(un)common ground

a commonplace book

C.S. Lewis on Luke 14:26

That Love Himself should be commanding what we ordinarily mean by hatred…is almost a contradiction in terms. I think Our Lord, in the sense here intended, ‘hated’ Peter when he said, ‘Get thee behind me.’ To hate is to reject, to set one’s face against, to make no concession to, the Beloved when the Beloved utters, however sweetly and however pitiably, the suggestion of the Devil. A man, said Jesus, who tries to serve two masters, will ‘hate’ the one and ‘love’ the other. It is not, surely, mere feelings of aversion and liking that are here in question. He will adhere to, consent to, work for, the one and not for the other. Consider again, ‘I loved Jacob and I hated Esau’ (Malachi 1:2-3). How is the thing called God’s ‘hatred’ of Esau displayed in the actual story? Not at all as we might expect. There is of course no ground for assuming that Esau made a bad end and was a lost soul; the Old Testament, here as elsewhere, has nothing to say about such matters. And, from all we are told, Esau’s earthly life was, in every ordinary sense, a good deal more blessed than Jacob’s. It is Jacob who has all the disappointments, humiliations, terrors, and bereavements. But he has something which Esau has not. … The ‘loving’ of Jacob seems to mean the acceptance of Jacob for a high (and painful) vocation; the ‘hating’ of Esau, his rejection. He is ‘turned down,’ fails to ‘make the grade,’ is found useless for the purpose. So, in the last resort, we must turn down or disqualify our nearest and dearest when they come between us and our obedience to God. Heaven knows, it will seem to them sufficiently like hatred.

C.S. Lewis, “Charity,” The Four Loves (1960)

This commenting on Luke 14:26:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

I find the passage useful, since if the usual linguistic interpretation of the word “hate” in Luke may fail, Lewis provides what I think a pretty sound exegetical argument for a contextualization of the word as it reflects God’s character and the implications for its use.

The church has traditionally referred to Strong’s concordance entry on the Greek word (miseo): “from a primary μῖσος mîsos (hatred); to detest (especially to persecute); by extension, to love less:—hate(-ful).”

One could also refer to Vine, who frames it thus:

(c [i.e., this being the third sense described of miseo]) of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another, Mat 6:24; and Luk 16:13, as to the impossibility of serving two masters;Luk 14:26, as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ; Jhn 12:25, of disregard for one’s life relatively to the claims of Christ; Eph 5:29, negatively, of one’s flesh, i.e. of one’s own, and therefore a man’s wife as one with him.

Whereas one could probably criticize Strong and Vine, nevertheless Lewis’ exegetical, less deductive argument I think has a potentially stronger validity under pressure. (I say this because church linguistic arguments can sometimes stray into fallacies of reasoning, whereas hermeneutic arguments may be more strongly reasoned.)


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This entry was posted on October 24, 2015 by and tagged , , , , .
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