Theme: A Hard Saying of Jesus
This week’s lessons focus on the high price of new relationships that must be paid to follow Christ.
Scripture: Luke 14:26
Quite frequently, when I am conducting weddings, I point out that the family is the most basic of all human institutions. The family was the first school; from the education that took place in the home all other institutions of education–grade schools, academies, colleges and vocational institutes–developed. The family was the first hospital; healing and nursing originally took place within the home. The family was the first government; from a father’s leadership in his home came patriarchial, monarchical, and eventually, democratic forms of human rule. If the family stands, society stands. If the family falls, these other forms of social achievement and order will fall with it.
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.
Clearly this is one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, and it is hard in more ways than one. England’s F.F. Bruce has written a book in which this verse is discussed, and he concludes that it is hard for two reasons: 1) it is hard to accept; and 2) it is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ other teachings. “The attitude which it seems to recommend goes against the grain of nature, and it also goes against the law of love to one’s neighbor which Jesus emphasized and radicalized. If the meaning of ‘neighbor’ must be extended so as to include one’s enemy, it must not be restricted so as to exclude one’s nearest and dearest.”1
One way of handling this problem is to regard it merely as an extreme example of semantic hyperbole. Hyperbole is extravagant exaggeration for the purpose of emphasizing a point. If this is the case here, Jesus is simply saying what in Matthew 10:37, 38 He says in calmer tones: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” He would be meaning only that the interests of God’s kingdom must be paramount among His followers.
From the study, what two reasons does F.F. Bruce give for why Luke 14:26 is a hard saying?
What suggestion is given for another way to handle the difficulty of Jesus’ statement?
Reflection: What are some ways in which the breakdown of the family has affected both society and the church?
1F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), p. 119.