Interesting thoughts at Preaching Peace by Michael Hardin and Jeff Krantz:
"Honestly, I don’t’ think we can preach this passage authentically until we’ve come to grips with our own fear as pastors of an ekklesia in which the members have such a sense of their own spiritual authority that they have no need of a “stipendiary” ministry. Not that there won’t be shepherds, just not professional ones. This is the first thing that most of us have to die to before we can preach this text with authority."I'm cheering them (and Jesus!) on quite comfortably, here, until I stop and generalize this to my own situation. What are the things that I am being called to "hate"/"prefer other than". I'm wondering if this isn't the other side of the dialectic to the "faithfulness" to family, tradition, etc. I hear Christ calling me to explore rather completely the other side of the story of my former allegiances - even those I find most dear. It's not that those allegiances are "bad" or even "unhelpful". (Though, I'm guessing that it could easily be argued that Luke and Luke's Jesus thought that they were!) It's that there is always another side of the dialectic - another "opposite" - that I'm forgetting, especially as I seek to be committed completely, even to Christ. What does it mean to continue to explore that dialectic - that synthesis of opposites - not to find some "mid point", but to continue to explore the opposites in their entirety as they evolve? To be COMPLETELY faithful/loyal/committed, and COMPLETELY free from allegiance to all but God-self - the indefinable? Interesting to contemplate, and difficult not to just leave it with the contemplation and go "home"!
At Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary, Paul Neuchterlein writes:
"The Greek word for "possessions" in vs. 33 is an interesting one. It is a participial noun ta hyparchonta, from the verb hyparcho, which is a compound word from the words hypo, "under," archo, "to begin" (the noun arche can also indicate power). It's not even listed in Kittel's TDNT, but the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker lexicon has its most common meaning as: exist (really), be present, be at one's disposal. Things which are at one's disposal are one's possessions or means. BAGD also indicates that in Homeric Greek this word is often used as a substitute for einai (inf.), the "to be" verb. I take it that this "really exist" is an intensive form of "to be.""
"The "therefore" in vs. 33 might provide the key to interpretation: "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." Our fallenness might be posed in terms of the problems we have with possessions. Think of the things that are most dear to us: mother and father, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself. Couldn't our problem be defined as wanting to possess these people? We don't want to simply live our lives as gift, we want to possess our lives as something we earn. We cling to our lives. These sayings, then, would carry a similar message as, "Those who cling to their lives will lose them, and those who give up their lives for my sake will gain them." Life is not something to grasp after. It is something to give away and then receive back as a free gift. This goes for our relationships, too. Those we love are not something to cling to, they are something we have to be willing to give away, in order that we might be able to receive them as gift."
"Jesus further says that we should even renounce members of our family. One way to think of this strange command is to see it an invitation to freedom – as an invitation or radical challenge not to see any person as a possession – as a person that we “own.” Unless parents “let go” of their children, there can be no healthy adult relationship.Thoughts from John S. Kavanaugh at Saint Louis University's Center for Liturgy:
Unless we treat each other as adults, filled with the dignity and freedom that comes from God, we cannot really be Christian brothers and sisters."
"Clearly [Jesus] is speaking here of renouncing our loved ones as possessions or as barriers to the redeeming cross. We can never possess another. (This is why Paul, in his Letter to Philemon, undercuts slavery by insisting that Onesimus is not a slave, but a loved brother.) What is more, we can never be another's god. Nor can another human serve as ours. No one can save us but Christ.Also at Saint Louis University, John J. Pilch on the historical cultural context of the gospel reading:
I cannot speak from direct experience of having spouse or children, but I suspect that there is a great and paradoxical truth in what Jesus says. If we treat our children as if they are either our possessions or our gods, it will not only be impossible to follow Christ; it will be impossible to love them. We will strangle them by clinging to them as if they were our property or crush them with the impossible burden of saving us and making us happy."
"A follower of Jesus who ceased "networking" by means of meals would jeopardize a family's very existence. The disciple must then choose between allegiance to the family and allegiance to Jesus. Choosing Jesus is thus equivalent to letting one's family go, "hating" the family. Hate is more suitably translated "prefer," that is, one who "hates" family actually prefers another group to the family.From William Loader's First Thoughts:
Recall the tight-knit nature of the Middle-Eastern family. The ideal marriage partner is a first cousin. Sons, married and single, remain with the father. Everyone "controls" one another. Life in these circumstances can be very stifling, very suffocating. Following Jesus and joining a new, fictive family would be very liberating and exhilarating."
"Domestication confines religion to the domus, the home and family. In Jesus’ teaching we regularly meet challenges directed against so-called family values. To read Jesus as enjoining literal hatred of one’s family is to miss the point and mishear the rhetoric. But such shocking rhetoric reflects a view that families can constrict growth, become oppressive demons, and bring death rather than life. According to Mark, Jesus’ own (family) though he was mad and sought in their terms to rescue him (3:20-21, 31-35).For more background on the "family" thang, check out James A. Sanders, "The Family in the Bible," Biblical Theology Bulletin 2002.
People today can recite a range of experiences about family demonics. Sometimes it is blatant abuse, whether by parent of child or among siblings or in marriage. Sometimes the destructiveness is more ‘innocent’: the peace and ‘goodness’ of family has suppressed self exploration and generation of self worth to the point where long after their passing the parents, internalised, continue to dictate terms and only with careful therapy can the soul find release. Sometimes it is much bigger than personal freedom and manifests itself in closed minds, eyes trained not to see, ears not to hear, lives self-preoccupied with often a kind of private goodness but no heart for compassion and justice in the world. Sometimes family has simply been one player in a social conspiracy which has written a gendered script which waits to be torn up. Dethroning such gods brings trauma for all concerned; it means giving up what has been ‘one’s own life’ in order to find oneself (and find others)."
Again, I think that it is very difficult not to read these texts as rhetorically difficult for others, but as "comfortable" (even within odd reversals!) for ourselves. I'm not certain that our task in teaching, preaching, exegeting, or even doing academic work is to make them "difficult" for either ourselves or others. (Though I'm not sure that's not our task, at least occasionally.) It can be an interesting exercise to explore how various interpreters reflect the values of their own time/place/communities in their interpretations, and to attempt to do so without "judging" too quickly which ones are "right" and which ones are "wrong". It can be interesting to attempt to do so without coming too quickly to what their issue obviously "is". How difficult is it to hold these interpretations in tension without needing to synthesize them into some static "truth" which is basically meaningless in any specific situation? (Which I hear as at least some of what this passage is warning against.) How do we keep our faithfulness "alive"?