Hate Your Parents or Love Them

From Issue: Discovery 10/1/2005

What if you saw a really neat car drive by and you said, “0, Wow! Did you see that car? It was so bad!” What do you mean by using the word “bad?” Isn’t it true that sometimes we use the word “bad” to mean “neat,” “cool,” or “awesome?” If a person does not know how we are using the word, he might misunderstand what we are saying.

In a similar way, the Bible often uses words in a different way than we do. Sometimes this causes us to misunderstand what the Bible is trying to say. For instance, in Luke we read these words from Jesus: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). What does Jesus mean when He said we must “hate” our father and mother or brothers and sisters?

Most of the time, when we use the word “hate” we mean “to despise, detest, loathe, and abhor.” In our minds, the word “hate” is a very strong word for something that we dislike very much. We might say “I hate math,” or “I hate this television show.” Most of us, however, would never think about saying we hate our parents. Is Jesus asking us to strongly dislike our family?

No, Jesus is not saying we need to dislike our family. Even though “hate” in the Bible sometimes means “to dislike strongly,” it also has another meaning-“to love less.” The story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah perfectly illustrates this use. Jacob loved Rachel and agreed to work for seven years in order to marry her. At the end of the seven years, Jacob was tricked and given Leah instead. When Jacob discovered the trick, he was forced to work another seven years for Rachel. In Genesis 29:30, the Bible says that “Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah.” Yet, in the next verse the Bible says, “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb” (29:31, KJV). Jacob did not despise, detest, and treat Leah like an enemy in the modern use of the word “hate.” Instead, he simply loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. The meaning of Jesus’ statement in Luke 14:26 is that we must be willing to love and obey Christ more than anyone else in the world, including our parents.


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