“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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
Here’s how I’ve often heard this verse: “If you don’t live up to my extreme standards, you’re not allowed to be my disciple. You’re not dedicated enough, and I don’t want you.” When Jesus says, “such a person cannot be my disciple,” it sounds like a matter of permission. But it’s not about permission. It’s not about making the cut or being good enough. A better translation of these words is “such a person is not able to be my disciple” or “such a person has no power to be my disciple.” It’s not a matter of permission. It’s a matter of power.
Jesus says we must reject (hate) our own life as a source of spiritual power. This rejection (hate) extends to all that we are as natural beings—heredity (father and mother), productivity (wife and children), and society (brothers and sisters). Neither nature nor nurture will enable us to follow Jesus. The entirety of what we are is devoid of spiritual power. We must hate it (John 12:25).
Power is found at the cross, which ended our life and brought a new life—Christ—to be our source. This is why Jesus says we must carry our cross. We must carry around the death of Jesus within us. If we do, His life will also be revealed within, giving us the power and ability to be His disciple (2 Cor. 4:7-12).