Hate – A Strong Word
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Cost of Discipleship
Some of you may be familiar with the book The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany during the reign of the Nazi government. He was executed near the end of the war for his work in the underground and his outspoken words against Hitler’s rule.
In his book, he warns the Christian about “Cheap Grace.” He defines “Cheap Grace” as a grace that we bestow on ourselves, a grace without the cost of discipleship. “Cheap Grace” is believing and living as if “God’s Grace” poured out on us does not change our lives. “Cheap Grace” is resisting the fullness of “God’s Grace.”
Bonhoeffer was not at all suggesting that we have to earn “God’s Grace,” – the forgiveness of our sins, peace for our consciences, and the promise of eternal life. He was teaching that “God’s Grace” changes us. As Christ’s disciples, the Holy Spirit teaches us about the depth of sin, how it often hides under what we think is good. Learning more about our sinfulness leads us to know how much we need to repent and to ask God to forgive us, renew us, and lead us.
So with that in mind we hear the words of Jesus “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, YES, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These words are shocking and hard to understand when they come for Jesus himself.
Jesus is the one who said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “honor your father and mother.” Your neighborhood starts with your own, with loving them. Jesus said, “You have heard it said hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
It is hard to understand then when Jesus uses the word “hate,” especially when he directs it to your family and your own life, gifts that he has given you. Consider for example that most of the metaphors used for our relationship with God are that of family. God is our father, we are his children. Jesus is our brother, Christ is our husband and we are his bride.
God describes his own being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, family names – A father who loves his son, a son who loves his father, a spirit that reveals the son to a world in need. All of this makes it hard to hear and understand Jesus saying that his disciples must hate family and self.
Becoming a Disciple
The Lord tells us that our relationship with him is one of love, love that starts with him loving us. The apostle John tell us “This is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.” This is where our discipleship begins, the love of the Father sending his son to redeem us, Christ laying down his life for us, and the Holy Spirit giving us faith to believe and become the children of God.
Jesus is not talking today about becoming disciples, his grace has made us that already. He is warning us of the temptations that can draw us away from him. In today’s Old Testament reading, Mosses tells the people of Israel to listen to the words of the Lord who loves them.
His warning includes these words, “If your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.”
“If your heart turns away,” that is Jesus fear for you. That is why he tells you to hate family and self. He is requiring you to give up the most precious, important, essential, and central things in your life, even your own life. Loving these things are temptations to turn your hearts away from Jesus and to instead worship these things.
These things are temptations to love yourself above all things. Even loving family can be loving them because of what they can give back to you. We use our families, we want to be and feel loved, we want protection, prestige, and a place to belong.
Our sins are always self-serving, they are always braking the first commandment. We cling to the things of this world because we fear that God will not give us what is good and best for us. Therefore Jesus says we must first hate ourselves and the things we love.
Jesus calls us to a radical repentance and faith, a repentance and faith that first hates ourselves and confesses our sins. He calls us to a repentance and faith that empties ourselves in complete fear, love, and trust in him above all things.
Not Without Mercy
As terrible as this may sound, it is not without mercy and purpose. The Lord would have us empty so that he can fill us with his Holy Spirit. He cuts us off from ourselves and our family so that he might be all of these things for us and more. Then he gives us back ourselves and our family as a more holy and perfect gift. He gives you too even more family, the family you share here, your brothers and sisters in Christ.
That is the message of Jesus. From before the beginning of time, God’s heart has been turned toward you. He has loved you and wanted you to be his child. His love for you has been shown in that “while you were a sinner, he sent his Son into the world to die for you.”
God paid the price to redeem you. The cost included the Father forsaking his son because he carried with him your sin. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ was the cost to free you from sin and death.
God’s priority was to love you. He put you first, your freedom from sin and death. He put you first, your redemption from Satan and the sinful desires of your heart. Jesus did not waiver from his purpose in coming to earth. He took upon himself the curse of the cross so that you might have a new life.
So if all the cost has been paid for by the heavenly Father and the Son, then what is Jesus saying in today’s reading. Bonhoeffer wrote this statement, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” By this statement and through out his book, he was saying that being a disciple of Jesus is death and resurrection..
When we receive the gift of faith the old sinful person dies and a Christian is born by the power of God. This old sinful nature, however, keeps trying to come alive in us. This is the self, the life that Jesus said we should hate.
This sinful nature wants us to forget about living as a disciple. This sinful nature says, “Okay if you want to call yourself a Christian, but don’t take it too seriously because it might cramp your style.”
The cost of discipleship is high. In fact it is impossible for us to pay the cost of being a disciple. All of us fall short of placing Jesus first in our life. All of us, in one way or another, love our families, ourselves, and our possessions more than we love Jesus. Repent.
Jesus Christ has paid for your sinful failures. He has paid the cost of discipleship on your behalf. He measured the cost to redeem you, to pay the price for your sins. He knew the cost and he paid it so that you could be debt free.
We all need to repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness. We need to have Jesus give us the power to live as his disciples, not In Name Only, but as forgiven children of the heavenly Father.
As his disciples, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us as his disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we love Jesus above all other things in our life. A disciple is not someone who simply knows the teachings of Jesus. A disciple through the power of the Holy Spirit puts their complete faith in Jesus and asks him to direct their lives.
Remember those things that Jesus told us to hate? As his disciples, he gives them all back to you. Through Jesus you can now not only love your families but you can love your enemies. You can love them with the love of Christ, not worship them but loving them as his gift to you. We love because he first loved us.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria