jesus use the word “hate” to talk about how we should regard others? (2) What difference does the supremacy of Christ make for people who are in a dating relationship? David realized that the two questions can be handled with the very same answer. Here he shares with us these life-changing insights.]
I have a confession to make.
When I was dating my Robyne there was a time when I had to hate her in order to finally love her.
And, believe it or not, she had to do the same with me.
Was this some kind of twisted, dysfunctional relationship? Not at all.
We were simply obeying Jesus—who told all his disciples in Luke 14:26 (NIV):
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.
Did you catch that? Jesus followers are required to hate—to hate everyone, even those to whom we’re closest. But that’s not all. He says Christians are to hate their very selves!
In fact, Jesus claims that without “hating” like this we simply can’t belong to him as our Lord and Savior.
So, what’s with that?
How can the Redeemer who “loved us and gave himself for us” (Galatians 2) at the same time require hatred from those he has redeemed?
I have some surprising answers for you.
In this blog post, I want to explain what this shocking command actually means. Then, I want to apply it to my personal dating experience—as well as to your own current romantic interest or any other person who holds your affections. These insights might change how you see everyone around you from now on!
Shouldn’t We at Least Give Jesus the Benefit of the Doubt?
Yes, Jesus said that whoever comes to him and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, cannot be his disciple.
But how does that match up to what he teaches elsewhere: “Love your enemies” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”?
So, which is it, Jesus? If we want to be your disciples, should we love our neighbors, our enemies, and our parents, or should we hate them? This week a friend struggling with this seeming contradiction wrote this to me: “One thing should be crystal clear—Jesus had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.” Is he right?
Grappling with these seemingly insane conflicts of principles actually is highly useful in our relationship with Jesus. First of all, it forces us to reconsider what we believe about the amazing person who is the source of this command in Luke 14:26.
We know the Lord Jesus is:
(1) the creator God who has come to us in the flesh—who, therefore, obviously knows what he’s talking about if anyone does
(2) the one who died for us because of his unequaled, unfathomable love (not hatred) for us as his enemies
(3) the Victor who became the only person to permanently defeat and reverse the forces of death—which is the bitter fruit of hatred
(4) the Peacemaker who is reconciling the entire universe back to God (Colossians)—which is the opposite of the disintegration hatred brings
(5) the King of glory who ascended to the position of universally highest honor in order to establish an eternal kingdom in heaven and on earth for which the chief hallmark will always be love—love for God and love for each other
Therefore, in light of these five glorious realities about our Master, should we not at least give him the benefit of the doubt? Is it not possible there’s a whole other way to understand and fulfill his summons to hatred?
Hating Can Lead to Loving When Loving Starts with Hating
Along with millions of Christians down through the centuries, I concluded long ago that in Luke 14:26 Jesus is using a powerful, dramatic, rhetorical device to highlight a fundamental principle that marks God’s kingdom.
You might call his statement hyperbole. Or an oxymoron.Or a paradox. For sure it serves as a shocking declaration designed to get our attention—as it amplifies his unavoidable determination to have us give him an undistracted, undiluted, unwavering passion focused on himself and himself alone.
Does he not have every right to expect this from us in light of all that’s included in the five truths outlined above?
In other words, because of who he is and all he is right now, he deserves to have the full measure of our heart’s fervency. Since Scripture assures us that Jesus has been placed in the position of “supremacy in everything” (Colossians 1:18), that means that everything and everyone—every affection and every allegiance—should be all about him alone.
Therefore, justifiably he seeks from all who call him Lord an all-consuming love that—and here’s the key to unlocking the mystery of Luke 14:26—by contrast is so deep and so wholehearted that it is as if every other human relationship ends up looking like hatred. I repeat: by contrast.
Put another way: According to Luke 14:26, what Jesus requires from those who belong to him is that we constantly monitor our hearts daily to be sure we keep on growing in love for him with the totality of our beings—heart, mind, soul, strength. He is worthy of nothing less.
This means we must remain vigilant, ready to “hate” every motion of our hearts toward something else or someone else that begins to compete with—even replace—our adoration, our affections, and our devotion toward him.
We need to watch for—and when needed “hate”—all the subtle ways we put our own priorities and pursuits ahead of the concerns and cause of Christ.
Above all, this means we must “hate” our very own self-absorbed inclinations to switch roles with him—to stop regarding Jesus as being here primarily for us rather than acknowledging we are here primarily for him.
But the good news is this: The more deeply in love with God’s Son we are, the more empowered we become, at the same moment, to love others the way he loves them. This is the miracle of becoming “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5). As we focus our hearts on him, we become more like him in his love for others (Romans 8).
How does this work? Simple! Out of our prevailing, growing, intensifying love relationship with the Lord of love, we discover how to really love each other because the extraordinary biblical truth is that we are actually loving Jesus more when we love each other more—that is, when we choose to love each other for his sake and his glory.
Recall his claim in Matthew 25: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (emphasis added).
Here’s what this means:
We always end up loving Christ himself—
as we love each other IN Christ,
as we love each other BECAUSE of Christ,
as we love each other FOR Christ,
as we love each other WITH Christ—
as we love others AS IF they were Christ.
That’s the preeminent approach to love that’s so lacking at this hour among the nations—most of all, it’s the love so desperately needed in the experience of our own deeply divided nation.
That’s also the kind of love that should mark any budding romance in your life. Let me close by sharing “the rest of the story.”
How “Hating” Robyne Turned Into an Undying Love for Robyne
Returning to my opening story, here’s the scoop:
After dating for nearly six years (as we were completing degrees in colleges far from each other), Robyne and I both reached a point in our walk with Christ where our love for him filled our hearts so much we began to wonder if maybe we should not marry, but instead remain single, in order to serve Jesus more fully the way he deserved.
In fact, 1 Corinthians 7 encouraged us to seriously ponder that possibility.
It is there where Paul invites all of us to consider taking on the single life. Why? He writes:
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord (emphasis added).
Paul wants every believer to discover a passion for Christ that is this richly wholehearted and solidly undistracted. Potentially, singleness makes such a lifestyle more easily achievable. So any desire for an all-out love for Jesus should cause any Christian to consider this option prayerfully.
And that is what we did. After many months of prayer and fasting, including fasting any communication with each other, we both separately came to the same conclusion—that blending our complementary gifts would actually do more for Christ’s glory than serving him separately. Our love for him gave us a whole new reason to love each other and join our lives together to love him by serving him together.
In the end, because we were willing to hate (hyperbole) each other (to forsake each other for Jesus’ sake), we ended up entering into a life overflowing with love—our love for Jesus intensifying our love for each other—reflecting how Jesus puts it in more positive terms in Matthew 10:37 (Good News Translation):
Those who love their father or mother more than me
are not fit to be my disciples;
those who love their son or daughter more than me
are not fit to be my disciples.
I Invite You Into a Greater Love for Jesus
Think about the people in your life you love the most. Would you like to enter into a deeper love-connection with God’s Son in which he becomes even more meaningful to you and more precious to you than the sum total of all the other people in your life put together?
If so, tell him so! Ask the Father, by the Spirit, to bring you into a passionate love for his Son that dominates your heart’s devotion—as your all in all (Colossians 3)—day in and day out.
To help you, I invite you to read the final chapter of my new book, Christ Is NOW! There you will find meaningful ways you can express a growing, decisive devotion for the Savior.
Come with me to discover more of this kind of eternal, inexhaustible love!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.