The Fourth Commandment expresses God’s timeless will for all families, directing all children everywhere to honor their parents. Jesus himself loved his mom and stepdad. Scripture tells us that he was a dutiful and obedient son as he was growing up. His tender words of care for Mary, spoken in his agony on the cross, demonstrated his compassion and determination to put others’ needs before his own.
How then could he seem to encourage family hatred? “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple’” (Luke 14:25,26). Really, Jesus? Hate?
Understand a few things. Jesus was employing an ancient Hebrew figure of speech called a mashal, in which you make a point by exaggeration to an extreme. In English class we would say it is a type of hyperbole. Jesus wasn’t promoting hatred. Rather, he was insisting that the triune God needed to come first in people’s lives, more beloved and more important even than one’s parents or children. Yes, even they can crowd God out of a human heart. Even they can become deadly idols. And if a choice has to be made between following one’s parents and following Jesus, choose Jesus.
Any path that leads away from him is spiritual suicide.