Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39
Today’s reading is one of the hardest of the so-called “hard sayings” of Jesus and causes not only confusion, but even distress amongst those who want to follow Jesus: that following Jesus would turn families against one another. Seriously?! Surely Jesus, who preached peace, humility, compassion and above all, love, could not have said “do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword” and that He would deliberately bring division between families. Why would Jesus say or even do such a thing? After all, doesn’t this go against everything about the family in Scripture, especially how Jews themselves viewed the importance of family unity?
Yes, it does on the face of it; but Jesus is being characteristically more profound and speaking with absolute clarity about what it really means to follow Him, and by that I mean being a disciple not just going to church. Jesus’ call is not to His teachings or to follow a set of rules or a way of life that He sets down but, simply, to follow Him. This means that following him supersedes everything, including the expectations of family ties, loyalty to friends, contemporary morality, and postmodern political correctness. We are not called to be right or be good, we are called to be “Christ-like” and Jesus knows it is crucially important we do not misunderstand this.
All too often, emerging Christians look at the teaching of Jesus and the demands upon His followers and they immediately think it is all too much. But Jesus does not ask us to do this without Him. He states, “If you believe in me, My Father and I will come and dwell in you.” It is the Risen Jesus living in us and the Holy Spirit working in us that enable us to follow Jesus and carry out what He asks.
But the very act of letting Jesus dwell in us and direct our lives will inevitably bring us into conflict with the rules that contemporary society proclaims or the expectations and demands of our families who, naturally, act and think in simple human terms. If, for instance, if it is accepted by friends or family that we buy knock-off goods, counterfeit watches or pirated DVD’s or avoid paying correct tax then we will find ourselves in a conflict because the presence of Jesus in us will not allow dishonesty.
There are other much more serious issues over which discipleship may cause conflict. This is the “sword” Jesus spoke of. He knows our choice to follow Him will bring us into clashes with colleagues and friends not because we are “spiritually superior” but because we want to walk in humble obedience to our God. That’s the way it is and Jesus is up front about it!
Choose to follow Jesus by:
- Thanking God for understanding your weakness and need of His help; and,
- Asking Him to teach you what it means to follow Him in your daily encounter of a challenging life.