QUESTION: Hey Rick! Picked up the book by Francis Chan, Multiply. He mentioned a verse that has always been a hard one and I was hoping you might help! Luke 14:25-33. It just seems to really contradict a lot of scripture and even commandments (honor your parents). It just seems so OFF so maybe there is something I’m not getting.
RESPONSE: While it maybe seems “off”, this passage is certainly not abnormal in the N.T. or the teachings of Jesus… but it feels somehow different from “salvation by grace” right? Let me quote it here for those unfamiliar with it:
26 “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. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” NLTLuke 14:26-33
While a little strange sounding to our grace-trained ears, this teaching fits perfectly with Pauline doctrine. It shows that while the Bible is completely unanimous that salvation cannot be earned, it is also completely unanimous that salvation is CONNECTED to obedience in important ways.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, if you look at the beatitudes, you can see this clearly. It begins with the blessing on the poor in heart, and the blessing on the mournful. These are people who come to God with NOTHING but their shame and sin, and they mourn over it. This means Jesus is clearly teaching that one does not come to the Kingdom unless they first confess, and repent and have faith in God’s mercy and goodness – only these are promised heaven and earth. (This agrees with Paul who teaches, Romans 3:28-29, “For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” HBV. So we don’t earn it.)
However, if we come to Jesus with this kind of brokenhearted humility, we will also HUNGER for righteousness. Therefore, the grace that calls us in, also calls us to a passion for more of the God who saved us and gives us mercy.
That is why Jesus says in Luke 14, that when you come to him, you A) revoke all other primary loves and consider them as hatred compared to your love for Christ, and B) you count the cost of followership, BEFORE you enter the kingdom, and everything is submitted to his leadership, all relationships and money etc.
Jesus never divorced salvation and discipleship. Unfortunately, we have in the church too often. If we understand both Jesus and Paul correctly, we will refuse to do this. Those who come to Jesus humble, confessing AND repentant do not carry on in an ongoing pattern of sin. They cannot, for God’s seed is now in them (1 John 3:10). Do Christians still sin? Sure. Do they only slowly change over time? Yes. Do they sometimes go backward in devotion? Yes. But while we are saved by grace and not works, God’s grace …works! That is, it works to effect the changes in us that the LAW never could. It makes us new kinds of people, IF we come repentant, and let the gospel do its work.
So much of the problem of “backsliding believers” and “carnal Christians” and “nominal Christians” would be solved if we taught the invitation to the kingdom exactly the way Jesus did. Like this: come one and all and take your place with the prostitutes and tax collectors who are poor in spirit, they have nothing to bring God, no pretense that they could earn anything from him. (This matches the Pauline message, you are saved by Grace not works, Eph 2:8,9).
But, come like they came: so desperate that they are willing to lay down ALL for the treasure of God’s forgiving love. (Recall the treasure-hidden-in-the field parable?) They don’t come proud, demanding forgiveness, yet wanting to keep walking in the way that first made them bankrupt before God! That makes no sense (again, Paul in Romans 6:1,2). No, they come counting the cost, gladly making all their affections take a back seat to the Jesus who saves them from sin. ALL my other relationships are second place. ALL my priorities are rearranged by my love for him who had mercy on me.
So that explains that tricky part about “hating your parents”. That is not contradicting the 5th commandment… remember Jesus used hyperbole a lot. (Example: the “cut off your hand” thing!) So “hate” is not saying you dishonor your parents, it’s saying “you must be willing to put your devotion to them below devotion to Me.” Compared to that, love for them will look like hate.
Remember too, in the Ancient Near East, it would be unheard of if a man belonged to a religion let’s say, and his whole family didn’t also. So strong were the ties of family in their honor bound culture, that you followed the patriarch no matter what; blood ties ruled everything, family first uber alles. So speaking into that cultural expectation, Jesus is introducing a different sort sequence.
Of course, in our day this is commonly understood. A teen let’s say, will have some epiphany where they leave their mom’s “ways” and strike out on their own, at the risk of offending them. This is almost expected in our context, Hollywood has kicked out a gaggle of movies with this premise! But that very idea, so noble in our day, would have been considered the height of insubordination and offensiveness in Jesus’ culture. So it was JESUS who first gave us this idea that there’s a higher loyalty than mom or dad… of course for him it wasn’t a permission to be rebellious and go smoke pot, it was his permission to be rebellious and go follow Messiah – himself!