“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
What is it that you fear most today? In this time of pandemic, social isolation, unemployment, social upheaval and unrest – we may have many answers:
We fear a lack of supplies and money, we fear illness, we fear violence and an apparent crumbling of our society, we fear death. This is normal and these are things that are truly frightening.
During these times we, as believers, also seek the opposite of our fears – we seek peace and safety and assurance of well-being.
So what are we to make of today’s text? Jesus says “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” How are we supposed to understand that?
First, it’s important to recognize that this entire text (Matthew 10) is about discipleship. Jesus is preparing his own 12 disciples to go out and share the good news. He gives them specific instructions about how to act and what to bring with them. He challenges them by saying – “Do you think that they will treat you differently than they’ve treated me? Don’t be surprised when you’re persecuted, hated, and misunderstood.” In other words, if you take your faith seriously, and preach this good news joyfully, you will meet resistance. True discipleship will be a dying to self…
Jesus is not speaking prescriptively, but descriptively. Jesus is not happy when there is division… he does not wish for broken relationships between father and son, mother and daughter. He is describing what happens when a person begins to take their faith seriously. THEY WILL MEET RESISTANCE. If you are not feeling resistance from some quarter today, maybe you need to take another look at your faith. Has it become a soft and easy substitute for real discipleship?
When we look at Jesus in scripture, we see that he challenged people and forced changes from everyone he met. He caused a crisis in people’s lives in order that they would change for the better.
- He never seems to accept the status quo
- He never seems to offer a quiet ease
- He never directs toward the path of least resistance
- He never encourages a “back to normal”
- So here’s the question: “Does our faith challenge people around us in the same way?”
And so we return to the original question.
What do you most fear today?
If we are reading this text accurately, we may conclude that Jesus is challenging us NOT to fear persecution, rejection, hatred, discomfort. Those should be expected of a true disciple.
What we ARE to fear is :
A faith that’s pleasant and nice – but not transforming
A church that’s beautiful and peaceful – but not powerful
A gospel that’s good for some – but not for all
Jesus DOES offer real peace – make no mistake about that. Is it possible, however, that the peace he offers will NOT be a bland, back-to-normal, comfortable, easy-going, don’t-rock-the-boat kind of peace…. but one that will require hard work, change, tears, and some pain? As I consider our nation and our present struggle with systemic racism, white privilege, and blindness toward the plight of those that are marginalized due to the lack of economic power or the color of their skin…. Jesus’ words in today’s text sound uncomfortable – but ultimately challenging.
Come Holy Spirit, in this time of unrest in our nation. May we seek the Shalom that is possibly risky and dangerous. May we allow you to cut us with the sword / surgeon’s scalpel – in order that we may be truly healed.
(Thoughts for this devotional were inspired by the lectionary blogpost by Debie Thomas on the “Journey With Jesus” website. I encourage all of you to read it HERE.)