Does Jesus really command Christians to hate their families?
Question: In Luke 14:26, while Jesus Christ is teaching a large crowd of people, He tells them, “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.” What does this mean? Does Jesus really command Christians to hate their family members? That would contradict His other teachings, wouldn’t it?
Answer: Yes, the idea that Jesus is literally commanding His followers to hate mothers, fathers, and others would indeed be contrary to His other teachings.
Whenever we come across an apparent contradiction like this in the Bible, it should always grab our attention, because the Bible—including Jesus’ teachings—never contradicts itself. Christ makes this point Himself in John 10:35, reminding the Jewish leaders in His audience that “Scripture cannot be broken.”
So, just what is He saying in this passage?
In understanding the Bible, it’s important to comprehend the context surrounding any given verse, instead of just reading the verse in isolation. When we do this in the case of Luke 14:26, it is clear that Jesus is explaining the high standards His followers must meet. Rather than instituting a “come as you are” policy, Jesus demands that people change in order to follow Him—and that they fully commit their lives to Him.
For instance, in the very next verse, Christ explains that to be one of His disciples, one must be willing to “bear his cross.” Yet He is not telling us to bear a literal cross, but rather to bear any burden of persecution, difficulty, discomfort, and trial that results from following the way of God—even to death—just as He Himself did. He says that His followers must be willing to forsake all that they possess (Luke 14:33). They must be willing to give up anything in their lives—and even willing to give up their very lives—for His sake, or they cannot be His disciples at all.
These passages give context to the message Jesus is conveying: He is telling us that we must consider Him the most important part of our lives, rather than any of the other loves, comforts, and possessions we may have.
He is not commanding us to literally hate our family members. Earlier in the book of Luke, He commands us to love even our enemies:
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you (6:27–28).
Why would Jesus command us to love our enemies and those who would seek to do us harm while commanding us to hate our family members?
Of course, He wouldn’t—the phrasing in Luke 14:26 is of contrast, not objective hate. Jesus is saying that, to be His disciples, we must be willing to put Him first, before even our most natural affections—even affections toward parents, spouse, or children.
Luke’s words become even clearer when we consider Matthew’s description of the same teaching: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).
In fact, those who do give their lives to Jesus Christ find that they don’t love their families less than they did before—rather, they love them more. They discover that putting God as the highest priority in our lives helps us to set all other priorities right.
The answer is clear—Jesus does not literally command us to hate our families. But He does warn us that we must love Him more than our families, more than our friends, and even more than our very lives.