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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Now that we know what a disciple is, let’s look at the requirements for being a disciple. In Luke 14:26, we see two requirements for being a disciple.
First, Jesus says if we are going to follow Him, it means giving our unconditional allegiance to Jesus. Look at verse 26: “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.” Those are pretty strong words, aren’t they?
Jesus demands our allegiance above anyone and anything else. Yes, we ought to love our family, but we must never confuse our loyalty to our family with loyalty to God. Jesus Christ says our unconditional allegiance belongs to Him and Him alone.
Now, this doesn’t seem right. I mean, doesn’t God say we need to honor our father and mother? Doesn’t the Bible say we are supposed to love our children? Why would Jesus call on us to hate our family? We need to understand that the word “hate” in this biblical context doesn’t carry the idea of emotional ill will. It carries the idea of a choice. And that’s what Jesus is saying here. He is saying, “If it ever comes down to serving your family or serving God, a true disciple will always choose God over family.”
That command goes against both our secular culture and our Christian culture today. We are told, “Family above all.” But Jesus says, “God above all.” He’s not saying you are not supposed to care about your family. But if it ever comes down to whom you are going to serve, a disciple always chooses God. Some of you are trying to be a faithful follower of Christ and it’s causing friction with your spouse or your parents. Maybe you’re being tempted to compromise, give up, give in, just to have peace at home. Jesus says, “No. If you are going to follow Me, it requires an unconditional allegiance.”
Second, to be a disciple demands a willingness to die. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (v. 27). Today, some Christians wear the cross as a necklace or use it as a decoration in their homes. But did you know the cross was not used as a decoration for the first 400 years of church history? The cross was a horrible instrument of torture. Yet some people romanticize the cross. Other people trivialize the cross. They use the term “carry your cross” to mean going through an unpleasant time or doing something inconvenient. And they use it to refer to everything from allergies to an obnoxious mother-in-law. “Oh, that’s my cross to bear in life.” That’s not how Jesus uses the term here.
In Jesus’ day, if you saw someone carrying a cross through the streets of Jerusalem, you knew that person was on his way to his death. A person carrying a cross symbolized execution. And that’s how Jesus is using the term here. To be a disciple means to be willing to die.
Did you know that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than there were in the first century? In America we are living in a bubble from the rest of the world. We are not suffering the intense persecution that other Christians around the world are suffering right now. But I think there’s a time coming when we, too, will have to be willing to give up our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I think Jesus is talking about physical death in this verse, and I also think He’s talking about more than just physical death. The phrase “carry his own cross” implies a continuous action. You can only give up your physical life once. But Jesus says a disciple has to keep on dying. What does that mean? I think Jesus means a willingness to die to your desires every day. To become a disciple, you have to be willing to kill your own aspirations for the cause of Christ. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Becoming Salty Saints” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.