Would you please explain Christ's sayings in Luke 14:26? I thought we were not to hate others?


Let us note and review carefully what Christ said in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

However, Christ also commanded us to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27), and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). As the Bible does not contradict itself (John 10:35), it is therefore obvious that Jesus’ sayings in Luke 14:26 cannot mean that we actually are to HATE our fellow man. But what DO they mean?

The word for “hate” is “misei” in the Greek. In the overwhelming majority, this word does refer to malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, including a right feeling of aversion from what is evil. However, as the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine explains, it can also describe the “relative preference for one thing over another, by either expressing aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another… as to the impossibility of serving two masters… as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ…”

According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word “misei” can also convey the meaning of “to love less,” or “to postpone in love or esteem.”

When discussing Paul’s statements in Romans 9:13 in a previous Q&A, expressing the thought that God “loved” Jacob and “hated” Esau, we pointed out the following:

“God’s statement that He loved Jacob and HATED Esau must be understood as saying that God loved Esau LESS BY COMPARISON… We might… note that the Bible itself sometimes defines ‘hate’ as ‘love less by comparison.’ “In Luke 14:26 we read that Christ tells us, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not HATE his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.’ In the parallel passage, in Matthew 10:37, the word ‘hate’ is defined as ‘love less by comparison.’ We read, ‘He who loves his father or mother MORE than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter MORE than Me is not worthy of Me.’ In other words, we must love them LESS, by comparison, than Jesus Christ. We are to love the Father and the Son with all our heart and our strength and our mind (compare Matthew 22:37). God must always come first in our lives. At the same time, we are to LOVE — not hate — our neighbor AS ourselves (compare Matthew 22:39). We are not to hate our neighbor, including our own family. We are to love them LESS than God, though, by comparison.”

This conclusion is shared by the vast majority of Biblical commentaries.

For instance, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains:

“Christ must be loved supremely, or he is not loved at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, and forsake all earthly friends, and if we do not obey him rather than all others, we have no true attachment to him.”

John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes:

“… not that proper hatred of any, or all of these, is enjoined by Christ; for this would be contrary to the laws of God… and divine revelation: but that these are not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than he, as it is explained in [Matthew 10:37]; yea, these are to be neglected and forsaken, and turned from with indignation and resentment, when they stand in the way of the honour and interest of Christ, and dissuade from his service: such who would be accounted the disciples of Christ, should be ready to part with their dearest relations and friends, with the greatest enjoyment of life, and with life itself, when Christ calls for it; or otherwise they are not worthy to be called his disciples…”

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible states:

“‘And hate not…’ Matthew, [in Matthew 10:37] expresses the true meaning of this word, when he says, He who loveth his father and mother More than me. In [Matthew 6:24] he uses the word hate in the same sense.”

The People’s New Testament explains:

“Hate not his father. In just the same sense that he hates his own life also. That is, these must all be given up, turned away from, if we have to choose between them and Christ.”

Wesley’s Notes points out:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father – Comparatively to Christ: yea, so as actually to renounce his field, oxen, wife, all things, and act as if he hated them, when they stand in competition with him.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible elaborates:

“… A man cannot be Christ’s disciple but he must hate father, and mother, and his own life. He is not sincere… unless he [loves] Christ better than any thing in this world, and be willing to part with that which he may and must leave, either as a sacrifice, when Christ may be glorified by our parting with it (so the martyrs, who loved not their lives to death), or as a temptation, when by our parting with it we are put into a better capacity of serving Christ. Thus Abraham parted with his own country, and Moses with Pharaoh’s court…

“Every good man loves his relations; and yet, if he be a disciple of Christ, he must comparatively hate them, must love them less than Christ, as Leah is said to be hated when Rachel was better loved. Not that their persons must be in any degree hated, but our comfort and satisfaction in them must be lost and swallowed up in our love to Christ…

“When our duty to our parents comes in competition with our evident duty to Christ, we must give Christ the preference. If we must either deny Christ or be banished from our families and relations (as many of the primitive Christians were), we must rather lose their society than his favour…

“Every man loves his own life, no man ever yet hated it; and we cannot be Christ’s disciples if we do not love him better than our own lives, so as rather to have our lives embittered by cruel bondage, nay, and taken away by cruel deaths, than to dishonour Christ, or depart from any of his truths and ways… When tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, then chiefly the trial is, whether we love better Christ or our relations and lives… Those that decline the service of Christ… and are ashamed to confess him, for fear of disobliging a relation or friend, or losing a customer, give cause to suspect that they love him better than Christ.”

In conclusion, nothing must be more important for us than our love for God and our willing and loving obedience of His Word and Law. Those who teach that they are not duty-bound to keep His Law do NOT have within them the LOVE of God (1 John 5:2; 2 John 6). It is God’s GREATEST commandment to love HIM with all our heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37)–much more–in comparison–than anyone and anything else. And we ONLY love God truly if we keep His Word (1 John 2:5).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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