Yesterday’s Gospel reading from Matthew prepares us for today’s reading in Luke. Jesus says much the same thing in both. Matthew: 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. ESV Luke: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. ESV
But I think it will benefit us to look first at verses 10:38-39 in Matthew from Saturday. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG
This passage, especially Peterson’s version, clears up some of what Jesus said. Verse 34 in Matthew has the strongest statement, though Luke uses the word hate. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. ESV If we stop with this portion of Jesus’ teaching, we miss his point.
Verse 36 of Matthew gives us the point. A man’s enemies will be those who live in his own house. ESV Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. MSG Jesus is not telling us to hate our family; rather, always put God first. If you want to give your inheritance to orphans, don’t let your family talk you out of it.
Jesus does expect us to take care of our families. And friends. And others in need. He is not telling us to leave our small children to raise themselves or to give up working for food. He knows we live in this world, not the next.
He expects that we will do God’s work in every setting, be it a job, traveling, eating; nothing is too mundane for us to look for God’s expectation of us. Consider Matthew 10:40-42. We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. MSG
We have an unfortunate habit of expecting God to ask us to do something big; we overlook all the seemingly unimpressive little bits that make up our lives. Sometimes God simply wants me to keep my mouth closed; not to say what I’m thinking. Who knows how many arguments, and even wars, could have been avoided with that simple non-act?
Why did Jesus say, I have come to bring a sword? On one level, he may have been thinking of his ultimate victory over evil when he yields the sword—Revelation 1:16; A sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth. Phillips But I think it is more likely his meaning regards getting us to slice the bond between ourselves and this world. He knows how difficult it is for us to do; after all, he lived 33 years on this earth experiencing the same flea bites and hunger we experience.
Jesus knows, as does God that in a perfect world, we will all love our spouses and children. But we will love God more. In this world, we must learn to practice that same love.
Think about military training, especially ground-pounders. Even in basic training, everyone is taught to kill the enemy. Advanced infantry training pounds it in—kill, kill, kill. Follow orders despite the human wish not to die. Risk your death to get the job of killing done.
The training of Jesus is similar, risk your own life to get the job done. The job of loving everyone, helping all the needy we can help, putting God ahead of self.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.
Be righteous and do good.