I have experienced some gospel hatred as of late.
By this, I do not mean the persecution or suffering of faithful witnesses and martyrs. If giving your life for the gospel is referred to as drinking of the cup by our Lord (Matthew 20:22-23), then in my experience I have, at most, only smelt the aroma of that cup from afar. I know of believers in other lands who have sacrificed their welfare and lives for Christ. As for me personally, the record of more than two decades of ministry shows that only a few minor incidences of threats, yelling, and mocking have come my way from embittered souls. The martyrs saw giving their life as a Christ-granted honor, yet I have not yet been “considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” in this manner (Acts 5:41).
No, the gospel hatred to which I refer comes from another direction.
It is the type Jesus speaks of in reminding us of the cost of discipleship on family relationships. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” In understanding what “hate” means in this verse, it is good to lay it beside a parallel statement by our Lord in Matthew 10:37. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” As William Hendricksen explains, “Clearly, then, the meaning of hate in the Lucan passage is to love less.” In other words, our love for Christ and our commitment to obey Him (John 14:21) will lead us to make decisions where, in comparison, it could look as if we hate the very people we love most of all.
So how have I felt “less loved” lately?
My wife sometimes won’t talk to me or acknowledge I’ve come home (she’s reading her Bible or praying with a friend). My college daughter did not return my calls last Friday telling her I was going to be in town, and she did not come see me when I was (she was too busy arranging to take several seekers to this debate and then attending it). Another daughter may choose not to live near me (she’s getting married to a godly young man). My teenage son corrected me recently (we had a conflict where I was wrong and had to ask him for forgiveness). Perhaps most difficult of all, my youngest recently said that, gulp, Daddy “doesn’t have time to do anything just with me” (caused primarily by a string of ministry commitments). The list could go on.
I would be the first to agree that in some ways these things are also minor in nature. Yet these small decisions are the stuff that life is made of. I have seen family members part ways over such offenses. As for me, however, rather than really feeling less loved or hated, I rejoice in the love the Father has shown to my family and me that runs so deep that it puts me in my proper place and even corrects me.
Now, excuse me, as I leave the office a bit early today. Time to go surprise my youngest with just some her and me Daddy time. She needs to know those times away are only because of gospel hatred.