Formations 03.12.2023: Consider the Cost

Luke 14:25-35

Jesus says some difficult words to the “large crowds” in our lesson text. For many of us, the hardest part is “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” (v. 26). We may wonder if Jesus was really as callous as he sounds. A look at Bible Hub’s list of translations of Luke 14:26 shows that most Bible versions use the word “hate.” In a list of thirty-two references, here are the four that don’t:

• “You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother…” (Contemporary English Version)
• “If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children…” (GOD’S WORD Translation)
• “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children…” (Good News Translation)
• “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children…” (World English Bible)

So perhaps the verb “hate” has meanings other than Merriam-Webster’s definitions—“to feel extreme enmity toward : to regard with active hostility” or “to have a strong aversion to : find very distasteful.” The translations above may help us come closer to the truth behind Jesus’s words here.

My husband’s sister Rebecca lives and serves with her missionary family in Burkina Faso, Africa. This area is rife with political conflict, terrorism, and poverty. Rebecca, Keith, and their children only visit their families in the United States every few years when they take furlough. This year, their two daughters are living in the States to attend college while Mom, Dad, and the two younger brothers are serving more than 5,000 miles away across the ocean. They have been in this ministry for two decades. They love the people of Burkina Faso and work hard to build communities of faith there.

Do Rebecca and Keith hate their parents and siblings and daughters? No, of course not. We all have a great time when we get together. But their love for Jesus and their calling as missionaries is greater than their urge to connect with family. Following Jesus is costly. I think he was trying to communicate that with strong language. He wanted the crowds to know what they were getting into when they chose to follow him.

My family’s experience isn’t common. Family ties and a desire for safety and comfort are strong here in America. But we are called to follow Jesus just as much as my sister-in-law and her family are. May we consider what might hold us back from having the fullest relationship with Jesus and work to overcome that, even when it’s hard.


• How do Jesus’s words about our loved ones make you feel?
• Have your family or friends ever held you back from fully following Jesus? If so, how?
• What would Jesus have you do in these relationships so that he is always your priority?
• The majority of Christians in the United States are not called to be missionaries in faraway countries. What are some other ways that we are called to make sacrifices in our following of Jesus?
• How might your family and friends join you in building a stronger relationship with Jesus?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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