I want to note that this is not a series to force a harmony between Christ and Paul, to answer some common charges as to their apparent divergences. For the introduction to this series, see here.
7) Paul–”Honor thy father and mother: which is the first commandment” (Eph. 6:2) versus Jesus–”If any man came to me and hate not his 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).
First, the Scriptural passages:
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. (Eph 6:1-9 NLT)
Paul is repeating and paraphrasing the commandment given in Exodus:
Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodux 20.12)
He is describing Christian duty to one another, in the eyes of God. The problem for our friends is in understanding of what appears to be a contradiction with what Christ said in Luke and what Paul said in Ephesians.
For the Scripture in Luke, I have used the NET (however, if you click the hyperlink, you will see the NLT)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luk 14:26)
As we know, we have four literary witness considered inspired as to the life and work of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, at this point, we see Matthew’s understanding of what Christ was saying,
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
Further, we see Paul commending just what Christ said, to count not even our own life as something to be grasped,
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice– the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Rom 12:1 NLT)
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. (Phi 3:7-9 NLT)
As our dear friends on the original post have noted, the proper Christian response is that we are to love everyone else less by comparison to God, yet they fail to note that in a language and culture far removed from us, we must not simply believe that they spoke our language. Even today do many cultures in the Middle East use hyperbolic language in conversations – resulting in mixed messages in foreign policy. (This was the first thing we were taught in our Middle East politics class at the University. For an article on this, try here).
Now, before we hear the old adage ‘how can we know everything in the bible is not hyperbolic language’ we have to understand the job of the theologian and the biblical translator. (Note the NLT’s translation of Luke 14.26) When you translate works from one culture to another, from one language to another, you have to be willing to allow for certain things. I note that the Eskimo language as no word for lamb, yet lambs do exist. Simply because the normal Christian response is that the language of Christ is hyperbolic (although Matthew remembers it in a matter-of-fact language) does not mean that it is any less true. Simply because you do not understand the original language, does not mean that it is incapable of being understood.