“…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36 NIV)
Matthew quotes the prophet Micah, both of whom are talking about the end times. But when I hear this passage these days I hear the part about my own household – the places and people closest and dearest to me. Eugene Peterson in his translation of this segment puts it thus:
“—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God.
Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies.” (The Message)
I spent a few days with people who include some of my dearest friends. They are not biological family members but are family in the sense of affection and loyalty. Among them are also folks who test me mightily! I crossed paths several times, for instance, with someone about whom I wrote in an earlier blog and whose betrayal and breaking of trust still hurts deeply.
I know that I am ripping this verse out of its context. But part of what I think Jesus meant by the startling words about family is that family and friendship will be where our Kingdom commitments and character will be most sorely tempted.
Some of us face or will face great public trials of our faith. Some followers of Jesus will experience great hardship or unimaginable tragedy. Some will have to affirm or deny Christ in dramatic ways. But most of us will live out Jesus’ ways in our homes, offices, schools, and neighbourhoods.
The people we most love and with whom we spend the most time are often also the people we struggle to forgive and to love as Jesus demands (and not as our feelings or inclinations alone may lead us). While enjoying the renewal of friendships this weekend I also was tried in my commitment to love, to forgive, to extend grace.
Eugene Peterson wrote in a book on teenagers (maybe something I should read?) but something that applies broadly to families and family-like relationships:
“The biblical material consistently portrays the family not as a Norman Rockwell group, beaming in gratitude around a Thanksgiving turkey, but as a series of broken relationships in need of redemption, after the manner of William Faulkner’s plots in Yoknapatawpha County.”
Eugene H. Peterson, Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager
(Eerdmans, 1994), pp.110-11
Let the redemption continue…