PASSAGE: "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" (Luke 14:26).
QUESTION: I recently encountered a homophobic Web site that used this passage to support the notion that God encourages hatred. Unity is famous for advocating the love of God. So what’s going on here? Please tell me there’s more to this passage than what we see at face value. If I’ve learned anything from you, it’s that Jesus often spoke in ways that confounded his audience. Well, I’m certainly confounded. Its one thing to love your enemies; but to hate your family seems a bit far-fetched. Even a softer translation such as Lamsa isn’t much help (“turn away” rather than “hate”).
COMMENT: It just hurts my heart to think that there are people—and a Web site!—teaching in the name of Jesus Christ that God encourages hatred. That said, this is indeed a challenging statement. I think it helps to compare it to the equivalent statement in Matthew 10:37: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Clearly Jesus is speaking here as the Christ—the full expression of the creative Power of God that is his true identity, and our true identity, and also the true identity of those we are told in Luke to hate. Our spiritual Oneness—with God, with Jesus, with each other—is the absolute essence of Jesus' message and ministry. So we'd really be hating ourselves—and most of us have done quite enough of that already!
It's really, I think, about our priorities. Jesus believes that we should enjoy our human identities—our 'personalities,' to use the Charles Fillmore term—and all the loving relationships that express in this life experience. But none of them can become our highest priority, because none of them has any reality in spiritual truth. If we become obsessive about love relationships, or if we put family, country—anything!—ahead of our commitment to expressing as the Christ, we will not be able to fully express that Christ energy. People continually misunderstood Jesus, because they heard from a human perspective what he was communicating as, and to, the Christ. Luke never heard Jesus speak in person; he reported what he was told. That Jesus' message of love and spiritual priority had already been misremembered as a call to judgment and hatred is sad, but not really surprising.