Jesus made some hard statements during His earthly ministry. Some, like many of the parables, were hard to understand:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you’ … Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ … From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:53, 60, 66).

Some were hard to obey:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

And some were hard to reconcile with established spiritual principles well-known to the disciples:

“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” (Luke 14:26).

In a sense, these hard sayings served to separate the men from the boys, the fans from the followers, and the mildly curious crowd from the truly committed; only true disciples stayed with Him after these things.

God has called us to love, honor and provide for our families. We are clearly taught this in Scriptures:

“’Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise…” (Ephesians 6:3).

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).

Love, honor, and provision for family is a long-established fact of Scripture. What’s more, God wants us to love ourselves! But importantly, this is not like the world loves themselves. Godly “self-love” is not the same as being “in love with yourself;” and it’s not in the sense of putting ourselves first, before others; nor does it encourage us to feed our egos or focus on building our own kingdoms.

Godfidence

God wants us to have a healthy self-image and a godly confidence, or what a friend of mine calls “Godfidence,” which is a healthy view of oneself, formed in light of being created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. When we truly understand just how much we are a beloved creation of Almighty God, we can’t help but have a godly confidence!

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

When we realize God is the Master Artist and we are His creation, there is only one view of ourselves that we can come away with, and that is we are masterpieces! God doesn’t create anything other than masterpieces; He doesn’t produce paint-by-numbers works of art, He doesn’t scribble outside the lines, and His colors don’t bleed. God is the ultimate artist and He has chosen to create us as His masterpieces. That is what gives us “Godfidence.”

But also, we get Godfidence when we realize that we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, purchased from the penalty of sin, and freed into eternal life.

“…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

The value of a thing is determined simply by what someone will pay for it. That means, Jesus considered you and me so valuable, that the price He paid for us was His own life and His own blood. We are truly priceless in the sight of God. That fact should encourage us and help us to understand, what the Scripture plainly says in Matthew 19:19: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

However, many Christians focus on “love your neighbor” but miss the fact that in order to do so, we must love ourselves.

God has called us to love, honor and provide for our families. And God wants us to love ourselves. So what about our hard-saying of Jesus?

“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” (Luke 14:26).

What does this warning actually mean for us?

The Meaning of Hate

Clearly, God does not instruct us to be actively hostile toward our families or ourselves. He does not advocate that we curse our spouses, disobey our parents or harm ourselves in any way. But Jesus intentionally uses the word to grab our attention – to shake us a bit and to get us to think about what He’s saying.

It’s a matter of choosing priorities. When Jesus says you must “hate” your family and “hate” your own life, He is simply saying that, by comparison to your love for Me, your love for them should look like hate. This was the common use of the word “hate” in the Hebrew culture. It meant that you loved one thing or one person so radically and intensively, that any other love compared to it was like hating. We have a good example of this in the account of Jacob, Leah and Rachel.

Jacob loved Rachel passionately, and wanted to marry her. He contracted to work for Rachel’s father for seven years to gain her hand. But after seven years, he was tricked by Rachel’s father into marrying her sister, Leah, instead. He still wanted Rachel however, worked longer, and earned the right to also marry Rachel, his true heart’s desire.

“And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:30-31, KJV).

It’s not that Jacob mistreated Leah, but compared to his love for Rachel, it was like he hated her. And likewise, when Jesus says in order to be my disciple you must “hate” your family and “hate” your own life, He is simply saying that by comparison to your love for Me, your love for everything else should look like hate.

Simply put, there is a high cost to being an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. God must be given first place priority above everyone and everything else that seeks our attention in this life. It means placing God’s will before any other family obligation or social commitment we have. It’s an acknowledgement that discipleship is not just another task on the “to do” list, but is an expression of our new nature, our heart’s passion, vibrant spiritual growth, and seeking the ultimate prize of Godly reward.

Loving God Best = Loving Others Better

“When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moved toward the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest.” - C.S. Lewis

Contrary to what we may initially think, the wonderful truth is the more we love God, the greater love we will be able to show our families! The more we fall in love with God, the more time we spend with Him, and pursue Him, the more like Him we become.

We take on His attributes as we cultivate greater fruit of the Spirit: we become kinder, more patient and caring, less selfish and self-absorbed, more generous, more compassionate, more understanding and more forgiving.

The more we love God and put Him first before everything, the more loving we will be toward our families and one another.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

I like that – loving God includes loving people. And that means the more you love God, the more you will love your family!

Today, do you need to rekindle the flame in your marriage? A way to reconnect with your teenager? Wisdom to mend a burned bridge with a parent or relative? Then become an authentic passionate disciple of Jesus Christ, start loving God more, and watch the transformation in your “love life” begin!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes

Frank Santora headshotFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.