“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters . . . he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26). What would readers say to someone who insisted that, if those were the conditions, he could not possibly be Jesus’s disciple?
In Semitic languages, the verbs usually translated “love” and “hate” have less to do with personal affect than they do loyalty and rebellion. We must bear in mind that these difficult words of Jesus are addressed not primarily to modern-day readers but to would-be followers in a particular context.
Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and is reconfiguring God’s people away from the Temple regime and around his person. His call to renounce family is a call to break with the prevailing nationalist ideology, which advocated a violent showdown between Israel and her enemies. It is language apt for a time of imminent political crisis rather than settled life in Jewish or Christian communities.
Even so, these words of Christ challenge his followers today to break radically from unchristian ideologies (racism, misogyny, national chauvinism), even if this means community or, indeed, family rupture.
(The Revd) Chris MacBruithin
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
The Hebrew idiom means love less than rather than hate (cf. Matthew 10.37). God’s rule must have absolute priority (Matthew 6.33). The first commandment is to love God not with a good proportion, but with all we have and are. We must remember that Christ gave his all for us on the cross. Love so amazing, so divine, requires my life, my soul, my all.
(Canon) John Goodchild, Liverpool
Our relatively new vicar has changed the words of all the weekday services so that they are now those of the Roman mass. . . We have always been Anglo-Catholic, but never Roman. What can we do, please? [Answers, 1 December]
Changes are often made by new incumbents which carry no legal significance but can upset people sometimes by the way in which they are introduced, and sometimes by their resonances in the minds of those who fear change. If a priest introduces a change, whether at a PCC meeting or from the pulpit, there may be an implied claim to authority, which may also suggest that previous ways of doing things, much valued, were somehow wrong. Courteous people often find it hard to resist, whatever their personal views.
My view is that it is wrong to arrive at a parish with an agenda already prepared. Some parishes have experienced a series of new incumbents, each with his or her recipe for growth, each different from the previous one. The reverent way in which any service is conducted, the faithfulness in exercising the pastoral ministry, and the engagement in the complex task of teaching the faith may count more than singing the Sursum Corda, using the Roman Canon, or grinning at everyone while wearing a polo shirt.
The ministry of honest reconciliation when conflicts arise, and truthful humility in dealing with them, may matter just as much.
(Canon) R. H. W. Arguile
Would it be legal, from an Anglican point of view, for a Roman Catholic priest to preside at evensong in an Anglican church? J. F.
Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.