26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
Throughout the course of life we often engage Scripture through the lens of present circumstance. In my case, the engagement with our text this week comes on the heels of the most painful, yet sacred experience of my life — the passing of my dear mother.
In the last days of her life, I had the incredible honor of helping her with her meals, brushing her teeth, adjusting her oxygen, kissing her each time I left the hospital not knowing if it would be the last time I saw her. During the intimate encounters of those precious moments, I experienced a love far deeper than I had ever known. The kind of love, I learned, that works like a spiritual smelling salt, awakening mind, heart and soul to an entirely new level of consciousness around the priorities of life.
That experience, like the words of Jesus in Luke 14, serves as a call to sobriety— a re-ordering of priority and purpose, a fierce calling to clarity about what is at stake in life. St. Augustine taught that the key to transformed character was wrapped up in the correct “ordering of one’s loves.” In the final stages of my mother’s discipleship plan for my life, she made sure to put me on the tracks of re-ordered love. She invited me into a space where I’d never been, an encounter with love that shattered the hypnotic trance of misplaced desire that, at times, has me shuffling through life.
Reeling in this newfound encounter with the power of human love, the words of Jesus sting: “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother…..”. How in the world can I bring myself to now “hate” my mother after finally arriving at a place where I’ve experienced the reckless abandonment of raw human love? What in the world is Jesus trying to teach about discipleship with such a raucous statement? Is the invitation to be his disciple worth that cost?
The word “hate” is jarring, but only because we sometimes shuffle through life half asleep and don’t like rude awakenings. Perhaps it helps to know that the word “hate” here is a comparative term. Jesus is not saying to “hate” one’s family in the sense of standing against it or wanting its harm. Certainly Jesus did not “hate” his own family in that sense. Rather, Jesus seems to be suggesting a reordering of love. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I will offer you a love that orders all other loves — one that makes all love, even the love of a child and parent fruitful and life-giving for all.” Jesus orders our disordered loves that so easily masquerade as good but are often self-serving. This reordering transforms mere sentimental love that diminishes us into the kind of captivating and intoxicating love that affirms our most cherished relationships.
Poet Mary Oliver wrote a beautiful poem entitled “When Death Comes” that has been a balm to my soul the past several weeks. In it there is a stanza that captures the essence of the beauty of Jesus’ invitation of love in Luke 14,
“When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”
Jesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 14 is, in fact, a wedding invitation. An invitation to be “married to amazement” and to live life “taking the world into one’s arms.” Thanks Mom for the lesson of your life that has allowed me to understand and embrace Jesus’ call to discipleship-a liberating invitation to the ultimate re-ordering of love.
Joel Van Dyke
Director, Urban Training Collaborative