Matthew 10:34-39 (NIV) “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 his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
These words of Jesus sound strange in our ears. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Didn’t Isaiah prophesy that Jesus would be the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)? Didn’t the angels sing about peace on earth on the night that He was born (Luke 2:14)? Yes to both. And in one vital sense, Jesus is the peace bringer, or as the Hebrew puts it, the bringer of Shalom – not only peace, but wholeness as well.
Jesus came to create peace between God and mankind by paying the penalty for our sins and restoring our relationship with God. This restored relationship brings true Shalom, wholeness, into our lives. But in setting up the kingdom of God, Jesus also made it necessary for each of us to choose whom we will serve. And that is the source of the strife that He is pointing to in this passage.
In many households around the world, a person’s desire to follow Jesus is not met with joy, but with fear and animosity among family members. It signals to them a break with tradition, with family mores, even with an inherited religion, which can make the other family members feel threatened.
But in those cases where other family members force a choice, Jesus or them, Jesus gives the decision that must be made: the choice must always be Him, even if it means that a person’s whole family turns against them. Even if persecution is the result, even if it leads to a cross, He must be the choice.
This makes infinite sense if you think about it. If I know what is true, why would I turn my back on what is true and reembrace falsehood just to maintain some kind of peace. And even more, how could I ever hope to draw those family members that I love to the truth I have discovered if I turn away from it? I will end up condemning both myself and them to walking in the dark.
It is not easy to follow Jesus. It never has been. This is especially true when the tide is against us. But Jesus’ promise is just as true now as it was then, and needs to provide our motivation: Whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find real life in Him.
Father, compared to many, my walk with Jesus has been relatively trouble free. I certainly have not had to choose between Jesus and my family, let alone choose between Jesus and my life. But I know that many today are having to make precisely those choices. Strengthen and reassure them, Lord, so that they can choose You, and all that You bring into our lives. And help me to be so steadfast in my devotion to You that if it ever does come to that, my first response will be to choose You. Amen.