“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” —Luke 14:26
For the first few months, I kept silent about my newfound faith. I didn’t dare tell my parents, for fear of what could happen. The only person I told was my twin sister, who I could trust to keep my secret. She looked at me in shock and wagged a warning finger at me, “You’re going to be in trouble when Mum and Dad find out!”
I also didn’t dare go to church, but was sustained spiritually through constant prayer, reading the Bible, and regular meetings with Christian friends who taught me about God after school. Every morning, I spent time praying to God and reading the Bible, but hid it after I finished so that I would not be found out. My secret, however, didn’t last long.
One day, I forgot to put my Bible away and left it on the table. My father spotted it and recognized what it was. Being a traditional Chinese father, however, he did not confront me directly, but asked my mum to question me about it. Soon after, she sat me down and went straight to the point: “Why is there a Bible on your table?”
There was little else I could do but admit that I had become a Christian. My mum didn’t know what to say, and could only shake her head in dismay. For the next few days, nothing happened. Both she and my dad kept quiet about the matter, but I felt the tension in the air. I knew there would be more to come.
Days later, my father personally handed me a handwritten letter and left for work without saying a word. In it, he wrote of his disappointment and sadness at me becoming a Christian. He spoke of his failure as a father to keep the family together and of the possible consequences of my actions. “How can we have two different gods in the same household?” he pointed out. Having pledged our loyalty to one set of deities, my family believed that we would have peace, harmony, and security—everything that my parents desired for us. But now, by turning my back on my family’s beliefs and following Jesus, I would anger the deities and put my family’s well-being at risk.
That same afternoon, my mother sat me down and followed up on the letter. This time she was visibly agitated. “Your father hasn’t been sleeping well,” she told me, her voice rising. “He’s very disturbed. He feels like a failure. Look at what you’ve done! You’ve not been a filial daughter—after all we’ve done for you, is this how you repay us?”
My mum also pointed out what my decision would mean for the family. “What if your siblings were to do the same thing? Who will perform the funeral rites for us? Who will offer us incense? What will your father’s family say? You have brought shame upon us!”
She also spoke about some of the concerns she and Dad had for me personally. Was I being led astray? Who was this person who was telling me all these things, turning me away from the family tradition? What kind of beliefs were these?
I didn’t try to defend myself or argue with her, but just listened in silence. Perhaps Mum was hoping to change my mind there and then, but since I didn’t respond, she gave up after a while. I went back to my room to think about what she said—and to seek God’s help.
“Heavenly Father,” I prayed with a heavy heart. “I’m so sad because of how this has affected my family, but please help me to stay strong in the faith. I know you are real, but I need strength to endure.”
I faced a dilemma. I felt as if I was being asked to choose between God and my parents, yet both were important to me. My parents wanted me to give up this “foreign” God, yet I knew I couldn’t. At the same time, I didn’t want my parents to think I was deserting them.
Jesus spoke about this challenge in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus wasn’t asking his disciples to hate their families in the literal sense. He was challenging them to weigh the cost of discipleship and ask themselves if they were ready to make him the Lord of their lives. Immediately after saying these words, he went on to tell several parables about people who were not prepared to finish what they started. There was the man who did not calculate if he had enough money before starting to build, and the king who did not consider whether he had enough troops before going to war. What Jesus was really asking was this: How far are you willing to go to follow me? Are you ready to put me before your family? Are you prepared to give up everything you hold dear, including your life?
I now faced this challenge. How far was I willing to go to follow Jesus? Was I willing to face my parents’ displeasure for making him Lord of my life? And how was I supposed to reconcile and “balance” my love for both Jesus and my parents?