Every year we read John 12 during Lent and every year our priest gives us the same schpeel about hate, in this context, meaning "to love less".
Looking at the surrounding verses, Jesus is talking about giving up his own life for the sake of others, and calling on those who follow him to do likewise:
22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ESV
This defines for us what the word 'hate' means in this context - and it does indeed seem to mean something like 'love less' (words often mean different things in different contexts).
But the point is not to dilute the impact and turn the command into something like "you may love yourself but love Jesus a little bit more", rather the warning is that unless we would give up our life for the sake of "bearing fruit" like Jesus, we should not imagine we will receive eternal life - would we hesitate facing this decision, or embrace death? This is a stark wake-up call, not an easy license to treat ourselves well.
Luke 14:26 has perhaps a similar usage of the word "hate".Tweet