A great question that deserves a longer answer than I can give here. However I am constrained so I’ll keep it short.

Jesus is not teaching a new commandment of hating people. He is teaching about the cost of following Him.
The clue is in Luke 14:33 when Jesus says:

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

It’s about what we must be prepared to do to follow Jesus. It’s about giving up everything, even our very lives for Him. He doesn’t say, “by doing this you will get into heaven”. Jesus clearly teaches that through faith in Him we have eternal life (John 3:16). Through His death on the cross, we have the forgiveness of sins (Romans 6:23).

However, as His followers, are we willing to place Him in first position and place the most important people in our lives in second place?

Let’s paint the scene. In Luke 14:25, large crowds were travelling with Jesus because they had seen him healing people, feeding people and teaching people at no cost. Why not follow Jesus? You can get something for nothing. However, in this passage we see Jesus turn around to them that following him is not without cost - you have to place him before other important people in your lives. You even have to place him before yourselves.

To get his point across he uses very emotive and challenging language - you must hate everyone else. In so doing he is not saying that you do it literally but you must be prepared to put everything else second. So if your parent forbids you from following him then you must disobey them and so on.

Thankfully many of us have never been put in a situation where we have had to choose between Christ and our loved ones. But imagine if you had been captured by religious terrorists and they demand that you deny Christ or watch one of your friends die what would you choose? Jesus is saying you must choose him.

But it can be more subtle than this. In the stress of working and making ends meet we can be tempted to cut down of church activities, reading the bible or praying because we don’t have time. It may be the things you are working hard for are good things that will allow (say) your kids to have a better education. Jesus is saying don’t pursue these things at my expense - nothing, not even your wife and kids, is more important than following me and obeying me.

Its not easy but Jesus promises that he will provide for all our needs. See Matt 6:25-34 and also Mark 10:17-31. Both these passages talk of God’s rich provision for those who seek to follow Jesus above and beyond everything else.

In His Grip