I received this question recently: If Jesus was so “for” women, why in Luke 14:25–27, when addressing the crowd (which obviously had women in it), did he basically exclude them or communicate they were not worth considering or addressing when he said “wife” and not “husband”?
Great question. First, let’s look at the text in question: Luke 14:25–27:
“Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said, ‘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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple . . . .”
The person who wrote the question wonders why Jesus, when speaking of the cost of following him, exhorts husbands to hate wives, but does not tell wives to hate husbands. Why are wives recipients of hatred, but not husbands? Why is it assumed Jesus’ disciples will be men, not women?
Now, notice the couplets here:
father and mother
wife and children
brothers and sisters
Jesus could have indeed said “spouse and children.” And doing so would have demonstrated a sense of justice where women are concerned. But if he had done so, male/female equality would have become the focus of his emphasis. And the word on which he wanted to place emphasis was the shocker: hate.
Allow me to explain:
Let’s suppose a person concerned with gays being bullied alters lyrics to emphasize God’s love for all people by singing this: “Gay and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Only one word changes, and the one change is the thing that gets emphasized. Point: God loves everybody, including gays.
Someone hearing that might say, “What about people from Semitic backgrounds? If the person singing is so big on loving all people, why not also include “tan” for Arabs and Jews? Our answer would be that Jesus does indeed love all people, but the point of the one altering the lyric is not to stop and add all colors of the rainbow. If they sang, “Gay and yellow and tan and black and white, they are precious in his sight…” we would not know if the point of the change was to emphasize treatment of gays or address anti-Semitic sentiments.
The one thing changed is the thing that contributes to the precise point being made . The creator sticks to the known words and alters only one thing for emphasis.
In Luke’s pericope Jesus is speaking of the cost of following him. And to to so, he uses the common Hebrew speech habit of coupling nouns—of pairing things. And most likely he is quoting a poetic coupling created by someone else from a strictly male point of view. His listeners were probably used to hearing, “love father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister,” so Jesus shocks them by saying to hate father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister in comparison to how much they love him. Doubtless that got their attention, just like it still grabs ours all these centuries later.
Elsewhere he does something similar with love/hate, only flipping it the other way: “You have heard, ‘Hate your enemies…’ (known expression), but I say” (Jesus’ spin on that expression), “‘Love your enemies.””
In both sermons, he gets the attention of his listeners, and us by extension, with what he is doing with love and hate. Others hate their enemies and love the people close to them. Followers of Jesus are to love our enemies and hate anyone in comparison to how much we love our Lord.