In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus speaks to His disciples whom He is sending forth to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." He warns them of great difficulty that should be anticipated. They could expect persecution and other expressions of hatred. Jesus exhorts his apostles to have no fear of those who could kill the body, for it is impossible for them to touch their souls. Their heavenly Father would be watching after them and care for them, even if the displeasure of men were felt.

Jesus then makes a general statement in verses 32 & 33, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Jesus expects that His followers will be so passionate for Him that they will be very open before others about their commitment to Him. Jesus holds out no hope of favor from His Father toward those who deny Him before their fellow man.

Then, it is as if Jesus drives the point home even more deeply so that His followers then and now understand what it means to be His disciple. Jesus says, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword (vs.34 ). But didn’t the heavenly host proclaim in reference to the birth of Christ, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men? Peace is surely promised to the earth as part of God’s redemptive plan. It is certainly a vital part of His kingdom (Rom. 14:17; Col. 1:20; 3:15 ), produced now in the hearts of His children by the presence of the Holy Ghost. Peace reigns now in the hearts of believers, but not in relationship to this world. The world hates God’s people and His holiness worked out in their lives ( I John 3:13 ). This is the sense of Jesus’ piercing statement. Not peace, but a sword! Division, trouble, harm, and all that might be represented by a sword is to be expected in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ.

Jesus then gets even more pointed and personal as He moves from the general principal to the specific in verse 35 & 36, For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man’s foes shall be they of this own household. Not only is it a possibility that following Christ will result in tensions with the closest of family relationships, it is guaranteed! Jesus expects that His followers will speak and live in such a way that their words and actions will in fact result in family division. He announces very clearly that those who will be hottest against you, if you truly follow Him, will be your own family!

In verse 37, Jesus makes it clear that the issue at hand is really about whom you love. If family ties are so great that your parents or children pull you away from following Him, then you love family more than Him. If you love family more than Him, you are not worthy of Him.

Someone might reason, "but who is worthy of Jesus Christ? All of us fall short of worthiness. It is our unworthiness that creates the need for a Savior. It is precisely our lack of love for Him that magnifies our guilt." While all of these thoughts are true, Jesus is challenging the very basic level of one’s commitment to Him. If you do not have a love for Jesus Christ that leads you to be able to endure the disapproval of family, and even separation from them if need be, then you have demonstrated that your love for that which you have in this world is greater than any professed love for Him. If you truly love Him, then you will be willing to endure separation from unbelieving family members who are not in agreement with your commitment to Christ. Those who love Christ supremely are worthy of Him. These are the ones who are truly His disciples and who have genuinely identified with Him in His cross and resurrection life.

Do not explain away the clear reasoning of Jesus in this text. Understand and believe the purpose for which Jesus says He has come. It is true that He came to save. But it is that very salvation that creates a division between the saved and lost. One is changed and the other is not. One’s love is set upon Christ and things above, the other’s is not. One’s heart is moved in a direction that loves what is not seen, while the other remains in love with the visible things of the world. Love for Christ turns one’s thinking about life in a different direction than before, creating a separation from the thinking he or she was brought up under. In some cases, when this love and passion for Christ is in the parents, a child will rebel and a division is created as the child grows and turns away from the Christian philosophy he or she was brought up under.

One striking point in these words of Jesus is that He gives no guarantee that all of our children will always be at peace with us following Christ. The very opposite is set forth. We can anticipate that some of our children may very well be at odds with us if we give ourselves to truly following Christ. It is here that our own confessed love for Christ will be most tested. Do we love our Savior enough to see our children separate from us because they are not able to follow Christ with us? Our attitude must be that if our children must pursue unrighteousness and cannot appreciate our stand for and with Christ, then so be it. We must be willing to let them go and not chase after them, or lower our own standard to keep the peace. We must ever remember that Christ came to send a sword, not peace. While we are to, as much as possible, live at peace with all men, we must not live at peace at the expense of following Christ.

Who do you love most? Are you willing to have your children, parents, or any other family member separate from you because of your commitment to following Christ? If the answer is yes, then you have proved your love for Christ and are worthy of Him. If you say no, either by word or deed, then you must seriously consider the words of Jesus who concluded, you are "not worthy of me."

Kyle T. White, Pastor
October, 2005