Friday, June 20, 2008


When people come to church on Sunday, they'll see this picture. A wonderful, touching shot of a girl resting securely on her father's shoulder. And the scripture - so comforting: "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered."

But up against that, right in that same chapter, within a few verses, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace... one's foes will be the members of one's own household." Matthew 10:34,36

Peace, loyalty, even affection can mask ugly truth. Cruelty or at least indifference can lurk under the surface. Peace can be passive acquiescence. Loyalty can be forced. And we all know how to fake affection.

But God's loyalty is fierce. God knows what we hide. God knows if peace, loyalty and affection are the real thing. And if they are not, if all looks calm because no one dares to cry out, God will not hesitate to break the peace, loosen ties, and let the prisoners go free.

Warfare, usually spiritual, sometimes personal, rarely, I think, a physically violent war... but "war" in the sense of fighting for good against evil... sometimes warfare is to be preferred. Peace at any price can be cruel to those who suffer.

Sadly, this is even sometimes true in families. When children cower instead of cuddle, we cannot stand by passively--someone needs to FIGHT for them! Sometimes a mother or father needs to do battle on behalf of their children. And sometimes indeed "one's foes will be the members of one's own family" precisely because God cares so much that "even the hairs of your head are all numbered."

And sometimes this is a task people need to take up who are not related by blood - other than by the blood of our Savior, who was willing to suffer and die so sinners might be saved and so evil might be unmasked.

Jesus shows us, in his words and in his deeds, how loyalty to the ways of God must be above all, including above loyalty to the family name. For sometimes nice homes and scrubbed faces hide broken or breaking hearts - or broken or breaking bodies, souls, personalities, spirits. But God is not fooled. God sent Jesus and God sends us, when necessary, to point the finger and raise the voice and shake the status quo. Sometimes we will suffer as Jesus did, because we are loyal to no one except the Lord God

Jesus shows us. On earth he was loyal to God, not to "them" whoever "they" may be. The people of those days were loyal to their religion, to their leaders, and even to the Roman oppressors - as least on the surface. And we can be loyal to the wrong things too.

So then, loyalty to God, and to God's kingdom, and to God's rule of LOVE, of caring, of protecting the innocent, that must come before anything else - even family. Only as we seek that kingdom first will anything else be given in a way that will last, in a way that will be good.

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