Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | June 21, 2017

Family time

 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

 ‘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.
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 up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
[from Matthew 10]

I love my mom. Actually, I love my father, too. And I’m sure I would have loved my mother-in-law if she had lived long enough for us to meet, though I still do interior battle with the sainted mother of my husband who “made the best bread pudding in the world.” That’s kind of hard to disprove when she’s been dead for over 50 years.

I digress.

This passage from Matthew is hard because families are sometimes hard, and Jesus says we should be willing to fight with them. That he came to set us against each other. Well, I think we can argue just fine in our families without Jesus’ help, thank you very much. But why would he want us to turn against them?

Isn’t Jesus about peace, after all?

Jesus is getting ready to send the disciples out on a mission. He’s giving them instructions. The oft-repeated theme: Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid when opposition comes. And it could come in many forms, even through the people you love.

You’ll be called names like Beelzebul—devil. Don’t let that make you fearful.

Now is the time to start telling aloud what you’ve heard from me in our private tutorials. Don’t be afraid.

God will be with you in a big way. Don’t be afraid.

You may be called to account. Don’t be afraid.

If God can care about a single sparrow among thousands, then how much more God will care about you. Don’t be afraid.

Finally, your own family may turn against you. Don’t be afraid even then.

And here we’re seeing something of what went on in Matthew’s world. As he was writing his gospel, the church was beginning to experience some problems from religious authorities, and even from family members.

If the head of household has a particular religion, everyone else has to follow. This believing in Jesus thing may make your family disinherit you, or kick you out. That has economic fallout, not to mention social ramifications (you won’t be invited to cousin Sarah’s wedding) and the simply personal issues of feeling abandoned by those who are supposed to support you.

Bearing the cross may be the cause of all kinds of difficulty. But Jesus calls us to give our lives for his sake. Because in giving them up, we find them.

Sometimes the gospel, the good news of Jesus, requires us to do some things that don’t look like peace. We yell at the 2-year-old who’s about to run out in front of a car. We make our kids do their homework or take their medicine even when we know they will get angry and fight us about it, but we do it because we love them and know it will be better in the long run. We tell our loved ones, when we’ve worked up enough courage, that we don’t like the way they treat each other and maybe they should go for some counseling. Or that they are harming themselves and the people around them with addictions.

So maybe we don’t believe in peace at all costs after all. Those who give up their lives for my sake will find it, says Jesus.

But we have to be careful we don’t sound like a cult. Our culture is very different from the one to which Matthew addressed his gospel. We’re not about telling people to leave their families, because Christianity is an accepted religion in our country, not one that is suspect, as it was in the first century.

That doesn’t translate exactly into our world. However, some things do translate. Families can be either a place of nurture or a place where nurture is in short supply. In every faith community there are those who have experienced family as nearly everything it should be—love, peace, fairness, affection, tenderness. And there are those who have experienced family as troubled, difficult, lacking in something, or even a place of neglect or abuse.

Family is, by default or design, our first school of relationships. But by now we know that family is far greater than biology, and even greater than the family that lives under the same roof.

Family is as large as a church, as great as a community, as huge as a world. As we understand what Jesus is getting at, we find that our sense of family is enlarged, and we find ourselves enriched.

We give up our hopes for the “perfect family” (as if), and make our hopes rest instead on creating the kind of community where all are loved, welcomed, and nurtured.

Those who give up their lives for my sake, says Jesus, will find it.IMG_5409, copy

 

© 2017, Melissa Bane Sevier

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Responses

  1. Thanks for saying with such eloquence what I’ve been struggling to say!


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