In third grade I was just like Michael Phelps. And by that, I mean I swam competitively. It was a day camp where we learned the four basic swim strokes. At the end of camp, races were held in each age group, and ribbons were given out.
I came in second in the backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. The same girl took first in all the above heats. But… I had a chance to shine.
Butterfly was her weakest stroke.
We took our positions, and the gun went off. I dove in like a bullet, and cut through the water in my ugly brown Speedo like a rabid porpoise. Every time my hands scooped the water I knew I was grasping victory.
Finally I touched the wall, looked up, and anticipated total domination. And after all my hard work, I was rewarded.
With second place.
I hate second place. HATE it. It’s like you’re good enough to play with the big dogs but can’t quite claim to be one of them. But its okay for me to hate, because Jesus said it was okay… right?
Luke 14:26 says, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and himself as well, he cannot be my disciple.
In the Hebraic sense, Jesus really wasn’t condoning hate. Not towards a family member, or even a place in sports. It is important for us to enter the culture of Jesus’ day to see where He is coming from.
In our society, hate is, well… hate. But in Hebrew it can mean to love less or put in second place. Both of those meanings are much less harsh than our version of the word. For example, Genesis 29:31 says Leah was hated by Jacob. In context she wasn’t really hated or even unloved. She was just loved less than Rachel. You can even look at the verse before where it says Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah to see it’s true.
Jesus isn’t telling us to hate our family in order to follow him. We should simply be conscious to love Him more than other people or things. When we get that reversed, it’s idolatry.
Putting Jesus first makes others second in my life. And I should desire my wants and needs to be second with others so Jesus can be number one in their lives too. Maybe I shouldn’t hate being second so much after all.
I mean… it’s not like I got third.
To learn more, read David N. Bivin’s article “First Century Discipleship” at www. Jerusalelmperspective.com