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Pointers along the way #278

Hating father and mother
- Jacob Ninan

We need to understand the Bible as a whole first if we have to understand specific verses in it. Verses must be interpreted in their specific context and in the context of the entire Bible. Our religious background, training, experience and temperament all contribute something to the way we interpret scripture, and we need to make special efforts to get an objective view of what God says in His word without letting things get coloured by our individuality. This is not as easy as it sounds, and it is good to pay special attention to this factor.

Jesus said that if we were to follow Him as His disciples, we could not do that without hating our father and mother (Lk.14:26). If we look at this verse by itself we would struggle to understand what Jesus meant, especially since we know that He stood for and preached much about loving others, including our enemies (Mt.5:44)! The first thing we need to do is to look at the context in which Jesus said this. He said this to the multitude after He spoke about the different excuses people would give when they were invited to the kingdom of God. One such excuse that some people give is that they could not hurt their parents who had brought them up with much love and sacrifice. Another verse quotes Jesus saying that if we were to love our father or mother more than Him we would not be worthy of Him (Mt.10:37). This was in the context of warning that there could be clashes between relatives when one chooses to follow Jesus. Jesus also reiterated that we are to honour our father and mother, which is one of the ten commandments (Ex.20:7), and this is also repeated in Ep.6:2. So it becomes clear that the meaning of 'hating' father and mother is not what it appears to be at first glance, but another way of saying that our love for our father and mother should never be allowed to stand in the way of loving and obeying God. In other words, when it comes to a question of choosing between God and parents, we must choose God.

A similar issue comes up with Ep.6:1 and Col.3:20 where children are told to obey their parents in all things, in the Lord. First of all it becomes clear that children need not obey their parents when it comes to things that would mean disobeying God. However, another factor that we need to consider is that it is children who must obey their parents and not grown up people! When we grow up we become responsible to God directly and we are no longer under the direct control of our parents. Parents who do not understand this do not let go of their 'children' even when they grow up, and insist that they should obey them. Some grown up 'children' also condemn themselves or feel guilty when they are not able to obey their parents in something. But the word for grown up people regarding parents is, "Honour your father and mother," which is not the same as obeying them! This means treating them with respect, taking care of them, helping them, etc. Another example of looking at the big picture!