I have a friend who is a preacher whom I admire. Once when we were talking about preaching he told me that I should always look to find what the good news is within the reading for the day. I have to say that, given today’s gospel reading, I have failed to find the good news within it. If I only had this passage to use in order to convince someone that following Jesus is a good thing, I don’t think I would have much success!
However, it makes sense to have realistic expectations when embarking on any venture. The venture of faith is no different. I have heard of people being told that if they become Christians all their problems will disappear. Sickness, debt, mental health problems, unemployment will all be swept away in an instant. Just say the magic words and it’s guaranteed. Imagine the shock and dismay when they find that this is simply not true. The ups and downs of life are still there, although I know that sometimes people do have miraculous experiences which completely transform some aspect of their lives.
There are costs involved in being a disciple of Christ and here Jesus highlights a big one: division. He who was hailed as the Prince of Peace is saying here that there will not be peace as a result of his ministry. This division will be felt particularly within families. Each family tends to develop its own way of doing things, its particular approach to making decisions, or using money, or bringing up children. If some members of the family choose to follow Jesus, and do it whole-heartedly, there is a good chance that they will feel the need to decide differently from others who have not made that choice. If they had previously behaved just like everyone else, that is likely to bring a great deal of stress and disagreement into families. However, in order to follow Jesus as we should, a loyal relationship with him must have priority over all other relationships, even blood relationships such as between parent and child. Following Jesus is costly. Continue reading