But I think I hear you thinking. “That is all well and good, to be talking about breaking with old social acquaintances or other distant friends. But that is quite a different thing from breaking with one’s parents or, worse yet, one’s husband or wife. Those are relationships that cannot simply be done away with, and any strain along those lines is painful.” That is true. I offer this consolation.
3. The inescapable priorities of true discipleship. As soon as we talk of “good” in every situation or of personal sacrifice “in a specific situation,” we tend to relax, assuming that we are therefore off the hook and that the disturbing radical nature of true Christian discipleship need not affect us. This is a false conclusion.
We think of most work as something that can be taken on and then later dropped (if it pleases us to drop it) with no great issues involved. But when Jesus presented the demands of His kingdom it was always as that which demanded the most radical commitment on the part of His followers. It was not something that could be taken up and then dropped. It was not to be a part-time occupation.
Yesterday we concluded by offering another way to understand our passage, which was that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole; that is, he was intentionally exaggerating in order to make a point.
But there are a number of reasons for thinking that this may be too facile a handling. For one thing, it is probably not a proper interpretation of the word “worthy” in Matthew 10. We take that word lightly. “No one is worthy of Christ,” we think, and we dismiss it. That is probably not what Jesus meant. When He said, “Anyone who fails to do so-and-so is not worthy of me,” He probably meant precisely what He said in Luke 14:26, namely, “he cannot be my disciple,” which means, “he cannot be saved.”
What right-thinking Christian would not want to strengthen the family? What right-thinking non-Christian would not want to strengthen it? It is therefore something of a shock to study Christ’s words about discipleship and find Him saying what on the surface appears to be the very opposite: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse Jesus seems to be tearing the home apart rather than building it up.
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