Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-5, 13-17; (or Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1); Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
“The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Hate my mother! Jesus, are you crazy? Did you hate Mary, your dear mother? Is this what it cost to be a Christian? In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to hate (see Greek below) our mothers, fathers and the rest of the family (Luke 14:26). Some scholars call this oriental hyperbole, a literary exaggerated overstatement used to make a point. So what is the point? Jesus is telling us to consider the cost if we are to be his followers. The cost might mean tension in the family, as it did for many of the early Christians. But division and hatred are not the goals of Christianity. If we take Jesus’ words in a fundamentalist literal way we may miss the point. History has proven that fundamentalism in any tradition has brought only grief and sorrow, and a discrediting of religion. To be a follower of Jesus means to make choices. Whenever we make a choice something else is given up. Jesus did not hate Mary in our sense of the word (again see Greek below). But he did do things that caused her grief and heartache. He did give up a career in his home town as a carpenter, where he could live with his mother, safe and sound. What are our choices? Maybe we can’t choose until we give up what keeps us from seeing our identity. At the end of today’s Gospel Jesus says “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Luke 14:33) Here we have another oriental hyperbole. Again, what is the point? There are certainly possessions we have that we should give up if we are to follow the authentic life to which Jesus leads us. This might be the over possessing of people we claim to love. Do we live as if we own others? It might mean inner idols of overblown opinions of self, and our ego concerns. It might actually mean giving up material goods. There are many things that could become painful to us, causing a low grade depression, while we think we are pursuing our own self-interest. Buddha and Gandhi (quote above) knew this well. So, let’s consider the cost. It will enrich us.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus uses the word “hate.” Sometimes in the New Testament Hebraic meanings are imposed on the Greek words. Both in Greek and English the word does mean “to despise.” However, these writers of the New Testament were Hebrew people. In Hebrew the word means single minded loyalty. The word refers to how you treat what does not fit one’s priorities. It’s not hate in our sense of the word. It just doesn’t fit. Possessions may be good, but not fit one’s life style.
What price tag on life?
Not too high this costly bid.
For true life it pays.