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15th Sunday After Pentecost PDF Print E-mail

Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the Church in this house, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

Hate causes many evils.  Hate can poison human hearts and relationships between individuals and even between countries. Hate can harden human hearts in bitterness and misery preventing their receiving love and rejoicing in life.  Some call hate - an intense, hostile aversion.  Luther once said hatred is old and deep-seated anger.

Yet, not all hate is sin!  Hate is sometimes also a beautiful gift of God that is the cause of much good!  God who is love can and does hate!  He hates evil, He hates idolatry, He hates false worship (Deut. 12:31; Is. 1:14).  The hate assigned to God in Scripture is a rejection in will and deed of evil - and God’s people are to lovingly hate as He does.  The righteous are to hate what is false (Prov. 13:5).  To fear God is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13).  Christians are to hate evil and love good (Amos 5:15; Rom. 12:9).

But what do you make of the bulls eye on the target for your hate drawn by these words of Jesus?  “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.” His command is clear and concrete!  Think specifically of your own life, your own siblings, your own children, your own spouse, your own parents.  Why are you to hate them?  Is it possible to hate them as Christ commands here and to love them as Christ commands elsewhere? 

First contemplate how closely related love and hate really are.  The most passionate human love can quickly turn hateful when disappointed or spurned.  Hearts may wax hot or cold in loving or hating those who excite them and then weary them, those who please them and then displease them.  Human hearts generally think of both love and hate as emotions, feelings that we move into and out of.

God’s Word, however reveals that both love and hate are more properly actions and attitudes, not emotions.  When God says husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and laid His life down for her, He is speaking of faithful, caring, putting-your-wife-first actions done day in and day out, regardless of what one’s feelings may be.  Agape love is self-giving and faithful serving regardless of fluctuating emotions.  Husbands, how is that going for you – loving your wife like Christ loves His Church?  Any sins - in need of forgiveness - there?

But this type of understanding is also the case when Scripture speaks of hate.  It is not first and foremost sentiment, but an attitude of basic priority and commitment.  Hate is the opposite of love and it has to do with actions and attitudes, not primarily emotions.  This is crucial in understanding what the Son of God meant when He said, “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.  Remember, He had already set His face to go up to Jerusalem.  Remember great crowds were following along at this time.

Jesus is not encouraging hate in a psychological sense.  He is rather calling for hate that mirrors God’s holy and perfect hate.  This is hate in the sense of turning from anything that challenges total, exclusive commitment to the Holy Trinity.  This hate is doing the opposite of what Moses warned about: “If your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish (Deut. 30:17, 18). 

That which draws our hearts away from worship of the true God and tempts our hearts to idolatry surely includes ourselves and those closest to us – sinners all!  We like to be in control of things – to keep harm and hardship from ourselves and our family.  Our hearts do love created things – that come to us from God’s hand – tragically even to the point of sinfully loving them.  So, the Lord of Sinai in the flesh commands those who want to follow Him to have no other gods.  He sums it up this way – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”   How is that going for you – renouncing all that you have to follow Jesus?

Any trouble renouncing a greedy heart to give generously and cheerfully?  Any trouble giving up worrisome thoughts to live daily from a contented heart?  Any trouble giving up worldly lusts to show true love to every human being (including those who semi-naked bodies are marketed by Hollywood)?  Any trouble giving up favorite comforts to sacrifice for the needs of others?  Any trouble praising Christ every day, praying to Him in every need, worshipping Him as your very life?  Any trouble refreshing the hearts of the saints and joyfully bearing witness to Christ and all His words despite any reluctance or harassment from family or friends or culture?

Jesus is by no means trying to discourage us from following Him.  He is lovingly showing us that following Him is more than joining a club.  His Church is more than a group of like-minded people who want to make a difference in the world.  Nor is His church a family picnic.  He who normally says, “come unto me and I will give you rest” here says, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”  

Perhaps we should pretend Jesus didn’t speak these words and manufacture a more socially-sensitive, family-friendly Jesus in our own image.  You won’t normally find these words of Jesus on wall plaques and nature pictures and jewelry items in the religious bookstores.  Or perhaps we should hate the one who spoke this command to hate – in the sense of pushing Him aside.  Surely we moderns know enough to correct intolerant words such as these. 

The only other choice would seem to be that we hate ourselves, that is, that we despair and renounce our own sufficiency and strength to do what Jesus demands.  “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Dear Christians that is what Jesus intends!  That is why His words concerning hate are followed immediately with His warning about counting the cost before starting to build a tower or about asking conditions of peace before going to war against a stronger enemy.

What more could Jesus say to clearly and completely illustrate our insufficiency our emptiness?  God commands commitment to Christ with no reservations.  The closest earthly ties are to be renounced before Christ.  Our dearest relatives, those we love exceedingly and delight in, even our most sincere personal spiritual efforts cannot furnish us with the forgiveness of sins or eternal life.  We cannot build the tower!  We cannot defeat the enemy!  We cannot fear and love and trust in God above all things!  Don’t’ you just hate the sin that clings to you each day!?

Jesus stated the cost of discipleship to drive us to despair of our own resources.  He stated it so clearly so that we would not be deluded by human spirituality or by man’s religion of works and good intentions or by warm family connections.  With these words Jesus intends to kill all trust for eternal blessing in yourself and in those you love.    

With these words Jesus also intends to give you Himself.  Beloved we cannot do Christianity!  Our holy hope is to ask for terms of peace.  And Christ is our peace!  And you are in Christ – baptized into Him – covered by Him - seeking refuge in Him.  You owe God nothing in Him!  Remember Paul writing to Philemon of Onesimus…”receive him as you would receive me.  If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”

We imperfect lovers and imperfect haters have an astronomical bill to pay.  As there are fears today of national debt that will become impossible to pay, so your debt load and mine before God is categorically impossible for us to pay.  No change on our part can ever make it right.  But of us Jesus says to the Father…”receive him (receive her) as you would receive me.  If he (if she) has wronged you at all or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”  It is an account Jesus paid in full on the tree of the cross!

If Jesus words about hate and renouncing everything drive you despair of yourself – to turn from yourself in disgust – then you see rightly, for you cannot do Christianity.  But take heart, for you are a little Christ!  He who bids you carry your cross is this very day carrying you!  Continue to seek peace from Him, for the peace He demands He rejoices to give you.  Blood-bought peace!  Risen from the grave peace!  Satan-silencing peace! Conscience-relieving peace!  Joy-giving peace!  Strength-to-serve peace!  Love-your-neighbor peace!

Jesus didn’t begin to win your salvation and then stop.  He counted the cost and with His very flesh and very blood He won the war and built the tower.  He offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins and sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 10:26).  For all the inverted loving and hating of your heart; for the failure to renounce all that you have; He comes today to lay His resources (including His perfect hate) at your disposal.  He comes with all the authority in heaven and earth to give you salt for your life – which is Himself!

In view of His demand for absolute commitment, total sacrifice and perfect cross-bearing are you worthy to receive the sum and substance of His resources.  Regarding His holy body and His holy blood our Lutheran confessions answer this way:  “True and worthy communicants…are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and purer obedience.” (FOC – SD – Art VII – para 69, 70).

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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