In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus turns to his crowd of followers and speaks to them about what it means to be his disciple. He tells them that if they want to follow him they have to be willing to hate their family members and their own lives. He says they must be willing to carry their own crosses in order to follow him. Then he illustrates the importance of considering the cost of this proposal by one who is thinking about entering into the construction of a building or someone who is thinkingof going to war. His point is that no one should follow him who is not willing to consider the cost of giving up everything for this purpose.
Luke connects some other words of Jesus to this proposal that have to do with the powerful effect of salt. Or it may have been in the same context that Jesus illustrates his point about discipleship by this reference to the possibility that salt can actually become unsavoury. When that happens, it is no longer useful and should be tossed out.
As I meditated on Jesus’ words today, I tried to understand what Jesus was saying. I think I understand what Jesus was saying about salt losing its effect. Perhaps by exposure to the elements or by deliberate attempts to neutralize its power, salt can become useless. Jesus intended that his followers would live in such a way so as to stimulate the value of life. He wanted to ensure that their lives would act as change agents for good, making life tasteful, interesting, and productive. He wanted Christians to have a bite to their lives as far as the corrupting influences of life were concerned. He wanted them to be agents of life rather than death.
Salt is a powerful metaphor of what God expects from Christians. It appeals to the highest motive of virtue imaginable, for who doesn’t want to be a change agent for good in an otherwise corrupting and corroding world! Those who are believers in, and followers of Jesus know what this means in terms of being willing to stand in opposition to the status quo. They know what it means in terms of living as examples of virtue and goodness even when others around them try to persuade them to cave in to popular opinion. They know what it means in terms of speaking up for what is right and just. It is a hard way to live, but anyone who has had a taste of that kind of living knows there is nothing like it. Because there is no joy like the joy of knowing you are having a savoury effect upon others that leads them to eternal life.
But those who live this way also know that this doesn’t happen without living as a true disciple of Jesus in the way that he describes it here. Does Jesus mean that we should actually “hate” our family members and our own lives too? Isn’t this a little strong? Isn’t this inconsistent with other Scriptures that speak of honouring our parents and caring for the members of our own families?
No; not when you consider the real issue here. Ultimately, the issue has to do with who is Lord? The tendency for all of us is to maintain our own control of our lives pursuing our own selfish interests in which family matters rate very high. The point is that living as a disciple of Jesus means that he alone must have our supreme allegiance. And we should live out our family relationships with this idea and relationship securely in mind. No doubt there will be times when the call of family will conflict with the call of Christ in our lives.
Yet it is by this allegiance to Christ that we can provide the best possible care and love toward our families. It is by this allegiance, for example, that we can point the way to a life of true value and purpose. So in a paradoxical sort of way, it is true allegiance to Christ that enables a person to be the best son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother that is needed and that God honours.