Following Christ has been something that has always been controversial. During Christ’s lifetime, it was considered heretical, foolish, and blasphemy by the Jews because Jesus was claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, heal, etc… They did not believe that He was the Messiah and therefore considered Him to be committing blasphemy by claiming to have the authority to do things only God can do.
As a result of people thinking this way about Jesus, you had certainly better expect that to deal with some criticism towards those who follow Him and proclaim His Name. If we claim to believe in Him, the things He taught and the things we stand for, then we in turn are (rightly) claiming to stand for all of those things as well.
In Matthew 10, Jesus says something that can be perceived as crazy. He tells the people not to think that He came to bring peace but that He instead came to bring a sword and also to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, etc and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
Now…. wait a minute, isn’t Jesus supposed to be loving? Doesn’t He care for everyone, including my family? Why would Jesus say such a thing, does that mean I need to….? Let me stop you right there, YES, Jesus cares for everyone, YES He loves your family and NO that doesn’t mean you need to grab your stuff, tell your family you hate them and run out the door, bags in hand.
Here’s what He is saying. It is common, especially in other countries/cultures (and probably will be increasingly so in America) to be shunned, hated, or kicked to the curb if you confess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, people can be tempted to say they can’t follow Christ because their family wouldn’t be happy if they made that choice.
What Jesus is calling us to here is to stir us up. Jesus values family, he loves everyone, but if people are going to fall short of giving their lives to Him just because they don’t want to deal with (the potential) repercussions they will face from their family for following Christ, then He wants to “set us against one another”. This isn’t because Jesus wants us to have strife and quarrels in our relationships, but what He is saying is that He desires for us to follow Him no matter what the cost. If we are faced with the choice to follow Christ and risk a certain status amongst our family, then we need to do that because Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life. No one receives eternal life in heaven any other way. Jesus doesn’t want this to be the case (being at odds with our family) but He is saying that we need to be ready and willing to follow Him, no matter what seems to be standing in the way.
Look at the picture at the top of this post. One path is up hill to a more barren looking area, no shade, steep hill, probably very hot on a sunny day. The other path is flatter, more shaded, probably a lot more comfortable and would provide for an immediate need of shelter, comfort, and possibly water/food/etc… This is the kind of choice we are faced with. People tend to make a judgment call based on what they can see as an “immediate benefit”. What if when we took that path and reached the cool shade of the trees, we stumbled into a deep it only to be stuck there forever. We might receive some immediate comfort. It probably “feels good” to be out of the sun and not taking a steep climb. You would never know that just over that hill of the seemingly less attractive path is a city of refuge that will provide for all of your needs from this point forward. The path there might be harder, there will surely be struggles and difficulties along the way. You will face trials and have to over come fears, but when you reach your destination, it will be the right place.
We often do this in life today. We make decisions based on something that instantly gratifies and write off the other path all together because we think that it couldn’t be worth traveling that path to get anywhere it may lead.
Today, it can seem easier to choose not to follow Christ. It may seem better to lead your life in a way that pleases you, right here, right now. However, the right here and right now will not be forever. Jesus Christ came to point the way to real, everlasting life. To accomplish that, He came into this world, full of sin and full of sinners (of which we all are) and led a sinless life only to take a hard path Himself, up a hill, beaten, bloody and bruised. He then was nailed to a cross where He surrendered His life into His father’s hands, for us.
To be clear, we should be the ones facing death for the punishment of our sins. Its a hard, sad, but ever so true reality. Romans 6:23 reminds us that the wages of sin is death. BUT. yes, BUT!!! the FREE gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Instead of every person paying the wage of their sins, Jesus came down and took our place on that cross. Then, for WHOEVER believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior and decides to follow Him with their lives (no matter what the cost), then THEY SHALL receive everlasting life!
How AWESOME is that?!? It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, your doubts, your fears, your choices, your sins, your mistakes, however filthy it may look for Jesus died for us. His blood washes that messy, dirty past as white as snow and gives us a hope and a future in Him.
If you’ve never taken the opportunity to fully surrender your life to Christ and follow Him, then its as simple as confessing to Christ that you know you’ve messed up and fallen short but that you recognize that Jesus Christ offers forgiveness for all of that and that you accept Him and the forgiveness/everlasting life that He offers and that you begin to follow Him. He’s listening. He’s ready.