Hate in Other Words

September 9th, 2013 Posted in writing

Sometimes the words of Jesus are provocative, as in the following from Luke, chapter 14: Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters . . . cannot be my disciple. Taken literally, these words would contradict natural human instinct as well as God’s commandment to honor one’s father and mother. So we’re forced to look for a way to understand them that makes sense.

For me it’s about who is at the center of my life. If I put God or Jesus there, then every other relationship will find its proper place (that’s the belief that Ignatius Loyola expressed at the start of the Spiritual Exercises). But if I put someone else at the center, then everything will be out of joint and distorted.

If that’s so, then the hatred Jesus talks about could be seen as a way to say “If you want to follow me, then put me where I belong. If you do that, then every other relationship will get the love it deserves.” And what may seem like hatred is actually a way to insure that we will not impose a terrible burden on people and relationships that, dear as they may be, were never meant to take the place of God. For other people, no matter how wonderful and lovable, are not strong enough to bear the burden of being God. We do them a disservice by expecting them to.

And even though we might think we’d like our spouses or children or students to treat us as though we were God sometimes, if they really did that, wouldn’t it make us feel very uncomfortable? Honestly, if we truly know ourselves with all our flaws as well as all our good points, who among us would want the responsibility of being somebody else’s deity?

So, if we are letting someone other than God take God’s place, then, even if it hurts or looks like “hatred,” let’s put God back where he belongs. That will let us acknowledge as God’s gifts the people we love, not make them rivals to the God who also loves them and shares them with us.

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