Mark Twain is reported to have said that it’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that worry me; it’s the parts that I do understand. There are passages that make us squirm, and we try to deflect their sharp point away from us. Like this passage. It was addressed to the disciples as Jesus sent them out to visit towns and villages all around the country, but within it lies a clear demand for us all. It is that the reign of God on earth has an absolute claim upon us. No quibbling, no watering down the message. God must have first place in our loyalties. Jesus brings this out by saying that God’s reign must take precedence even over the most sacred of family ties and obligations. There are times when this might bring sharp division. There are times when this might find us standing alone against even those that we are close to. It takes courage to stand up for the oppressed in the midst of a red-neck society. It takes guts to stand in solidarity with indigenous people when big business is promising more jobs and economic prosperity for the country. But don’t be afraid. God is with you all the way. God cares deeply for you. That is the message. It might mean walking humbly with God in the midst of a careless or atheistic community. It might mean being misunderstood or maligned, making sacrifices, being shunned or isolated. But Jesus speaks to us as to those disciples about to set out on their mission. He says not to fear those who kill the body, rather fear those who can destroy the whole purpose and intention for life.
- How reasonable is it for God to demand absolute priority?
- What stops us doing this? Putting God’s will first.
- It has been said that only if we put God above family, do we have anything special to contribute to the family. What do you think of this?
- Can you think of people who have stood up for God’s ways of peace, justice and righteousness against popular opinion?