Before I get started today, I wanted to add the link to the book I use for my Biblical study again:
A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants
I’m one of the “other servants” – not a minister. 😉
The book is organized according to the liturgical calendar used by Episcopalians and Catholics. This year, 2014, is year A and we’re in Week 17.
The passage today is Matthew 10:16-42. It’s too much to absorb in one day, well, for me anyway, so I’m going to highlight only a couple of verses.
We’ve been discussing the attributes of a follower of Christ these past few weeks. Lots of love. Lots and lots of it. With side dishes of compassion and kindness. Heaps of Hallmark goodness. The kinds of stuff that lead some to think that we shouldn’t criticize anything, that we should accept and embrace everyone. After all, if I’m in no position to judge another person (and we’ve established that I’m not), then who am I to criticize someone’s choices? And, if we’re all supposed to be brimming with loving sweetness, shouldn’t that naturally mean that we should all just get along?
No. It doesn’t. Not at all. In fact, Matthew 10 cautions us on what to expect if we decide to live as best we can as Christ did. We are advised to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” In other words, be loving and kind, but don’t be stupid or naive. Be sure that our reactions and decisions in life reflect our God, but also be sure to not pretend that everyone in this world shares the same values or moral inhibitions. Understand the difference between the world we want to live in and are trying to build, and the world we really live in. It’s also recommended that we not foolishly endanger ourselves. “If you are persecuted in one town, flee.” We don’t have to be martyrs. Christ already died for us. We don’t need to do it ourselves.
Christ also says something shocking in verse 34.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to this world. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
A sword? But what about loving-kindness and all that tolerance stuff?
Christ here does not say it is okay for us to incite trouble, division, or pain (we are to be peacemakers, after all) or to be judgmental on His behalf; he tells us what to expect from the world’s reaction. People will be divided over whether or not Christ is the Messiah, whether or not there is a God, whether or not everything is permissible or whether there are moral rights and wrongs. And even if we can agree on the existence of right and wrong action, we won’t necessarily agree on what those things are. If we do, we still won’t agree on how to respond. Hence, the sword.
These instructions should be read alongside a passage we read a few days ago. (See Costs http://wp.me/s262AS-costs.) We should understand what to expect if we try to represent Christ. We should not expect miraculous ease, wealth, and simplicity. We should not expect everyone who learns of our attachment to Christ to be happy about it. There are no magical guarantees for this life. It is hard to live a good life, harder to live a devout life. We need to understand that the challenges (referred to as “suffering” in the text) are just the way it is.
We do not chose to follow Christ to make this life easy. We chose to follow because we believe this life is but a dim preview of the life that can be. Because a hard life lived for the Truth is better than an easy life lived for nothing.
One final note: in verses 24 and 25, we are reminded that anything that Christ does, we should be willing to do ourselves. See yesterday’s post for more thoughts on this instruction. (http://wp.me/p262AS-vA)