“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.” [Luke 14:26]
Is God asking us to hate as opposed to love? The obvious answer is ‘No’. When we look at the context of [Luke 14:26], this verse appears immediately after the parable of the great supper. Jesus was explaining to the people through this parable that there are many who will give all kinds of excuses when they are called by God. This is when He says the above verse, intending to let the crowds know that God’s calling and of course God has to be first in our lives if we are to believe that we are His disciples and yet another wonderful thing coming out through the verses following is that you need to count the costs (in other words make a conscious and informed decision) to follow Jesus, it doesn’t happen automatically, you have to place all other things below God and take the step ahead. So for those who think that God’s election is automatic and does not involve any action from us, these verses clearly refute that. Anyway I would like to focus on the thing that Jesus said about placing all other things below God and what are these things? Father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters – in other words relationships; God must be above all relationships and there is one other thing – our own life also. I think that’s the most important bit in this verse, that Jesus tells us to place God above our own lives. Why is that important? Let’s take a closer look at what this really means and how we can apply this into our lives.
God created us in His own image and likeness [Genesis 1:27] and we are the crown of His creation. Wouldn’t God be proud of His creation? When I reflect on the human body, I am always amazed to understand it’s complexity and how God has fearfully and wonderfully created us [Psalms 139:14]. No human creation can even come close to what God has created in us. God does want us to know and understand that we are His beautiful creation and that we should take delight in all that he has created; that means we should also delight in ourselves. We have been given a mind and a heart for a purpose, it is so that we can comprehend things around us and appreciate and acknowledge God and His creation. When we ridicule ourselves we are showing a lack of esteem for ourselves and therefore for God’s creation, which is not what God wants. The flip side of that is when we begin to give all our attention and focus on ourselves and take our eyes off the creator and put them onto our own selves, we are filled with ‘self’. God wants us to be moderate in everything and not swaying from one extreme to another. He wants us to respect our bodies but not be obsessed with it. If you tend to sway to any extreme of this you would be ‘self-centered’.
You may ask, how can I be self-centered when I have low self-esteem or low self-confidence? Well, let me try an example, when you buy something new, like maybe a new phone, what would you do first? You would read the user-guide and instructions to understand what you can and what you cannot do with it. Suppose I buy a phone and my new phone manual says that my phone is wifi-enabled and I can connect it to any wifi hotspot. Let’s say I try to test that and while doing so I’m unable to connect to a hotspot. I try again (maybe elsewhere) and fail again. If I now conclude that my phone is not wifi enabled, what does that tell you? Apart from other adjectives about me that may have crossed your mind, it tells you that I’m refusing to believe the manufacturer’s instructions and choosing to believe based on my experience.
The right thing for me to do is to call up the helpdesk and get guidance on using the phone with wifi, I would know what I’m doing wrong and be able to correct it. When I find my experiences are more important that the manufacturer’s claims I am esteeming my opinions above the manufacturer’s which means I am self-centered. This is what most people are doing today. They try something and fail and try again and fail and then their experience becomes God in their life and the ‘Word of God’ has no place in it. Can we not go to God and ask Him to guide us so that we correct the wrong step we’ve taken and then begin to see the result that His word promises us? The Holy Spirit is ever willing and waiting to guide us, it’s just that we are too caught with what we think, feel and want to do with our lives than to ask Him.
Another standpoint some people have in their lives is that they like to humble themselves, sometimes they humble themselves so much that in humbling they actually overdo it and become self-centered. Remember what God says in [Matthew 23:12] “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”. We forget that when we humble ourselves God may want to exalt us [See 1 Peter 5:6]. If God wants to exalt us and we say to Him “No God. I’m too humble for you to do that. Let people not see you exalting me” What are we doing? Being self-centered, and not allowing our creator to do what He wants to do with us.
When this happened with Moses, he was able to deal with it. Look at [Numbers 12:3] which says “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”. Guess who was the writer of this verse? You’re right, it was Moses. Imagine Moses writing down that he was the humblest man on the face of the earth. Could we have done that? Not if we were self-centered. When we look at and want to please self, it is self-centeredness, when we look at God and value His opinion or word above what we see, hear, feel or think, we are God-centered.
God exalts us from time to time, not for our own sake, but so that others may know that God is with us and learn from us. God is interested in those others who may learn from our testimony and if we begin to start exalting ourselves in these situations, we could easily fall back into self-centeredness.
Therefore avoiding self-centredness is a narrow path to walk on, we could easily go astray this way or that and miss out on the amazing blessings that would result. So how do we walk this way? [Romans 12:1-2] says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” God says that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice. When you kill a sacrifice, it is dead, but we are to be a sacrifice that is meant to remain alive, in other words it’s not a one time action but a continuous ongoing conscious and voluntary action. But how can we ever do that? Well the answer to that is right in the next verse, by being transformed by the renewing of our mind. What does that mean? We will always be faced with situations where ‘our flesh’ will want to dictate or dominate and tell us what to do. What is the place of God’s word in such situations? Would you rather heed God’s word (even if he wants to exalt you) or would you rather please ‘the flesh’? If you can give God’s word the right place in your life then you will truly experience what it is to be God-centered.
I have not crossed the finish line yet, but at least I’m not being swayed and tossed to and fro like waves of the oceans. With each little victory I obtain in this walk it only gives me further strength, encouragement and motivation to go on and be more usable to God. I do hope this encourages you to think about how you would like to deal with your ‘self’. As I mentioned earlier the Holy Spirit is just waiting to guide you on this, just ask. Stay blessed!