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Father Oleg Molenko Answers Questions

Aleksey, Novosibirsk, Russia

Greetings, Father Oleg.

The Gospel According to St. Luke. Chapter 14. Verse 26
“…if any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;”
Does it mean “hate as an obstacle on the way to God” and only together with “yea, and his own life also”? In other references this sounds less radical. But how did this harsh definition - “hate” – come about? Is the translation correct?

  Father Oleg's Answer

Greetings, Aleksey.

I’ve more than once written about the right approach to the Holy Scripture.
The Scripture is inspired by God, i.e., was written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The natural man will not be able to discern spiritual things.

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Chapter 2
14Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.

In this case you allowed two very widely spread errors in the approach to the scriptural text. 1 – not balancing one passage of Scripture by all others of the same topic. 2 – wrong understanding of the meaning of the Lord’s saying in general and of the word “hate” in particular.
The literal translation is correct.
Now tell me, how the closest people and your kindred can, in and of themselves, be an obstacle on your way to God? Certainly, there are times when someone from among your relatives (or even all of them) do become an obstacle, but in this case the Lord addresses all and does so in general terms, which excludes such interpretation.
The balancing references to this passage are the commandments to honor one’s father and mother, to love one’s wife, to take care of one’s children, the saying by Paul the Apostle that, if anyone does not provide for those of his household, he is worse than an unbeliever, etc. These balancing passages won’t allow us to stray into a false understanding of the Lord’s words in view of the use of the word “hate”, but rather are key to the correct interpretation both of this word and of the whole context.
We ought not to forget that this commandment, as all of the others, is transcendental (world denying) and can be correctly understood only in light of it. Including the words about hating one’s own life is also helpful for the right understanding of the passage. It refers not to common hate that we are to show for the sin, for example, or applying to our normal life or relatives. It refers in this case to the right state of mind of a faithful follower of Christ, namely: we ought to prefer God and what pertains to God always, in everything and to everything, and to view all other things with the denial of the worldly. Thus, the word “hate” in this context must mean “not prefer to God”.
In another commandment, similar and close to this one in its meaning, concerning our attitude towards our relatives the Lord says the same thing but on the opposite side of hate, which is love:

The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Chapter 10
37He 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.;

In comparing the two commandments we conclude that:
“loves … more than Me” = does not hate” followed by the consequence of breaking them:
“cannot be My disciple” = “is not worthy of Me”.
As we see, everything in these commandments connected with the proper attitude towards relatives spins around the Person of the Savior. The attitude towards them is compared to the attitude to Him. That’s why harsh words are used, which attack our favoritism towards our kindred. Apostle Paul’s harsh words about flesh and blood (meaning our carnal addictions) can be rightly applied to relatives, too:

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Chapter 15
50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

Under “his own life” one must understand life according to one’s own sinful will, life of the old man in his lusts.
God is a pure Spirit, that’s why any addiction to the carnal or the material makes a person incapable of uniting with Him in the Spirit. That’s why, from the spiritual point of view, addiction to relatives (but not relatives themselves) is an obstacle on the way to unity with God. That is why a commandment is given to hate this addiction in the spiritual sense, but hate not towards relatives in this life.

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Fr. Oleg Molenko