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Gospel of Matthew 10: 32-39 (NIV)
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew has presented these words of Jesus as a continuation of his instruction to his disciples before sending them out, two by two, to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 10: 7).
Jesus knew that, in some places, his disciples would encounter a hostile reception: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10: 21-22).
He knew too that they would also find some eager to hear the good news: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10: 32).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ can be divisive, not necessarily because of what is contained in the message but because of the threat posed by the truth of that message to ways of living where self is intent on imposing its will over others, over institutions and over the created order.
The peace which Jesus proclaimed was peace between those who believed his message and God, and peace between fellow humans. Jesus would not tolerate peace with evil. Here there would be conflict, the “sword” of verse 34.
The person who believes the message of Jesus Christ must be willing to lose his or her life for Jesus’ sake (verse 39b). While this can require some of his followers to take up the cross, it will inevitably require of every follower that she or he yields, surrenders, “loses” her or his life, thereby allowing Jesus to live within that person. Only when Jesus lives within you will you find true life.