Monday (July 16): Scripture:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 11) 1 And when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Meditation: Why does Jesus describe his mission and the coming of God’s kingdom in terms of conflict, division, and war? Jesus came in peace to reconcile a broken and sinful humanity with an all-merciful and loving God. Jesus also came to wage war, to overthrow the powers and principalities arrayed against God and his kingdom. What are these powers? Jesus describes Satan as the ruler of this world whom he will cast out (John 12:31). The battle Jesus had in mind was not an earthly conflict between nations, but a spiritual warfare between the forces of Satan and the armies of heaven. The scriptures make clear that there are ultimately only two powers or kingdoms – God’s kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. John contrast these two kingdoms in the starkest of terms: We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).
What does Satan seek? To be the ruler of his destiny and master of his universe. Satan’s goal is to bring as many people as possible into his kingdom, and to neutralize or remove anyone who tries to
stand in his way. Satan is fiercely determined to not rest until he has won over the hearts, minds, and souls of every person living on the face of the earth today. Satan is opposed to God and to everyone who swears allegiance to God’s authority and rule in their lives. The evil one has but one aim – the complete domination of our heart, mind, and will to his kingdom. And he will use any means possible to draw us from good to evil, from truth to deception, from light to darkness, and from life to death. There are no neutral parties in this spiritual battle. We are either for or against the kingdom of God. The choices we make and the actions we take reveal whose kingdom we choose to follow. Jesus came to overthrow Satan’s power and to set us free from everything that would keep us from the love of God and his wise rule in our lives – freedom from slavery to sin and our unruly desires, freedom from fear, greed, and selfishness.
When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man’s enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or anything else above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do.
True love for God compels us to express charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Jesus sets before his disciples the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is the will of God which leads to everlasting life, peace, and joy with God. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)?
“Lord, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has conceived the things you have prepared for those who love you. Set us ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, that we may love you in and above all things and so receive the rewards you have promised us through Christ our Lord.” (from A Christian’s Prayer Book)
8 I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds.
16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
23 He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!”