“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever 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.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
When I was in college during the early 70s, many of the courses I took tried to be trendy, relevant and antiestablishment. In one course we had to view some new arty film and then attend a seminar to discuss its deep meaning. One such film was a director’s view of Christianity and Christ. He was attempting to discredit Christianity by highlighting what he thought to be the inconsistencies and paradoxes of the Bible. It included a scene which depicted this teaching of Christ about peace and a sword. Yet I did not see what he saw: I saw Jesus’ words in this passage as descriptive of the Christian life not proscriptive. Those who hold to the truth, who have faith in Jesus and His word will be ridiculed, rejected and persecuted by others who are comfortable in their religiosity, or in their sins and sinful lifestyles. This would include even the members of one’s own family, hence the reference to enmity and the sword the gospel produces.
What Jesus is teaching here concerns the humble and, often humiliating, life of the disciple. The truth of the gospel humbles and humiliates for it shows men and women their weakness and sinfulness, things which few like to confess or admit. They try to silence and suppress those who speak the gospel because the gospel convicts, makes them feel guilt and shame. The gospel shows that all men are sinful and weak, that they are accountable to and dependent upon God for life and salvation. Yet the gospel offers mercy, forgiveness, and grace but because it also demands surrendering one’s life in the service of Christ, many will reject it and those who preach it. The Gospel itself is the sword which divides.