“Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” Matthew 10:34-35
There is a clear impression of Jesus as being very mild mannered, kind, caring, and a person who reconciles people to one another and to God. There is a certain sense in which that is true. He certainly came to reconcile us to God and one another. Yet in another sense the mission of Jesus is one of division. He says that he came to set men at variance with one another. In some way, because of Jesus, even close family members will be at odds with one another.
When I gave my life to Christ things began to change very quickly in my life. It had a huge impact on my family relationships. The heart of the conflict was that by following Jesus I had adopted a new Lord and Master. My view of the world began to change. My values changed. My priorities changed. My ambitions changed. There was a growing gap that developed between me and my dad in particular. His hopes for my life, to be in business and make lots of money where no longer my hopes. When I had been a Christian for less than two years I sensed God calling me to a life of serving Him. My dad told me that when i came home from college and told him that, I cold not have hurt him more if I had kicked him in the groin. Clearly Jesus had put me at variance with my dad.
If we are going to follow Jesus and have Him truly be our Lord then there will be times when people who do not follow Him will not understand us. There will be times when they will angry with us, hurt by us, argue with us. We must realize that when we follow Jesus we become citizens of His Kingdom. We become exiles in our own communities. We just don’t exactly fit anymore. That misfit will divide us from others. But it need not make us people who lash out against those who are different from us. Paul tells us in Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men”. By it’s very nature our following of Jesus puts us at odds. But in spite of that reality, we are to do all that we possibly can to bridge the gap and be reconciled in Christ.
In the case of my dad it took years of my wife and I faithfully living out our relationship with Christ before anything changed. It meant that at times we put ourselves at odds with him. There were times when he just did not understand why we lived as we did. In fact he was certain that we were being irresponsible by not trying to get as rich as possible. But over time he began to see something. He saw that our children were happy even though they did not have all the stuff he thought they should. He saw that our family was content even though our cars were old and out house was the post child of the handyman special. He saw that Barbara and I deeply loved one another in a way that he felt he was missing in his relationships.
Eventually he contracted acute leukemia and within 9 months he died, but not before he came to the realization that he needed the Jesus that I knew. As my father was near death he reached out his hand to me in a sign that he wanted to pray. I took his hand fully expecting to pray in some way for my dad to finally give his life to Christ. Before I ever had a chance to say anything, my dad said these words, “Jesus I am trusting in You. I put my life in your hands and I want to go to be with you”. In that moment the sword between me and my dad was removed. He was reconciled to me but more importantly he was reconciled to Jesus. It was the last time we spoke. A few moments later he said he wanted to sleep. He went to be with the Lord a few hours later.
Yes, by the very nature of who Jesus is, people will be at odds with one another. But also by the very nature of His death on the Cross, his Resurrection, and Ascension, Jesus reconciles people to one another and to Himself. That reconciliation brings us closer to one another than we ever could be without Him. Out role in that is to live out the Gospel with as much passion and devotion as possible.