Note: I’m deep in the lessons of Martha’s series, Leave Thy Parents, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was life to me, and I continue to be astonished at the wealth of wisdom with each subsequent listen.
Matthew 10:34 HCSB
Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
(Sword: an agency or instrument of destruction or combat.)
When I first read Matthew 10, I was blown away by two things: Jesus’ forthright declaration of His followers’ suffering, and His declaration of war on the family unit. My first thought was that a dinner party attended by both Jesus and James Dobson would be rather awkward. My second thought was that there had to be an explanation that would resolve the very un-Christian meaning of verses 34-37, and I should find it. Alas, I have been most unsuccessful in this endeavor.
Why is it necessary for Jesus to approach family in so violent and combative a fashion? I’m guessing that there are more than a few layers on this onion, but the one I’ve peeled down to thus far is idolatry.
“Don’t tell me what you love,
tell me how you spend your time,
and I will tell you what you love.”
Martha Kilpatrick, Do You Love Me?
How do I spend my time? What do I most frequently focus on? What do I spend my time thinking about, or trying desperately to NOT think about? It took me a long time to grasp that love in the daily grind is largely a commitment of my time and focus. Martha’s teaching on idolatry as it relates to parents (see Leave Thy Parents, Disc 1) really helped to cement it. She said that idolatry is about our focus, so it can be love OR hate. That nabbed me coming and going!
Jesus brings a sword because that’s what it takes to free us from the chains of our idolatry – and our parents are the chief idols. Maybe they’re the standard that you try to meet but can’t. Maybe you became an alcoholic because it dulled the nightmare of your childhood. And maybe you hardly ever think about your parents because you’ve so become them. It’s all idolatry; we just paint our prisons different colors.
Jesus declared war because it is an absolute BATTLE to break free from familial chains. We don’t need encouragement to commit to families; we’re so committed that we’re suffocating. We need the love of God that does not despise a heart broken by the truth. We need the peace that’s only possible when the war is won and the Lord accepts our unconditional surrender. We need to be free.
We need the sword, because without it we don’t have God.