Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8A)
June 28, 2020
Text: Matt. 10:34-42
God’s Word says what it says. We don’t get to change it, or ignore it, when we don’t like it, when we judge it outdated, outmoded, or not up to our own “woke” standards. God’s Word says what it says, because God is who He is. He is true to Himself, and His Word is truth. And anyway, since when are you and I the judge over Him? Are you really surprised that you don’t like everything He says, or that your thoughts and feelings, your will doesn’t line up with His will as He reveals it in His Word? You are a sinner. And that is your sin. The answer to it is not to change or ignore God’s Word. The answer is to repent. The problem isn’t God’s Word, it is you! It is good for you when the Scriptures rub you the wrong way, make you cringe, offend your sensibilities. God is exposing your rebellion against Him. The Law of God is doing its work. It is killing you. So that God can raise you up anew in Christ, who died for this very sin of denying His Word and rebelling against it, who covered this very sin with His blood, and who is risen from the dead to bring you life, so that you live in His Word.
God’s Word says what it says, and that requires the daily death of you in repentance, drowning your old Adam anew in the baptismal waters, and your daily resurrection to new life, Christ Himself arising in you, granting you His Spirit. So that you believe His holy Word, and confess it, no matter the cost.
And there is a cost. Not only does the Word of God create a conflict within you that demands nothing less than a death and resurrection, it creates conflict between you and the world. And that may even include your own family members. Now, you know that as a congregation and a Church-body, we’re pro-family. We love marriage and children and promote strong family structures and good family values, the home as God would have it. Jesus is not anti-family when He says what He says in our Holy Gospel. He wants you to honor your father and your mother according to the Fourth Commandment. He wants you to love your children and raise them in the fear and admonition of the LORD. He wants you to receive your in-laws into your family as your own, to treat your parents-in-law with all the honor and respect due your own mother and father, to love your children-in-law as you do your very own sons and daughters. That is the ideal. That is the goal of Christian love.
But our Lord knows that in this fallen world and among sinners, His Word doesn’t always have such a unifying affect on our relationships. In fact, all-too-often it is quite the opposite. His Word is a sword. It divides. Because it says what it says. And your friends and co-workers, your fellow citizens, and even your own family members can’t believe that you believe it! It’s scandalous! “And if you’re the kind of person that would believe what a bunch of silly old Scriptures, from an outdated worldview, say… I want nothing to do with you.”
The division isn’t the Christian separating himself with disdain from the unbelieving friend or family member. It is never to be that. Insofar as it depends on you, you are to live at peace with all people. You are to love all people. You are never called to hatred. It is rather that the unbeliever separates himself with disdain from the Christian. And the temptation for the Christian, who understandably doesn’t want to experience the pain of such a division, is to capitulate to the unbeliever’s demands. “Okay, whatever you say. All other gods are basically interchangeable with ours, and there are many paths to salvation. Believe what you want. Abortion is great. Gay marriage is great. There is nothing wrong with fatherless homes and that surely can’t be the reason for the breakdown of society. Go ahead, live together outside of marriage. Sure, mutilate the child’s body parts and give the hormone blocking drugs before they’ve even reached the age of puberty. Yes, the Church should be silent on all the issues. We shouldn’t have any real convictions. I won’t insist on anything God’s Word says anymore, because I don’t want you to call me stupid or hateful or bigoted. And most of all, I don’t want you to stop liking me.”
But do you see what you’ve done? You’ve made your friend or co-worker, your mother or father, your son or daughter, your god. This is how idolatry works. You take the good gifts of God and elevate them above Him. And that is the problem Jesus diagnoses in the Gospel this morning. Idolatry. In this case, particularly of the family. It is not a question of who you love, it is a question of who you love most… God, or your family members. It is a hard word, but it is necessary. This is one of the greatest temptations for Christians, because we’re all for family values and we all want peaceful family gatherings, but we end up being more afraid of offending our loved ones than offending God. That’s a problem. That is sin. Repent. I know what that is. Believe me, I know, and I am guilty. It is a great temptation for me not to preach these things to you, because I know you don’t like them, and I love you, and I don’t want you to reject me. God have mercy. This is painful. But the point is, whenever there is a conflict between God and a family member… whenever we cannot please both… we must remain true to God. We must remain true to His Word, which says what it says… like it, or not. We love our family members, but we must love God first, and even above our family members. We must love God first for the sake of our family members. Because they are not gods. That isn’t fair to them to place them in that position. And because their salvation depends upon it.
