I recently heard a message in a church on Luke 14:26 where Jesus uses the word “hate” in a unique way to illustrate the cost of being a disciple:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple..”
Most modern interpretations of this verse line up with what the pastor similarly expressed. Jesus was using the term to create an incomparable gap between love for God and love for family. It’s much like how he used an exorbitant amount of debt in the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matt 18) to teach us there are no limits to forgiveness. The New Living Translation even includes the same interpretation in their translation:
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”
It’s important to emphasize that Jesus also uses the word disciple. He’s describing a learner or follower… it’s someone who want to be like Him. He referring to lifestyle and character and not a calling or occupation. I find the distinction important because in essence for pastors, missionaries, or ministers it adds a third level to the comparison.
If our love for God should be so strong that by comparison it looks like we “hate” our family, then should our love for family be so strong that by comparison it looks like we “hate” our ministry?
As pastors how does our investment in our church compare to our investment in our family? I know that most every one of us knows and verbalizes the “God>Family>Ministry” priority mantra well, but consistently living it out is another story.
Balancing family and ministry is fluid. It ebbs and flows with holidays, events, and services. That’s why we need accountability and boundaries to keep our houses in order. Learn from others around you. Ask how they manage their schedules and create their boundaries. Find what works for you and stick with it. Remember we are parents and spouses before we are ministers. Our families depend on it.