Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.
One of the most offensive attacks leveled at Christians and Christianity is this myth-“JESUS TEACHES HATE.” Even Christian clergy and other Christians yield to this attack. When I was speaking at a major event for the Dalai Lama, there were several hundred clerics in attendance. When one of the American Buddhist committee members called me to ask if I would be willing to speak at this event, I quickly accepted. But before I did, this event organizer said they were looking for someone to represent Christianity and thought I would do a good job. I explained to him that I don’t represent Christianity very well. He then said, “Well, what would you represent?” I said, “I am just a stubborn follower of Jesus.”
Of the fourteen speakers on the platform, most were Buddhist, Muslim, a Hindu nun, a Jewish rabbi, a famous religion historian, two Christian clerics (an Episcopalian and a Catholic priest) and a follower of Jesus. What was so disappointing to me were the remarks made by the two Christian clerics. One disappointment was that neither of them even mentioned the name of Jesus-not once. The other was that one of them apologized in his speech to the other clerics for the teaching of hate in the New Testament and quoted what Jesus said in Luke 14: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even life itself-such a person cannot be my disciple.”
If Jesus is identified with this statement calling for hate in the sense we know hate, then the damage is great as people hear this and are considering this Jesus. Hate taught by Jesus makes Him no better than the ugly hate and condemnation of the many religious factions in our world. Christians certainly own that judgmental attitude in the USA.
For years I have taught this as a Hebrew idiom that is an expression of comparison. I have always said it means: “By comparison, your relationship with Jesus is so outstanding that all other relationships look like hate.” That seemed to work for those who were listening, however something just didn’t set well in my gut. I still didn’t like the One Who is known for the greatest expressions of love ever being associated with that term, “hate”.
Recently, I’ve been introduced to a concept I’ve completely overlooked. My friend, Congressman Mark Siljander, a student of many languages, has shown me through his studies in Aramaic what Jesus most likely said. You know, Jesus spoke in Aramaic and there is a written Aramaic version of the Gospels. In the Aramaic “hate” is not the word. What Jesus actually said was: “If anyone comes to me and does not set aside all other relationships, such a person cannot be my disciple.” In other words, it’s not “hate”, but “set aside” that Jesus says. This is so much more pleasing and consistent with the loving Jesus I know. It makes more sense, yet still a very strong requirement for counting yourself as a disciple of Jesus. (By the way, Mark’s book, A Deadly Misunderstanding, has been released and I heartily recommend it.)
Let’s go through all three requirements Jesus offers to be a disciple. Luke 14 has the entire context. FIRST-This is the priority requirement. You must set aside all other relationships and make them subordinate to your relationship with Jesus. He must be the preeminent one-the priority of your life. Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not set aside father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even life itself-such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Note that there were lots of people following Jesus at this time-crowds! He wanted each of them to not just go along with the crowds, but to make Him the definite priority of their lives. He didn’t say that if you don’t do this, you cannot be my good disciple, but you cannot be my disciple at all.
SECOND-This is the perseverance requirement. You will follow after Jesus as your priority NO MATTER WHAT. Jesus says, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” No matter what happens, Jesus is number one for you. He uses the image of carrying your cross. The cross of Jesus was the greatest expression of sacrificial love ever. To be a disciple of Jesus you must carry your cross of sacrificial love with you wherever you go-persistently. That is one our primary reasons for being.
THIRD-This is the possessions requirement. Jesus says, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Jesus is not saying that you are to give over all your possessions, but to give them up. I see this as renouncing the ownership of all you have. You really don’t own what you have. You are a manager or steward of what God has allowed you to collect. Jesus wants you to realize this and be willing to give up all you have for Jesus and the Kingdom.
It’s even more than this. You are not just to give up everything you have, but all you are as well-your very existence. He owns it all-you and all of your stuff! It’s learning to wear the cloak of materialism loosely and to live your life as one who is owned and directed by Jesus.
So, Jesus isn’t into hate. He doesn’t require you or want you to hate at all. That’s a nasty and unfortunate myth. But Jesus does present some very tough requirements to be a disciple who is a follower of Him.
Jesus ends these requirements with a familiar saying of His. He says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” You might even say that the very first requirement Jesus is looking for before anything else is: ARE YOU INTERESTED-interested enough to listen-to have ears to hear and eyes to see? Are you interested?