Saturday 12 October 2013

Bible Book:

Matthew 10:34 – 11:1 Saturday 12 October 2013


These final instructions to Jesus' disciples make difficultreading in an age and culture when Christianity has becomeassociated with family values. This passage, for example, wouldmake difficult reading for any church on Mothering Sunday or onFathers' Day!

There is a seriousness about the good news here which it istempting to gloss over in our anxiety to be family-friendly. Butthe good news is only good if we are willing to live a sacrificiallife which does not put ourselves and our families and people likeus at the centre, but puts at the centre God's values and all whomGod loves.

This is not an excuse to neglect our families on the groundsthat we are doing the Lord's work. Rather, just as we are to loveothers on the same basisas we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) so we are to love our familieson the same basis that we love the families of those with whom weperhaps feel little connection or sympathy. The basis on which weare to love ourselves and others, is the basis on which God lovesus. In the twelfth century St Bernard put it like this: we mustmove from loving ourselves for our own sake, through loving God forour own sake, to loving ourselves for God's sake. Loving ourselvesand our loved ones for God's sake enables us to broaden our circleof concern to include even our enemies (Matthew 5:44), though sometimes on the journeyof learning to love as God loves we shall make enemies, even ofthose we love most. This is losing our life that we may find it(verse 39).

These are hard last words for the apostles to hear before Jesussends them out and goes on his own way (verse 11:1). Jesus pointsto his own death (verse 38) and the fact that he will have to leavehis own mother and any chance of sons and daughters behind. Perhapsthese words are a test to see how far these probationary apostleshave come along the road of learning to love as God loves.

To Ponder

  • Family conflict is something most people experience. Sometimesreligious faith is the cause. How do Jesus' words here sit withyour own experience and beliefs about the relationship between loveof family and love of God?
  • What sense does it make to you that only in losing your lifewill you find it? How might you explain this to someone unfamiliarwith the Christian story?
  • These instructions, as Matthew's Gospel records them, are forthose ready to be sent out as ambassadors for the faith and are notaddressed to the crowds. Are some aspects of the Christian faithnot for beginners? Why? If so, what might they be?
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