Matthew 10:35-37 (MSG)
34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
In a chapter of John Pavlovitz’s book, A Bigger Table, he touches on having to follow Jesus or follow status quo of the physical church he was part of. He touches on experience vs. traditional reading of Scripture, as well. In this chapter he writes, “I had to decide whether I was going to listen to Jesus or to the Christianity I’d inherited, to yield to the Spirit within me or to the system around me.” This made me think of the messy passage that is Matthew 10:34-37. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, talks about using a sword of all things; which leads me to believe he was being very serious and talking about something other than a sword.
Serious about what? Surely not violence? I guess that is how you could read it, if you read Scripture at the surface level. That is not how I see it, though. Jesus was telling us family can hurt us and sometimes we have to choose between them or Christ. Not in the way that we are to be disconnected completely from them. Not just blood family, but other tribes we may belong to. Like the author, John, we sometimes have to choose to not just fall in line with what our personal church teaches if it doesn’t seem to go with your experience or intellect. Jesus wants us to leave the nest, before traditions and teachings become what we worship. Before we hurt another tribe because we were taught that we are right and anyone who says different is wrong. This duality does not bring us closer to being like Christ. Jesus knew that, so he said he has brought a sword. Maybe this sword has a name: True Self.
We don’t find growth into Christ likeness if we stay where we cannot be our true selves. If we go to church where doubt, questions, and being an other is off limits, maybe it is time to welome the sword. After all, finding a home in Christ’s family is much more hospitable and freeing than being an outsider in your own earthly tribe.