July 20, 2014: Pentecost 6

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today you remind us that the life of a Christian embraces many hard choices—including putting allegiance to You before family and friends. As we study Your Word, also remind us that we cannot truly help those we love with their problems unless and until we put You first in our own lives. For in the end, Your Word of truth sets everyone it touches free. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!

TEXT: Matthew 10: 34-42

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

We love our family and we love and care about our friends. To do otherwise is inhuman. Naturally, we want the best for them in life. And since we know, as believers, that God’s love and forgiveness is the best there is, we also want to share Christ with them. Today we’re reminded by Jesus that that vital task is not always easy.

I

All of us have loved ones who don’t seem to care about our Savior. They know we go to church. They know we confess Christ. They know we try to live up to His Godly guidance when it comes to ordering our lives. But, for many reasons, some of them really don’t want us to ever talk about religion around them and shut us out when we do. Why is this? The short answer is: sin. The long answer is: they have something going on in their lives that they don’t want to give up and they know that God does.

Many of us have family members who are either gay or lesbian. Others have drug or alcohol dependent people in their sphere of influence. Then there are those who think religion is a psychological crutch for weak-willed folks (like us) who cannot think on their own. I’ve got relatives for whom money and the love of it is their god. The list is basically endless. But in all cases, our Christian faith is a negative in their eyes, so they immediately tune us out whenever it comes up.

To be sure, the common view of Christianity is that it is namby-pamby. They hear those phrases: “God is love.” Or, “Jesus saves” and think: “Isn’t that nice. Leave me alone.” And woe to you if you get into specifics of Scripture! If you touch on their specific sin and what is corrupting their life they often get belligerent. So, for the sake of family unity and to avoid an unpleasant situation, we shrink from talking about Jesus to them. We go along to get along.

In other instances, we have relatives who say they believe in Jesus and have some sort of nominal relationship to a church, but whose faith is terribly superficial. Again, perhaps they are dominated by some specific sin that everyone ignores, but they seem to think: “I’m forgiven, so it really doesn’t matter. Don’t talk to me about repentance. You’re not my judge.” We have a name for this in the church, it’s called “cheap grace.” They cheapen and cut the guts out of the profound nature of how we’re forgiven and why God would go to such lengths to suffer and die for our souls. In such cases, pouring more forgiveness talk upon them just solidifies them in their sins. At such times, they need Law, not Gospel. For the Law shows us how abhorrent sin is to God and how seriously He takes it.

II

Even Jesus wasn’t immune to this kind of unbelief. His brothers and sisters didn’t believe Him to be the Savior during His ministry. In one case, read Mark 3, His mother Mary and some of His brothers went to do a “family intervention” and try to haul Him away because they thought He’d gone over the edge when it came to this “religious stuff.” How that must have cut Christ’s soul?

With that as background, now you will understand what Christ means here when He speaks of the results of preaching our faith, even to loved ones. “Do not suppose that I have 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.”

Jesus lived and experienced what you and I go through almost every day. The old adage: familiarity breeds contempt, is true. Loved ones often, for many psychological reasons, never seem to listen to what you have to say. Yes, you’re telling them the fabulous news about God’s salvation. You’re trying to convey to them that some specific sin is eating them up and twisting their lives. You preach such Law to them to wake them up, but they don’t listen to the message, they just see the messenger, you. And they get angry, walk away, or ignore you. It’s terribly sad when someone you love is on a self-destructive pathway which will eventually lead to hell. You desperately want them to be saved! You want to see them in heaven. You want them to know, from the bottom of their heart, that God’s Son suffered and died to save them and for them to walk in His highway of holiness. Too often, because we’ve been rebuffed in the past, we pull our punches, downplay the problem, and gloss over God’s whole truth, don’t we? As a result, our hearts remain heavy.

III

And yet, Christ speaks the words of our text to spur us on towards never giving up or giving in to the temptation of nothingness. We know that whenever we honestly speak both the Law and Gospel to others, it will have an effect. That’s because the Holy Ghost works through it. So, we need to keep trying, to continue throwing out the seed of God’s truth to them. We also know that God will bless our efforts. It might take many years. It might influence another soul other than the one we’re directly concerned about. But, it will work and show blessing. After all, it has and is in our own lives.

So, now come Jesus’ word of promise to you in this endeavor. “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Christianity is all about love, God’s love, in action. Any loving parent knows that real love for their child entails a lot of heavy lifting in life. Love means being responsible, not superficial. Love means telling kids: No when they need it. Love means being there to help pick up the pieces when they don’t listen and fall. That’s what Jesus does and is doing right now in every one of our lives. He did the bulk of the “heavy lifting” on the cross when He paid for our sins. But even today, He’s still working out the many kinks in our hearts and lives, isn’t He? As His disciple, you need to do the same. And know as you do so that even the smallest action (giving a cup of cold water to a little one who is thirsty) produces eternal blessings for all involved! For in the end, Christ’s holiness makes all our efforts in life worthwhile! His goodness will always shine through every faith-filled soul (you) providing the Spirit with the opportunity to lovingly embrace those we touch. Amen