In science, we have something called taxonomy to help us know what’s what in the animal world. An insect, for example, has six legs and three body parts–head, thorax and abdomen. A spider is not an insect because it has eight legs and just two body parts. Obviously, this raises the question of what we should call a snowman when someone makes it out of just two balls of snow but that is for another time (real quick–man also has three body parts so when someone leaves out the thorax snow ball it is not a real snow man and you should tell them so.)
When it comes to clear definitions, Jesus proves himself to be a true scientist (yes!) in that he goes into detail to explain what he means when someone is called his disciple. This is the only term that Jesus used to describe his followers, not Christians or believers or saints, and the word is found almost 300 times in the New Testament. Christian is only there three times.
The best place to find this teaching is in the 14th chapter of Luke but I warn you, these verses are not for sissies. This is some of the toughest stuff that Jesus said. Take a look:
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-32, New Living Translation)
Does he really mean hate? I don’t even allow my children to use that word.
If you guys knew my wife Ellie , you would have to love her; she is perfect. She is funny. She is smart. She is pretty and she smells amazing; and, it doesn’t hurt that she is a great cook. She is perfect—which is so true I had to say it twice. Now, Jesus tells me that I have to hate Ellie, not to mention my mom, dad, siblings and my two darn good kids. I even have to hate my own life. How can that be?
I’ll be honest with you. It took me a long time to wrap my head around what Jesus was saying here. But I have come to see that this verse is all about seeing Jesus for who he is and gaining perspective regarding his elevated position. I think Ellie is awesome, but she didn’t die for the sins of all humankind. She won’t come on the last day to judge us all. She doesn’t hold every atom together by her power. Ellie is great, but she didn’t save me. That is Jesus—all that and more.
As a disciple, you must be willing to love Jesus so much, and obey him so readily, that you can turn your back on these human relationships for him. That is what he means by the word, hate.
Main point: A follower (disciple) of Jesus must, in comparison, hate all human relationships. So what: Have you let go of all human relationships to follow Jesus?
It takes some time to get this one so send me your thoughts.