Readings for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 10:34-42; Romans 7:1-13; Jeremiah 28:5-9
Several months ago I got to meet a remarkable man by the name of Mark Christian at one of his speaking engagements in Lincoln. Mark, who is from the Middle East and whose family is Muslim, had a sobering story to tell about how his father once tried to kill him after Mark converted to Christianity. While such stories may shock those of us who grew up in a predominantly Christian culture, they are a fact of life in many other parts of the world.
Jesus predicted this stark reality in Sunday’s Gospel reading where he warns his disciples that good news of the Messiah will give rise to conflict within families. As one family member believes in Christ, others will reject him, and the result will be (sometimes violent) divisions. Has there ever been a time in your family when someone’s desire to “keep the peace” and “not rock the boat” resulted in a compromise of their faith? Consider the wisdom of these words: I love my family best when I love Christ first. (Matt 10)
The Old Testament reading offers a similar warning against the pursuit of “peace at any cost”. Jeremiah warns a flattering false prophet named Hananiah that his rosy predictions of impending peace for Israel will be revealed for what they are in due time when that peace fails to materialize (Jer 28).
In the Epistle Reading, the apostle Paul explains the Christian’s new relationship to God’s Law. While His commandments are very effective at showing us our sin (like looking in a mirror), they cannot change our sinful hearts by inspiring happy obedience to God. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Thus the Christian serves God “in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7).