At first glance, Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26 sound very harsh. He says, “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.” This seems to contradict other Bible passages that instruct us to honor our parents and love others. So what did Jesus really mean here?
To understand this verse, we need to look at the original Greek word translated as “hate” here. The word is miseo, which can mean “to love less.” It does not necessarily mean to despise or harbor ill will toward someone. The sense is more of a comparative love—where we are called to love Jesus so much more than any other person, that all other loves pale in comparison. Our love for God must be supreme.
Jesus is speaking about having the right priorities and allegiances. He is emphasizing that following Him must take first place in our lives—above all other earthly loves and obligations. Elsewhere, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). He wants God the Father to have the highest place in our hearts and affections.
In the parallel passage of Matthew 10:37, Jesus says similarly, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This helps clarify that the point is not to literally hate our family members, but rather to love Jesus supremely. Our devotion to Christ should be so great that all other loves are like hatred in comparison.
The choice to follow Jesus above all else can potentially put us at odds with family members who do not share our faith. In places where Christians face persecution, believers are sometimes forced to choose between obedience to Christ or appeasing their unbelieving families. So there is a cost to discipleship that may require us to go against relatives for the sake of the gospel.
However, even within strained family relationships, Christians are instructed to continue honoring their parents, loving their children, and living at peace with others if at all possible (Romans 12:18). Hating father and mother does not negate our responsibility to show them godly respect and care. After all, the Bible says if someone does not provide for their relatives, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). But following Jesus must be our supreme priority.
In summary, Jesus is emphasizing our love for Him must trump all others. By comparison, our love for everyone else should look like hatred. God deserves first place. We must value our relationship with Christ above even the closest family ties. He requires total allegiance and devotion from His followers. There is both a cost and a blessing to putting God before all else.
Here are some additional key points about what Jesus meant regarding hating father and mother:
- He is speaking in a comparative sense—a heightened way to emphasize His preeminence.
- Our love for Jesus should be so great that other loves look like hatred by comparison.
- Following Christ must be our supreme priority that trumps obligations to family.
- However, we still have responsibilities to honor parents and family members.
- There is a cost to discipleship that may put us at odds with unbelieving relatives.
- Ultimately, Jesus wants God the Father to have the highest place in our hearts.
In summary, Jesus used shocking language to underline the importance of loving God above all else. Following Him must be our supreme priority in life. When our devotion to Christ overwhelms all other allegiances, it helps ensure He has the place of highest honor, affection, and obedience—the rightful place of God alone.
Bible passages that relate to this topic:
Matthew 10:37-39: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Luke 9:57-62: “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Deuteronomy 13:6-11: “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.”
Mark 10:28-30: “Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Matthew 22:37-38: “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Matthew 15:1-6: “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”
1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
In conclusion, Jesus used strong language about “hating” one’s family to emphasize that He must have the supreme place in our hearts. This may put us at odds with unbelieving relatives, but we still have a responsibility to honor our parents and love our families. Ultimately, our devotion to Christ should be so great that it overwhelms all other loves in comparison. Jesus deserves our highest allegiance.