The Bible contains many controversial verses in it. This does not mean that they are not the truth. Let’s examine the context of five controversial Bible verses in order to see what is actually being said, either metaphorically, allegorically or literally.
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Does Jesus really mean that we should hate our parents, our siblings, and our children? What is He saying? Jesus was speaking to the crowd about discipleship. He was stressing the importance of putting God first above everyone, including family. Humans have a tendency to idolize their family and so He was saying that anyone that would become Jesus’ disciple must count the cost and it is supremely high (Luke 14:27) and if a believer is to trust in Christ, they should renounce everyone and everything for His sake, even family (Luke 14:27). When Jesus was speaking to the crowd one man told him that his mother and brothers wanted to see Him but Jesus said “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:48-50). The point Jesus was making about hating our own family was that in comparison to Him, we must love Him above all everyone, and if need be, renounce them for His sake. What Jesus is using in Luke 14:26 is hyperbole or an extreme exaggeration to make His point that we must seek Him first and foremost and the kingdom above all things and all people (Matt 6:33). Instead of thinking that we are to hate our family, see this is a very strong contrast as “love less, by comparison.”
Matthew 18:9 “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
Does Jesus really mean that we should literally pluck out our eyes if we have problems with say, pornography? Here again Jesus is using an extreme example to make a point and get people’s attention about the seriousness of sin. If a person has an addiction to pornography, would it not be better to get rid of the Internet if that is the primary source of this sin? They might even have to give away their DVD player and destroy all their porn videos. A believer must rid themselves of any things that cause us to sin…old friends, old places, and those things which could cause us to stumble or cause sexual immorality of the heart to occur. This means that we might have to take drastic measures if necessary. He isn’t saying to pluck out our eyes if necessary for we need them to work, to drive, and to live life. Even if a person did pluck out their eyes, lust is an issue of the heart and Jesus has said that even lusting after someone in our heart is the same as sexual immorality. He sees this as being so serious that a person must try to rid themselves of it by all means necessary.
Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword? Didn’t He say earlier “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (John 14:27)? What does Jesus mean by saying He came with a sword and has set a son against his father and a daughter against her mother and that those in their own household will become their enemies? Jesus mentions the sword because it will divide families. Some will be hostile to those family members who become Christians. Jesus said that sometimes they will hate us and persecute us for believing in Him and even our family will turn against us and not spare us from being hated and persecuted…maybe even disowned or disinherited. You might think that they hate us but it’s really Jesus or God that they hate. When a person is born again our family and friends will be so convicted by our behavior and profession of Christ that they will scorn us and ridicule us for our faith. That is actually a good thing for they did the same to Christ and in fact, went even further; they murdered Him.
John 14:26 ”Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Aren’t we supposed to love ourselves as our neighbor (Mark 12:31)? How can we hate this life? And if we love this life, we’ll lose it? What Jesus is saying, when we read the entire chapter 14 of John, is that if we want to follow Him we will have to live our life for God and not for self. This was in the final week that Jesus said this. He was facing death on the cross. He was going to lose His life for us. If we are to serve Jesus we must follow Him wherever He goes (John 14:26). This doesn’t mean that we follow Him to Calvary for our own lives are insufficient payment to the Father for our own sins. What it does mean is that Jesus “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). When we are told to hate our own lives, Jesus is giving us a sharp contrast to loving our own life and serving our own self and our self-interests rather than giving our lives as a servant of others. Jesus is telling His followers to use our life not for our own interests but to serve others and in a sense, to give our own life in doing so. We “give” our own life by sacrificing our time, talents, and treasure for the benefit of others.
Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
This saying hit me hard and I am sure it hits everyone equally hard. Who hasn’t hated someone at one time or another? Most people do not see hate as murder but hate is the motive behind most murders. No one would murder someone they loved or really liked except in the passion or heat of the moment. Jesus does not say that all who hate their brothers or sisters (anyone) will certainly go to hell but he says that whoever hates “will be liable to judgment” and “liable to the hell of fire.” If you are sued in court, you may be found liable and have to pay for damages. This word means that unless you have someone who is willing to pay your fine or settlement, you will be liable. Jesus is the Advocate and has already paid our fine so we won’t have to be liable to hell fire. By the way, the word used for angry in the Greek is like hatred and not simply angry. The word means much more than just being angry at someone because there is actually a right time and a place for righteous indignation (or anger). For example you might become angry at someone who is hurting a young, defenseless child and that is justified, but hating someone to the extent that you wished they were dead is seen as murder in Jesus’ eyes.
You may have different controversial Bible verses than I have given here. If so, please add them in our comment section. Jesus said that if we even hate someone we are committing murder in our heart and no murderers will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This means that we are liable for the fires of hell, however if we have repented of our sins, confessed them to God, placed ourselves at His mercy and asked for His forgiveness, and finally, put our trust in Christ, He will be our Advocate. We are then exonerated (or pardoned) for our crimes against God…our crimes of sin…because our Advocate has actually paid the fine with His own blood. This is not a hard thing to do. If you trust in Christ today, you are no longer liable for the sins you have committed. Trust in Him today and you will have the best Representative you could possibly have when you face God for your final judgment (Rev 20:11-15). The amazing fact that this Lawyer (which is what Advocate means) died for His client is the most controversial case ever. It is a supremely radical love. More radical than any trial that has ever been held because by His work, you will be declared “Not guilty.” Literally, we can thank God for that.
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“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”