Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Love your enemy and hate your family

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book on the Salvation of the Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with Clement or his book, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.
" 'And Jesus answering said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and children, and wealth, for My sake and the Gospel’s, shall receive an hundredfold.' But let neither this trouble you, nor the still harder saying delivered in another place in the words, 'Whoso hateth not father, and mother, and children, and his own life besides, cannot be My disciple.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 22)
Clement highlights what, to the casual reader, map appear to be a contradiction in Jesus' words. First, we are told to, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28) and then we are told to, "hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters." (Luke 14:26) How can this be? How can this make any since? Even logic would tell us that, if we are to live our enemies, we then we should love those dearest to us even more. Does God really want us to love our enemies and hate our families? How can the God of love exhort us to both love and hate? Especially to love those who don't deserve it and to hate those who don't deserve it? However, It is possible to love some and hate others if we properly understand what Jesus meant.
"For from the same feeling and disposition, and on the ground of the same rule, one loving his enemy may hate his father, inasmuch as he neither takes vengeance on an enemy, nor reverences a father more than Christ. For by the one word he extirpates hatred and injury, and by the other shamefacedness towards one’s relations, if it is detrimental to salvation. If then one’s father, or son, or brother, be godless, and become a hindrance to faith and an impediment to the higher life, let him not be friends or agree with him, but on account of the spiritual enmity, let him dissolve the fleshly relationship." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 22)
In loving our enemy, Jesus is exhorting us to rid our souls of any enmity, evil desires, and lust for revenge towards our enemy. In hating our family, Jesus is exhorting us to reject any attachments, reverence, and devotion towards them that would exalt itself about our attachment, reverence, and devotion towards God. Love and hare are found in the disposition of the soul; in its preference for one over the other. Clement makes this clear by way of a hypothetical trial.
"Suppose the matter to be a law-suit. Let your father be imagined to present himself to you and say, 'I begot and reared thee. Follow me, and join with me in wickedness, and obey not the law of Christ;' and whatever a man who is a blasphemer and dead by nature would say. But on the other side hear the Saviour: 'I regenerated thee, who wert ill born by the world to death. I emancipated, healed, ransomed thee. I will show thee the face of the good Father God. Call no man thy father on earth. Let the dead bury the dead; but follow thou Me. For I will bring thee to a rest of ineffable and unutterable blessings, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of men; into which angels desire to look, and see what good things God hath prepared for the saints and the children who love Him.' I am He who feeds thee, giving Myself as bread, of which he who has tasted experiences death no more, and supplying day by day the drink of immortality. I am teacher of supercelestial lessons. For thee I contended with Death, and paid thy death, which thou owedst for thy former sins and thy unbelief towards God.” (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 23)
Such a comparison makes it obvious what Jesus meant by hating our father, mother, wife, children, etc. We should hate them in that we do not love them more than we love Christ and His Father. We are called to love, but we are called to love God first; to love Him above all else.

David Robison

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