My personal bias is that a statement in the Bible is never ‘wrong’ or a ‘later addition’ or such like. When something rubs us the wrong way and seems ‘off’ (like this verse), we have to look harder for the inner hidden meaning behind the words. What do they symbolize and really mean?
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. (Luke.14.26)
It seems peculiar, perhaps even horrifying, that Jesus, who emphasizes love, would tell his disciples that they must hate their loved ones if they want to follow him. But what does the concept of ‘hatred’ really signify in this context? The story is symbolic and internal, and Jesus is not telling his disciples (or you or I) to literally treat family members with hatred or contempt. He is teaching his disciples that all inner emotional ties that bind the soul to earth will have to be relinquished – not just the love of money and comfort, but even the love of friends and family. These downward-pulling ‘loves’ must be renounced (which in mythological language is often symbolized as a transformation of ‘love’ into ‘hatred’) so that new emotional ties can be created that will bind the soul with the ‘Above’. Ultimately, everything must be relinquished, even the pleasures of the contemplative and spiritual life, even one’s gratitude for the bliss of Divine Light. There cannot be the slightest sweetness left, for this would continue to separate the soul from God as it identifies with its own ecstasy. The soul must have nothing, it must become nothing, so that it can have and be only God.
But this is not to say that these people must literally be renounced. In fact, if we recall Christ’s teaching on conscious love, we see that these emotional ties are not conscious, and it is only by severing these unconscious bonds and awakening to the Christ Consciousness (Nous), that it at last becomes possible to truly love our fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Otherwise, we are just patting ourselves on the back about how ‘warm and loving’ we imagine we are, while really just being sentimental, and demanding that they love us.