June 22, 2008
Proper 7 (A)
If you know a surprise is coming it’s not very surprising. When you are tipped off about a surprise birthday party it’s not longer a surprise!
Jesus did not want his disciples to be surprised by the inevitable conflict following him would bring. What should his disciples do when they encounter Christ-caused conflict? What should we do?
“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.”
Jesus quoted the prophet Micah and his disciples would have instantly recognized that. While Jesus ministry was to bring about redemption, one of the results would also be conflict.
Literally, the sentence reads that Jesus has come to divide a son against his father, and so on. The imagery of the sword is not one of violence but rather of a cutting division. Jesus meant that faith in him would divide relationships. Following him could sever relationships, even close family relationships. There is a cost to following Jesus and he wanted to be sure his disciples understood that cost.
Early believers were thrown out of their synagogues. Many had to choose between their families and Jesus when they sought to follow him. Following Jesus meant for many the severing of relationships and the arrival of conflict in their lives. Many contemporary believers face the same decision.
The point Jesus made to his disciples is that they should not be taken by surprise when Christ-caused conflict occurs in their lives. When it happens in our lives we must be ready for it, as well. What can we do when we find ourselves in the middle of Christ-caused conflict?
First, in Christ-caused conflict we must continue our confession of faith in Jesus. In the face of Christ-caused conflict a disciples must not shrink from holding onto their faith. With that commitment comes this promise. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven!”
The temptation in times of conflict is to pull away. No one enjoys division. Rather than shrink back we must continue our confession of faith. What does it mean for us to confess our faith in Jesus?
Obviously we tell others about our faith. We also confess our faith by the way we live. Living our faith backs up our words of faith. In times of Christ-caused conflict we must confess our faith.
Second, we must decide that Jesus is most important thing in our lives. “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 up 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.”
Jesus used hyperbole in his point. Many disciples did have to decide who and what they loved most. That meant deciding between family and their faith in Jesus. The one who is willing to pick up their cross, to subordinate everything in their life to follow Jesus, that person will live forever.
When you know a surprise is coming it isn’t a surprise. Christ-caused conflict is no surprise for us when we continue our confession of faith in Jesus, both with words and our manner of life. It is no surprise for us when we are certain Jesus is the first priority in our lives.