hate – a family value?

Yesterday morning, I officiated at a sunrise wedding on the banks of the Tidal Basin. This afternoon, I officiated at a wedding in St. Mark’s historic nave. Tomorrow, I’ll join the throng at a wedding and offer a grace before the reception meal. The air is filled with love and family.

whoever does not hate...Earlier this morning, as a part of my daily devotions, I was led, I pray not perversely, but rather in the spirit of taking up a challenge, to look afresh at Jesus’ words: “Whoever does not hate father and mother, wife (to which I add, given my egalitarian streak, husband or partner) and children, brothers and sisters, even life itself cannot be my disciple.”

I believe that love (described by Apostle Paul as, “patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, arrogant or rude, that bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things”) is the fundamental family value. However, Jesus’ words, sticking in my craw and hard to swallow, suggest that hate might be one, too.

Seeking comfort in the original text, the Greek word translated “hate” (miseō) can mean “to love less.” Ah, a blessed bit of ambiguous wiggle-room! When anything clashes with my discipleship, I need not hate it, just love it less. That I can do!

But my comfort is short-lived, for “hating” or “loving less” isn’t about attitude, but action. It’s not how I feel, but what I do. “Paul,” I hear Jesus saying, “please, feel whatever you like, but when a conflict arises between anything else and your discipleship, you must choose me.” And when the “anything else” is family, the difficulty deepens. For though I find within my formative years the roots of some of my abiding woundedness and ongoing soul-deep wrestling, family, nevertheless, both symbolically and existentially, is the ground of my being, the foundation of my history, and a guide to my destiny.

As I ponder all this, I perceive Jesus’ admonition as a beacon illuminating a tension between what I value (where I find my selfhood, my identity and security) symbolized by family and a larger life beyond the comfortable bounds of my self symbolized by discipleship. This tension, more deeply, exists between my life as shaped by my values and my discipleship that constantly calls into question my values, which always inherently are self-oriented. Living amid this tension, I need to hold on to what I value lest I lose my sense of who I am and I need to hold on to Jesus who bids I follow him lest I lose my sense of who I am to become.

For me, it’s about meaning, about making sense of my life. I can find it in my closest, dearest relationships of family. I also can find it outside of me in moments when life’s mystery overwhelms me. Moments when I sense something far greater than (or at least as real as) anything I know. To wit, there is meaning in who I know myself to be and in what I wish I was, but am not yet, revealed in moments of mystery when the difference between my real and ideal selves comes to light. To follow Jesus is to live holding on to the real and reaching for the ideal, always being prepared to hate, to love less, to relinquish the real that the ideal may become real.

This, at least, is what I think…today.

2 thoughts on “hate – a family value?

  1. This is one of my favorite blogs ever!!! I think I may have said this before, but I really mean it this time. We’ve seen so much hatred of late…. Endless beheadings by terrorists and the.little more than one week ago with one worker against another in the US… Not to mention the Ferguson MO incident.

    I read this blog this morning, but it was before my family came down to the campground in Drayden, MD for lunch. First was my real family, Kim, Herb and Kendal…… And my extended Lopez, with my sister from another mother Kris and her family. Kris and I have been sister / friends for more than 20 years…. I’m officially Godmother just to her daughter Haydee Ann, but I claim all of her kids as mine.

    All morning we had been telling our camp “neighbors” that we were having family over for a BBQ…. What we didn’t tell them was that the Lopez family “doesn’t look like us”. But none of that mattered…. When my family arrived, everyone treated all of us as ONE ….. I don’t know if I expected hatred, and I would have been upset if I had felt it, but I just felt love …. The lady in the camper next to us contributed homemade egg rolls to our meal……

    All day all I felt was love….there were no strange looks ….. Even from a huge motorcycle contingent leaving the campground …. Kendal made us stop on the side of the road so she could wave at each cyclist…. And they ALL waved back or honked their horns!!! It was the coolest!!!

    I think Jesus would have been so proud today…. No hatred at all, just lots of love given and shared……such a refreshing weekend …..after all the hatred in the world.


    • Loretta, thank you for sharing your stirring witness to the love given and received among the members of your family, extended family, and fellow campers. I intuit that you – all of you – entered into the deeper (perhaps deepest) meaning of the thrust of Jesus’ teaching about hating all things when in conflict with being his disciple. To wit, the love you all experienced, the love that enveloped you and exuded from you all was a manifestation of discipleship at its heart and core, thus nothing for any of you to hate and relinquish. Succinctly stated, your experience of love was in no way in conflict, but rather wholly in accord with following Jesus.


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