We don’t often connect Jesus with hate and we shouldn’t because the word that has been traditionally translated from the greek into English doesn’t really mean to have animosity toward someone rather it means “to turn away from or to detach oneself from.” Today’s lesson is about carrying Jesus’ cross and making choices about love, life and death. This is something we should all feel strongly about.
There is a strange relationship between love, hate and death. As so many of these lessons are this is about defining your identity. One's identity can be so wrapped up in pleasing (or rebelling against) the family that the person has no real self-identity. Spouses can become monstrous doubles of each other they can suck the life out of each other. I think that is what Jesus is getting at in the lesson for today it’s not about hating your family or anyone but it is about being clear about who you are and not defining yourself in terms of another.
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate (or detach ones self from father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Jesus uses these jarring words to show us that things are not as simple as they seem, when it comes to basic choices like life and death, love and hate. What seems like easy choices aren’t. I think the answer comes in the last line of our gospel lesson. “So therefore, none of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.” It really doesn’t fit the context of the lesson. Because I think that the translation from the Greek is wrong. I think the right translation is: “You cannot become my disciples unless you give up all your possessing.”
The problem is that we don’t just desire the things that are of value to us, we also want to possess them. It is our need to possess that turns love to hate and life to death. Think about the lyrics of our popular love songs. “I can’t live without you”, expresses a possessive love. It is a jealous love. Jealousy and possession go together. When we possess something we can move on to the next conquest because it is ours. Possession, jealousy, all goes together and are related.
Love might just as well be hate when we seek to possess another person or other things. Possessing is loving to death. Unfortunately the things we say we love the most are the easiest to love to death. The list Jesus gave us, mother, father, spouse, children, brother, sister, even life itself. In our human fallenness we love these people to death. If we think they are in our lives for our benefit we might just as well hate them. We cling to our lives and our loves as things we can possess and we find ourselves walking down the road of resentment, suffering and death.
We get into this mess because of the nature of our desire, because of our sin. When we take our desire from each other, we start to desire the same thing as others which then brings us into conflict with each other. The other that we began to model in a positive way becomes our rival. The one we began by loving becomes our rival, and then, our rival becomes the one we hate. We love and hate the same person: The monstrous double of our self.
We love things to death by trying to possess them, so that the only way to true life is for each of us to be willing to give up all our possessing. Jesus came to demonstrate with his life how to do this. Jesus became human like us and he was able to desire he was able to love in a way that doesn’t love us to death.
Jesus in the face of our hateful way of loving remained faithful to his Father and his Father’s love which is the only love that can save. The love of God is not a possessing love, it is a gifting love. It is a love that has no interest in possessing, but instead it is a love that gives and sets free, even in the face of death. The last thing Jesus said before he died in Luke’s gospel is: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus last act was to give his own spirit of life to God. What did this lead to? Death? No, it lead to life, God gifted him back his life and it is everlasting life. The Father gave the Son the spirit of life so the Son, through the Holy Spirit, could give it to each of us.
Through this gift of the Holy Spirit we learn to live our lives, not as something we possess, but as something that is all gift. Life is a gift that is only honored when it is shared with others. That is what life and love is truly about, passing along the blessings of life.
When we model the forgiving love of Jesus we learn how to truly love, to live our lives not as a possession, but as a gift to share, to give away over and over again, only to eternally receive our lives back again as a gift. Our human habit of loving to death, can be transformed into a loving to everlasting life.
1. Why are we so interested in controlling and possessing the things we love?
2. What is the reason that the process of possessing can be so destructive.
3. How is seeing all we have as a gift the way to fight against our human need to possess.