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.