Sunday, 4 September 2016

Luke 14:25-35


Sounds pretty harsh.

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple… So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Luke 14:26, 33)

Hate those we love? Even life itself? Renounce that which we possess?  Jesus uses hyperbole to make the point that discipleship comes ahead of all other claims on our lives. But to say that is hackneyed and doesn’t  help us negotiate how we live in a world of valuable relationships. And the use of such harsh language tends toward a kind of dualism that encourages disciples to reject the world around, and for those of us unwilling to do so, to feel inadequate disciples perhaps. So where to from here?

A way in to understand these sayings of Jesus is provided by Paul Nuechterlein (here) by considering that strange and ambiguous saying, “I love X to death.” Does this mean that we will love X until we die? Or does it mean that our love will suck the life out of X? I’m sure we would like our meaning to be the first only, but the second is universal. Humans have a tendency to love for our benefit, and so often to the cost of another. Self-interested love distorts all relationships with people and possessions; we fill ourselves with that which cannot ultimately satisfy. In the case of people, to their detriment (love to death); in the case of possessions, to our detriment and the earth's.

Following the grain of the metaphor ‘love to death’, is the antidote ‘hate to life’? By renouncing (‘hating’) our possessing of people and ‘stuff’, do we allow life to return to our relationships? This is Jesus’ insight here. Read it again:

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple… So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Luke 14:26, 33)

Relating without self-interest allows self-giving. Jesus’ call in this hard saying is to mimic God who relates to us disinterestedly, that is, without self-interest. God is secure and does not need us to fill a need in God. The self-giving of God in Christ rests on this needlessness of God, enabling Christ’s death and resurrection to be entirely for us. (See Romans 5:6-11)

1 comment:

robi-d said...

Thought provoking and very useful exploration of these words. It's as compelling an explanation as I have come across. Thankyou