Christians often forget that we are at war, that we are to conquer evil by love and forgiveness, and that we have a message worth shouting from the rooftops.
I want to spur us on to courageous discipleship.
We will examine Matthew 10:24-39 looking at the insults, courage, family opposition, and the cost of discipleship.
In Matthew 10:24-25 Jesus speaks of Christians being besmirched and slandered as he was. He was called Beelzebul (meaning, lord of dung) a popular corruption of Beelzebub (lord of the flies) in ancient times, an idol worshiped in ancient Ekron and representing Satan the devil. When we in the Church are not being persecuted and being lied about and falsely accused as Jesus was, does that mean that we are perceived as too weak to be a threat to the evils of our society? Is the message of repentance from corruption and wrong-doing not loud enough to be heard? Have we capitulated to the sins of the world? Are we afraid? Have we been cowed into silence by popular immorality? Why are we not suffering in some way? Have we failed to tell the message of repentance and forgiveness?
Insults can be Compliments
Have you ever been insulted? When some people are insulted they allow their blood to boil. They lose their cool and get very angry. However, Jesus said that for the Christian an insult can actually be a compliment. How, you ask? Quite simple! In Matthew 10:24-25, Jesus coached his first students, saying that if he was called the prince of demons, then his followers would be called even worse names. So, next time that we are insulted, keep our cool and analyze the situation. Was the insult the result of being a Christian? If so, then that is actually a good thing. A verbal assault from an adversary might be unwitting praise. Use it to be encouraged. Maybe it is a litmus test of genuine Christianity in our lives. If so, take the verbal abuse as a wonderful compliment.
Shouting Jesus from the Rooftops
Have you ever been threatened because of your faith? In some parts of the world it's a daily occurrence. However, even in free countries Christians can be threatened by a boss to engage in corrupt business practices, or even be threatened by friends and family members who want us to compromise our beliefs. Christians have even been occasionally mistreated by graceless church leaders who want them to kowtow to a particular belief structure which may violate their conscience. What did Jesus say about threats? He told his first disciples that they should respond by shouting their faith from the rooftops for all to hear. There is a time to flee persecution and a time when the faithful response is to act even more overtly, not to proceed with cowardliness, but to intensify efforts with wholehearted fearlessness (Matthew 10:26-27).
A. Overcoming Fear
Fear robs us of life’s fullness. In Matthew 10:26-33 Jesus also addresses fear and gives five thoughts in overcoming it. 1) Realize that everything concealed will be disclosed, even threats and injustices done to us. 2) Be bold by speaking and loudly proclaiming the gospel. There is something about hearing the sound of our own voices that gives us courage to continue. 3) Realize that the most anyone can do is take our physical lives but not our eternity with God. 4) Know that there is someone who cares enough about each of us to know the number of hairs on our heads. That someone knows when every sparrow falls from the sky and values us far more highly. 5) Acknowledge Jesus openly before others. Don’t be a Christian who hides their faith. Openly admit our faith before others.
Worst Case Scenario
Some people hate Christians. In North Korea and a few dozen other countries Christians are sometimes murdered for their faith. Even in countries with relative religious freedom, Christians can occasionally be in mortal danger. Jesus encouraged his first students that murderous persecutors could not touch their souls. Only God can destroy both body and soul. So, where was God when Christians in the early church were murdered for about the first 300 years? Where is God today when some governments persecute or passively allow persecution? Jesus comforted his first pupils by saying that God is aware of even a sparrow falling and knows how many hairs are on our heads. If we should ever have to pay the ultimate price for our faith, Jesus encourages us to have faith in God's ultimate care of our soul (Matthew 10:28-31).
Is Christianity is a religion of peace? Yes. So, why did Jesus say that he did not come to bring peace but a sword? Jesus explained that faith sometimes divides families. He warned his first students that they would have enemies right within their own families (Matthew 10:34-37). Are we any different today? How sad it is when a marriage partner opposes our faith, or if a son or daughter rebels against the beliefs of their parents. Yet, that is part of the journey. It was in faith that God allowed our first parents to choose an opposing way of life, and it is in faith that we allow dearly beloved family members to choose a way of life that conflicts with everything we stand for. If we follow Jesus, family conflict with those who do not is inevitable.
B. The Cost of Discipleship
Sugar-coated sermons of popular preachers are for baby Christians. Is Matthew 10:34-39 too strong for us? Can we face the fact that we are at war, a sword is needed? Family division over religion does happen. 1) Are we worthy of Christ, giving him first priority? We love our families, but do we love God more? 2) Do we take up our cross, willing to be vilified for Christ as Rome crucified non-citizens? Do we identify with today’s nobodies like non-citizens? 3) Are we willing to be different, giving instead of taking, dying to selfishness, admitting that we cannot solve our problems, that only God can save us? If we would die for him, will we be bored for him in a church that plays hymns instead of rock-n-roll, offended for him in a church that contains imperfect people?
The sword that Jesus spoke of was not one to destroy lives, but to destroy the evil that destroys lives. We are to conquer evil by love and forgiveness, even of family members who make themselves enemies, even when we are enemies of God. Let us shout the good news of hope from the rooftops.