“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
– Matthew 10:34-36
“Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
– Mark 13:13
“If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything – it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, ‘You call this Christianity?’ We can prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
In the second half of the first scripture reference, Jesus is quoting from Micah 7:6. It is a passage that is confusing, unless you have experienced it.
I don’t know if you have heard the story about the holy-roller church lady who was at the church every day, helping with every little thing. In the meantime, her family is falling apart, and her husband leaves her. But that’s not what this is talking about. To a certain extent it’s on that track, but this woman has overdone things. She has lost focus. God does not want a marriage to fail and children to rebel, because you are ‘doing God’s work.’ I put that in quotes, because most of the work that she was doing was really assigned to others, some getting paid to do the work that she voluntarily does to her own detriment. In some ways, she was in the way and not really helping.
Oswald Chambers goes on a different excursion from this passage. Jesus had financial help from a few women who went along on His travels (Luke 8:1-3). Yet, some people are so sure that God will provide that they refuse help from others that want to contribute to the cause. I feel guilty in this area, a little, but I’ve never met anyone with their wallet open either. My wife and I are teetering near a balanced budget, if we don’t visit the grandchildren and if the bill for heating this winter isn’t too bad. And there is a chance of more income in the future, if it gets approved. But if that income is denied, I may require external help. Will God provide in the meantime? I hope so, and I pray that he does.
Thinking of costs, there is always the subtle issue of religious discrimination in the workplace. I had been the devotion leader for a promise keepers group that met twice each month for lunch on a weekday. My boss came by my office to tell me that upper management was watching me leave early twice each month for lunch. I would have to quit the Bible study.
I thought this to be strange when the Chalupa Tuesday crowd took a three-hour lunch break every Tuesday, occasionally forgetting to return at all. Or when the bar hopping crowd performed their monthly stress relief that lasted most of one afternoon each month. (If they returned, they slept it off rather than worked.) Or the 80% of the company that daily showed up to work late, daily later than my few minutes early twice each month for my Bible study. No, the only thing unique was that my activity was a Christian activity. (The other thing that was unique was that I stayed late to make up for the missed time.) But, the boss was a Catholic who did not consider himself Christian. When his wife divorced him, he had to leave the church without a compass or a rudder. Picking on me was either blaming the joyful Christian or simply sour grapes.
I have also experienced a few family conflicts over Christian beliefs, not necessarily my immediate family.
Let’s take the case of a typical church lady. Her son doesn’t go down for an altar call, but he has a dramatic conversion when he becomes born-again. When he tells his mother that he has accepted Jesus as his savior on this particular date, she flies into a rage. SHE had saved him due to her hard efforts. That date would mean nothing in the future. She believed in the Timothy conversion, and she was determined to be the boy’s savior. But if you read the two letters to Timothy, nothing is said about how Timothy came to accept Jesus as his savior. It only talks about his mother and grandmother being faithful in teaching the Scriptures to Timothy. The problem between the boy and his mother never went away for the rest of her life, an unresolved issue that caused pain between the two. As Oswald Chambers said, obedience to God costs others more than those who are obedient. For them, being obedient is a delight. By the way, the boy celebrated the day that ‘he’d never remember’ this past October with a few of his grandchildren.
What about the guy who struggles to make ends meet. Each time he investigates making a few dollars on the side, there is always something shady about the enterprise. Someone was always getting sold short to make a profit. He turns down the added income opportunities to stay true to God. His children notice this. They don’t understand why he’d turn down fast money when they don’t have all the toys that the neighbors have. They resent their father, and blame God. Will they learn to love God and understand why their father made such decisions? Hopefully, in time.
And what about the child that gets the idea from somewhere, not in the Bible, that Christians must be perfect. The child sees that the parents aren’t perfect. In fact, the child is so focused on the imperfections that the child never sees the good in his parents. As the child leaves the house to start a new life, the child turns and says to the parents, “You are abominable hypocrites, but what does it matter? Your God doesn’t exist!”
For those who have experienced a rift in your family, remember that Micah prophesied these problems long ago and Jesus repeated the prophecy. It’s hard, but we must keep going down that path to become more like Jesus every day. I will give up many things of this earth to reconcile with those who have turned against me, but I will not give up my faith in God.
I had a discussion with a Sunday school teacher once regarding the remnant during the end times. People in a class on Revelation didn’t like the idea that some were redeemed while others had no chance for salvation. Remember, these are the end times when the goats and sheep have been separated. God is ready for the Judgment Day. He knew at the time when the Apostle John saw the visions that are recorded in Revelation who in the 21st Century would accept His Son as Savior and who would not.
The key is that we do not know. For those professing hatred of Christianity, we must think that while there is still breath, there is hope for redemption. We must pray for these people, whether they are neighbors, friends, sons, daughters, or parents.
Keep praying, and keep sharing the Gospel with others. There is always great cost, but while there is breath, there is Hope.