"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother ..." (Luke 14:26)

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)

Did Jesus really say we should hate our father and mother?

This might be a confusing statement by Jesus to his disciples if we were to believe those who preach the importance of family. From this statement, we know that Jesus did not teach the importance of family.

But what about the commandment:
“Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12)
Actually, "hate" is a poor choice of translation in Jesus' statement. The Greek word translated to "hate" is μισέω (miseō). This word also means to "detest." To hate someone is quite different than detesting someone. To "detest" means to abhor, loathe or reject them.

Even still, why would Jesus be instructing his disciples to detest their family members?

Jesus is teaching his students about their spiritual identity. It is not that Jesus is detesting family members. Rather, he is teaching that the family of this body is not our real family. Our real family is spiritual. To reject one's family according to Jesus means to accept one's spiritual family.

Isn't the body like a vehicle?

Our physical body is like a boat, and the physical world is like the ocean. The only way to go out and live on the ocean is by getting onto a boat. In the same way, the only way we can live in the physical world is by using a vehicle - this physical body.

And just as a person steers a boat over the water, we steer this physical body through the world. We steer the physical body through our goals and desires. But just as a boat can be met with many challenges when out to sea, we face many obstacles and consequences in our journey through the physical world within this temporary physical body.

And just as the boat's captain is not the boat, we are not these physical bodies. We leave it at the time of death.

Where we go at the time of death depends upon our consciousness and our past activities. These two blend together to determine our next destination. If we become absorbed in the phantasmagoria of the physical world - thinking that we are our physical bodies and we will become happy through materialism - then we will stay in this dimension by taking on another physical body.

But if we want to return to our home in the spiritual realm and our relationship with the Supreme Being, then we must abhor the relationships of the physical family and the misidentification of ourselves as these temporary physical bodies.

But it is not as if we would hate our family. We can still be responsible people and care for our body's family members. But if we see ourselves and others as we are - spiritual beings and children of God - then we see our real family as the Supreme Being and every one of God's children.

Every person, regardless of what type of body they are occupying, is a child of God and therefore our family member. And the family that our body is related to is not our real family. That is the family of my temporary physical body. This is why Jesus said to someone who wanted to be a disciple:
“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Why didn't Jesus like the physical family?

Family relationships of the body are temporary. Every one of our body's family members will die and will leave those family physical bodies behind. The bodies will decompose in a grave or be burnt in a crematorium. And along with that body, the family relationship of that person will die.

In other words, the premise of the family relationship is temporary - and thus false.

For example, our relationship with our mother is based on our mother's body giving birth to our body. Then at some point, our mother's body will die. When this happens, the body that gave us birth is now cremated or put in the ground to decompose. Either way, soon it will disintegrate. That body will be gone. And thus the bond of our mother's body giving birth to our body will be gone as well.

Being attached to our family members only brings misery. If we are identifying ourselves as our body and our relationship with our family is our focus in life, the death of our mother's body causes extreme pain and heartache. Most of us have experienced the death if not our mother, another family member.

After the death of her body, the spirit-person of our mother still exists. But the spirit-person left that physical body at the time of death. We may still have some connection with the spirit-person that resided within the body of our body's mother, but that connection lies outside the realm of the family.

Thus Jesus is asking his disciples that they reject those temporary family relationships of the body and accept our real family members - everyone.

If we identify ourselves as we are - as spiritual beings - then we do not need to experience the misery of the death of a family member of our body. We don't need to get caught up in all the anxieties related to family relationships. We don't need to get wound up in the mundane gossipy nature of family relations. If we become free of our identity as this physical body we can embrace our real family - the Supreme Being and all of His children.

Certainly, this doesn't mean that we "hate" those related to our physical body. And we can certainly honor our body's mother and father. It simply means that we see them as they are - spiritual beings - and thus we can truly love them - as God loves us.