For those of us seeking and praying for peace, these are harsh words. The text goes on to say there will be strife among families as well as neighbors and anyone who loves father, mother or siblings more than God is not worthy of Him.
In Matthew 10: 16:23 Jesus further reveals the turmoil Christians will face. The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children shall rise u against their parents, and shall put them to death.
In light of these passages, my personal experience this past week should not be such a shock. Family issues related to religion and politics and co-worker provocations knocked me off my feet and sent me reeling. I have tried to swallow my anger with limited success. The above scripture continues with the assurance that the kindnesses we do will not be without reward. Does holding my tongue and restraining my anger constitute a kindness? In some cases, absolutely, to myself as well as others.
A recent meditation from Richard Rohr suggests we rush around hanging onto our nothing by any means available, including anger, violence, lying, and theft. What exactly do we think we hold onto? In my case, my way of life, my possessions - my pride. After years of attempting to relinquish my desire for anything but God, I still cling to things, still cling to my ego.
How wise Jesus was to remain silent in the presence of his accusers. Anything He said would be used to further inflame the crowd. The same is true of many of our personal situations. In the instances mentioned above, any comment I made spurred more insults and arguments. Silence was the only way to cool the fire, on the outside anyway. I seethed for days at the false accusations and insults, until God pointed out my error.
Jesus was right when he said all sin comes from a man's heart. It is what lies hidden in our hearts that define who we really are. The situation isn't hopeless. Through prayer, God can change our hearts. He can change stone to compassion. The trick is to keep praying, to keep trying and not give up when we fail or those brandishing the sword seem to be winning.
Will vigilant prayer change anything? Something will change, that is a guarantee, even if it is only my heart. The above passage brought a degree of solace. When I stand up for my faith and for my principles, in either word deed -or silence- I can expect to be insulted, and to be the target of others' anger. What I need to guard against is my own hate, my own anger.
God has promised whatever we seek, we will find. I have made a vow to seek peace, not necessarily in the world around me, but in my heart. I mean to curb my anger at injustices, replacing that emotion with prayer and action, where and when I can. Jesus didn't swing a physical sword, inflicting wounds on those deserving His justice, and I am personally glad, because I too would fall under that sword. Instead, He prayed for those who afflicted Him, even from the cross. He did so without hate or anger and He expects no less from me. It's a tall order, but I am willing to try.
This morning, I lay my sword aside and pray for those who hurt and chose to inflict that hurt onto others. I pray not for peace in the world but for peace in every heart, beginning with mine.