Jesus did come to bring peace on earth. Just not that kind of peace. Not the kind of peace where we deny God and His Word so as not to offend. In that sense, He came to bring a sword. Jesus came to bring true peace, peace with God to sinners who have offended Him, peace in the forgiveness of sins, peace by His blood and cross which makes atonement for your every denial of Him before men. The cock is crowing. Weep your bitter tears, but know, the Lord is looking upon you in compassion. He will not deny you. He receives you back. Always. Always covering your sin with His blood and with His perfect righteousness. Always making intercession for you and restoring you to the Father. When the Law has done its work of killing you, Jesus raises you up and gives you life. His life. Eternal life. Real life. By the preaching of the Gospel.
So take up your cross and follow Him. If you want to find your life in this world, with honor in the eyes of men, you will lose your life for all eternity. But if you give up your life in this world for the sake of Jesus Christ, you will find it, real and true, for all eternity. Confess Him. Do not be ashamed. Confess that He is the eternal Son of the Father, God of God who is the flesh and blood Son of Mary. Confess that there is salvation in no one else. Confess His cross, His death for sinners, His resurrection victory over the grave. Speak His Word in love… love for all. That is why you speak it. Yes, we love homosexuals. Why else would we be so concerned to speak God’s Word to them about their condition, when that brings so much hatred upon ourselves? Yes, we love women who have aborted their precious babies. Those women are just as much the victims of the abortion industry as the babies who have been slaughtered. But there is healing and hope and restoration in Christ. Even for abortion doctors. There is no hatred of any person here. Only love and mercy and forgiveness. For we ourselves are sinners, and we know it, and we confess it. But we also know Jesus and His salvation.
Love reaches out with that. Love is not the same thing as being nice and pleasant all the time, only saying things that affirm others in their thoughts and behavior, and don’t rock the boat. Oftentimes love means the opposite of that. Love is honest and true… as in, of the truth, of God. Love says the hard things when the hard things are the good things that need to be said. Love says, and love does, what is necessary, even when that is unpleasant. Love even invites hatred and rejection upon itself from the beloved, when such is necessary to suffer. You know this with your children when they are young. But it isn’t any different in any other situation. So in love, you say to one you love, “You know, what you are doing to yourself and others in that sin is destroying you. It is destroying your relationship with God. It is destroying your relationship with others. It is killing you. But I love you, and I know a way out. Take a word of advice from a fellow-sinner. Jesus Christ is your Savior and your life. He has not rejected you. He loves you and has mercy and forgiveness for you. Repent and believe in Him.” Yes, such a word will often bring rejection and could even get you killed. But remember what Jesus said to you last week: Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Fear God alone, who has the power of life and death over body and soul, heaven and hell. Love Him. Trust Him. He will not forsake you. Speak His Word in love, with gentleness and respect. But do speak it. And suffer for it. And the one who endures to the end will be saved.
And remember those who speak that Word to you, hard as it may be to hear it. Remember that whoever receives you when you speak God’s Word, receives Jesus Christ. And whenever you receive the one who speaks that Word to you, you receive Jesus Christ. There is great blessing and reward for those who receive a prophet or a preacher for Jesus’ sake. And when you do something so simple as give even a cup of cold water to the lowest and least disciple of Jesus Christ, for the sake of Jesus Christ, because he is Christ’s disciple, God sees in His heaven, and you will by no means lose your reward.
And if that is true of a cup of cold water, it is true of any suffering you endure for faithfulness to Christ. The way of resurrection and eternal life is always through the cross and suffering. But that suffering cannot even be compared to the life that awaits you in the end.
God’s Word says what it says. Love your family enough to speak it to them. Love God enough to hold His Word sacred, and gladly hear and learn it. And suffer for it. But know this, always… What God’s Word says of you is this: Your sins are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. You belong to Him. Baptized into Christ, you are God’s own child. Whatever the suffering, whatever the conflict, you have peace in Jesus. You have peace, and you have life, as surely as His Body and Blood are on the altar for you to eat and drink. He will bring you through. Because He is faithful. His Word says what it says, and His Word cannot lie. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.