Hate a Baby for Christ Sunday

It’s the year of Luke, and those of us who use the lectionary have a dandy coming up.
Matthew’s Jesus says that whoever loves father, mother, son or daughter more than him is not worth of him.  That’s pretty tough, but Luke’s Jesus takes it a step farther by demanding that those closest to us be hated.  John’s Jesus goes in another direction requiring us to hate our own lives.  I have no idea what Jesus may have said in Aramaic, but in Greek there is no way around it.  The word means hate, as in despise.
This is off the chart even for hyperbole used to make a point.  How does it relate to loving neighbor, self and enemies?  Where is the kingdom of God that heals and reconciles?  It conjures up images of self flagellating monks, or dour Puritans who have drained every ounce of joy out of life as they putter along, “sinners in the hand of an angry God.” 
Maybe you have a better way, and I’d like to hear it, but as for me, I need to weigh this out in the context of the whole of Luke.  It seems to me that Luke’s Jesus is intent on turning every ordinary human way of doing things upside down and inside out.  In the process he wipes out every rule of relationships based on exchange, except for one, and that is one’s relationship with God in Christ. 
I imagine that the question he would ask is; Do you trust me with everything holding nothing back?  It’s easy enough to give me yourself, will you give me everything else?  Your baby daughter, infant grandson, dearest parent, beloved partner – given without reservation, not one string of attachment left?  Is he kidding?  No!
That’s a hard one.  It’s a form of sacrifice to the nth degree.  We have to have faith that what will happen is what always happens with Jesus, he returns our loved ones and our own lives as holy blessings.  That’s a little hard to swallow isn’t it?  It’s one thing to read about it in a bible story; it’s another thing altogether when it’s a reality in our own lives.  That’s the problem with Jesus in Luke; he always wants to do it God’s way, never our way.  Someone needs to explain to him how things work around here. 

2 thoughts on “Hate a Baby for Christ Sunday”

  1. This passage is part of the general problem, well known to all biblical scholars (of both Testaments) called \”the dark sayings\”, that is, the statements, quite possibly authentic, that seem to contradict or be disjunctive to the overall teachings/narrative of the whole. Different commentators take different approaches to solutions/answers (or ignoring them!). One approach is to take some as rhetorical hyperbole, an extreme statement to make a point. In one place in Matthew, Jesus says \”some have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake.\” At least one group of Russian Orthodox fanatics took this as a literal recommendation, and castrated themselves! In another context, one of the saints of medieval monasticism, quoting Jesus saying \”Whosoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me\” proceeded to walk over the prostrate body of his mother who was trying to block him from going off to a monastery! Even the 17th century Puritans saw the real need to prevent (if possible) self-called fanatical prophets doing harm by founding, in the New World, a college (Harvard), in Governor Bradford's words \”dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present (educated) ministers shall lie in the dust.\” Dr B

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