When Christ observed that great crowds were following Him (some obviously for mundane reasons — cf. John 6:26), He challenged them thusly:

“If any man cometh unto me and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

To some this passage is quite difficult, for it appears to contradict other biblical injunctions which require love for family, both physical and spiritual (cf. Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 2:11).

In ancient times, however, the term “hate” was frequently employed idiomatically to denote simply the preference of one thing over another. For example, in Genesis 29:31 it is said that Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, and yet, the context makes it very clear that he merely loved his other wife Rachel “more than” Leah (v. 30).

Accordingly, when Jesus demands that we must hate our family members, He is not suggesting that we must literally have ill feelings for them. Rather, the Lord is stressing that we must love Him more than all others, even those dearest to us. This is borne out by a comparison of Luke 14:26 with a parallel in Matthew 10:37, where Christ declares: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me ...”

Underline, therefore, the word “hateth” in Luke 14:26 and in your margin write: Literally, love less; see Genesis 29:29,30; Matthew 10:37.