“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;” (Matthew 10:34-37)
What? Jesus openly proclaiming that he has come with a sword to set man against father, daughter against mother, breaking the strong bonds of the family? This is not what Christians expect to hear from the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor. We expect the Gospels to continually reveal a loving, caring, compassionate Jesus who commands his followers to love one another. We expect Jesus to exhort believers to follow the Ten Commandments which include “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) The Jesus who speaks these words of strife is unexpected. So much so, that when this particular lesson comes up in the lectionary cycle, Pastors often side-step this portion because it is so radical to our vision of our peace loving Savior and Lord. Its jarring image of sword, not peace, strife, not harmony, is at complete odds with what we think we know about Jesus.
Lutherans find these words of our Lord particularly disturbing because of our emphasis on salvation through grace by faith alone. We focus our energy on loving God and each other in Christ’s name. Reconciliation between humanity and our Creator, between nations, and each other is a hallmark of Christians of the Lutheran tradition.
But when we look at Jesus’ words in their entirety and within the context of the discourse of Chapter 10, we see that Jesus is teaching his disciples (and us) that following him is costly. Followers will experience hardship, some of it extreme. We must be prepared to give up those things that we hold dearest to our hearts if we are to follow him.
One of those things that we hold close are the bonds of family, after all, God created us to live in community with one another. There’s a saying that goes “No man is an island.” In no uncertain terms, our Lord is letting us know that suffering for our faith may mean letting go of relationships that are not in line with living our lives for the Glory of God. This passage confronts us with a choice: which comes first our relationship with our family or our relationship with Our Father in Heaven, Our Brother in Christ, and the Holy Spirit who sparks our faith. We must ask ourselves "what is our priority"?
The bonds that once held a family group together, especially the shared belief in Jesus Christ, continue to erode. A variety of worldviews are deemed as equal, making Christianity just one of the voices shouting for our attention and all members of a family may not listen to voice of the one True God. In an effort to keep peace in the family, talk about religion is often avoided. Even at Christmas and Easter, discussion focuses on topics such as the weather, sports, family activities, but when a family is divided on matters of faith, religion is taken off the table.
As Christians, we must remain faithful to our calling to share the Good News of Christ, display his love, and participate in reconciliation, but we must also be aware that doing so may not be easy. Rest assured, my friend, that God will prevail and ultimately there will be peace on earth. The Prince of Peace will have the final word.
Our Father in Heaven, pour out your Holy Spirit so that we may walk the way of the Cross, ever-proclaiming your steadfast love and mercy, even when the price seems unexpectedly high. Let us rest confidently in the knowledge that no matter what this world offers, nothing compares to what we have in you through Christ Jesus. Amen
In His Name,