When hating yourself is in your best interest

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, NIV).

 

“Literally, self-hatred refers to an extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group to which one belongs.” —wikipedia.org

How to hate one’s own life? Some have learned to hate themselves because they have been ridiculed, derided, or devalued by people around them. They find many reasons to hate themselves and consider themselves worthless, but Jesus isn’t talking about one’s self-worth.

Others hate their own thoughts or acts, which may even be heinous or perverse (compare Romans 7.15), but even these are not what Jesus refers to.

From their bashing of the brotherhood, some seem to hate their spiritual inheritance, preferring instead to laud religious departures from the Word. But that is not what Jesus means above.

Jesus uses the word “hate” for emphasis. We’re told it means “love less,” and indeed so, though we mustn’t diminish the force or impact of the word. It’s a strong word, used of the ostracism, insults, and scorn heaped upon the Christian, Luke 6.22, of the Son’s hatred of lawlessness, Hebrews 1.9, of the saint’s hatred of even the wicked’s “garment polluted by the flesh” Jude 23, of God’s hatred of the Nicolaitans’ deeds, Revelation 2.6.

This self-hatred required by Jesus, then, must be strong, or it will be nothing of the sort. It means the disowning, renunciation, rejection, and denial of all that would compete with our single devotion to Christ. There can be one center of life only, one reason to live and breathe, one principle and way and ground and goal.

So O. Michel will write, “Those who become disciples of Jesus must be committed exclusively to Him; they cannot be bound to anyone or anything else” (TDNT 4: 691).

Whatever kind of self-hatred you may have engaged in to date, learn to set your life aside, to place holiness above survival, eternity before the urge of the moment, the way of the cross before the downward slide.

I can afford to hate my own life. God has enough love for us both.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet. His microblog is randal.us.

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