There’s a scripture in the gospel of Matthew (10:34-42) that used to bother me a lot. In the biblical language I grew up reading, it goes like this:
“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.”
It’s part of the instructions he was giving to the Twelve before he sent them out on their missions.
It always felt like kind of a challenge. Not really an attack, but a challenge.
But as I’ve been reading it recently, I wonder if maybe it was said more in sadness. Was he acknowledging the truth that if people really tried to follow what he asked of them…if they (we) really tried living the life he called them (us) to…division would happen, even in one’s own household?
He calls us to live in counter-cultural ways. In a world where wealth is so often seen as a sign of God’s favor, he challenged the wealthy to use their wealth to help the poor. In a world where poverty / disability is seen as a sign that someone is “bad,” he identified them as being favored of God. In a world–so like ours–that put wealthy leaders on pedestals as being of more worth, he spent much of his time with the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the “less than.”
We’re seeing that being played out in our world today. There is a growing sense that things are wrong in our world–that it is obscene for a very few people to have huge amounts of wealth while others struggle to have the minimum to support life…that policies that have led to the systematic holding down of people of a particular race / ethnicity / gender / sexual orientation need to be challenged in order to bring healing…that in our desire to “get more and more,” we are destroying the very environment we live in.
And those who are challenging the status quo…who are calling for changes…often find that there is division in their own families. Families may no longer get together for celebrations. They may block each other on Facebook. Family members may even refuse to admit a relationship.
I can only think that Jesus weeps. And I think that when he made the statement that Matthew records, he must also have been sorrowful.
I don’t believe he wants there to be division. But until we truly understand the interconnectedness of our environment, our communities, our cultures–all that makes up this world we live in…until we are all willing to acknowledge the problems that have made some “more than” and others “less than” and work to bring healing…we will continue to find division in our families, our communities, and yes, even our churches.