Matthew10:34-42: WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Introduction. Read Matthew10:34-42.

The concluding verses of Matthew 10 are about discipleship. They have a unity because they pose a challenge and that challenge is: Whose side are you on?

The passage can be divided into 3 linked parts: Division, Decision and Declaration.

(1) Division. v34to37.

Any person thinking about becoming a Christian should be aware of the problems that may arise in the natural family. Jesus warned: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." v34. Jesus knew that he would cause conflict in the family. There would be disagreements and division over him.

The main cause of conflict is not so much that a Christian is a member of a new family by adoption. This sort of thing happens when a man marries and becomes one of his wife's family. Mind you this can cause a certain amount of bad feeling. I know of cases where a son rarely, if ever, visits his mother because his wife doesn't get on with her mother-in-law. However, most married couples compromise over their obligations to their respective families. So, for example, one year Christmas is spent with the wife's parents and the next year with the husband's.

A wise married couple will be even-handed and try to be on good terms with everyone in their two families.

Jesus causes conflict by saying: Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; Anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." v37. See also: Luke14v25to27 and Matthew19v28to29. Jesus is not willing to compromise! He is not saying that Christians should love their parents or children less than a non-Christian. But he is saying that Christians should love him most. Jesus should take priority as the head of God's family. When a person becomes a Christian they have new allegiances and responsibilities - not just to God but to God's other children.

It may be very difficult for non-Christian members of the natural family to accept this situation. To take an extreme example: when Eric Liddell of 'Chariots of Fire' fame was only about six, his parents left him, and his older brother Bob, to attend the School for the Sons of Missionaries in Blackheath, London, while they returned to China as missionaries with the London Mission Society. It was five years before the family were re-united. This was just the first of several separations Eric endured as the son of a missionary and, later, as a married missionary himself. If Eric had any non-Christian family members one can imagine them questioning the propriety of abandoning your children for the call to mission.

In a natural family the tie that binds the members together is usually affection - a humble love born of familiarity and things staying the same. So, no one wants the objects of affection to change. They are loved just as they are. As C.S. Lewis writes in his wonderful book, 'The Four Loves': 'We don't want the "old, familiar faces" to become brighter and more beautiful, the old ways to be changed even for the better, the old jokes and interests to be replaced by exciting novelties. Change is a threat to affection.'

When a person becomes a Christian they do change - they are born again. This gives rise to the phenomenon described by Lewis: 'Very few things in the ordinary peacetime life of a civilised country are more nearly fiendish than the rancour with which a whole unbelieving family will turn on the one member of it who becomes a Christian. ...... Someone has stolen "our" boy (or girl). He who was one of us has become one of them. What right has anyone to do it? He is ours!'

Finally, Lewis highlights what Jesus was only too well aware of: 'The rivalry between our natural loves and the love of God is something a Christian dare not forget. God is the great rival, the ultimate object of human jealousy.

(2) Decision. v38and39.

The expression, 'take his cross' is derived from the policy of the Roman authorities to force a convicted criminal to carry his cross to the place of execution. It was a way of proclaiming that the criminal bore the responsibility for the behaviour that led to his conviction to die by crucifixion. So, Jesus tells his hearers that they must take responsibility for deciding whether or not to follow Jesus. They need to make up their mind - and not mark time - neither for Jesus nor against him - reluctant to make a decision either way.

Joshua, in his great farewell speech to the Israelite people before his death, challenged them with these words: "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. ...... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Josh24v15.

Men and women everywhere need to choose: to serve Jesus or the other gods of our day and age. It is good to sing the simple words of the hymn, and even better to mean them:

          I have decided to follow Jesus;
          I have decided to follow Jesus;
          I have decided to follow Jesus;
          No turning back, no turning back.

If you accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, if you believe in him, you will follow him. But what does this involve. A follower of Jesus must:

(a) Recommend him. I am a fan of the Irish West Music program on TV. I follow the program and tell others about it. I told my brother, Peter, and my friend, KB. They both love it and are, like me, devotees of Joe Dolan and other Irish Country Music singers.

Committed Christians should tell others about Jesus and what he means to them. When Eric Liddell was at Edinburgh University and making a name for himself as an athlete he said little about his Christian faith. Out of the blue he received an invitation from D.P.Thompson to speak at a meeting in the coal mining town of Armadale where the Glasgow Student's Evangelistic Union were conducting an evangelistic campaign. Eric Liddell's response was, "All right, I'll do it." This marked a turning point in his life. He said in later years: "My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ - after all if He called me to do it, then he would have to supply the necessary power. In going forward the power was given me. Since then the consciousness of being an active member of the Kingdom of Heaven has been very real. New experiences of the Grace of God, sense of sin, wonders of the Bible have come from time to time. All these fresh experiences have given me fresh visions of our Lord."

The Armadale speaking engagement seemed such a simple invitation, but saying "yes" had changed his life.

(b) Obey him. A disciple of Jesus follows instructions. If you were lost in the Suffolk countryside and asked a man in his garden the way to your destination, but then decided you knew best and ignored his instructions, you would lack faith in the elderly rustic.

A wise athlete will heed the advice of his coach. Eric Liddell benefitted from following the advice of his coach, Tommy McKerchar. After watching him win a race Tommy said, "If you want a breakdown you're going about it the right way. Never stop after you break the tape. Jog on, walk a little, give your muscles time to finish the race." Eric followed his advice all the way to Olympic Gold.

My niece on the other hand had no faith in her uncle. She was practicing the forward defensive stroke at cricket and kept missing the ball. I said to her, "Ruth, watch the ball onto the bat." "I am, Uncle Johnny," she replied. "So, why do you keep missing the ball?" I asked - whereupon she hurled the bat down and stalked off.

Jesus knows the best way to live. He has given us a guide to follow in the Sermon on the Mount. Do we take it seriously?

(c) Risk all for him. Jesus makes a rather strange statement: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." v40.

What does it mean to find your life? Perhaps, it means embarking on a voyage of self-discovery and fulfilment - pursuing an essentially selfish life style, one of self-importance and self-gratification. Jesus warns that a life of this sort, however delightful the prospect, will result in losing your life. At the final judgment Jesus will decide that such a life is not worth preserving!

What does it mean to lose your life for Christ's sake? Surely it involves surrendering to him and doing his will rather than your own. It means dieing to self and living for Jesus. In the words of the great apostle: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Phil1v21.

In the end life with Jesus, and life like Jesus, will be our reward. In the words of the old Sankey hymn:

          Keep us, Lord, oh keep us cleaving
          To Thyself and still believing,
          Till the hour of our receiving
          Promised joys in heaven.

          Then we shall be where we would be,
          Then we shall be what we should be;
          Things which are not now, nor could be,
          Then shall be our own.

(3) Declaration. v40to42.

If we declare our allegiance to Jesus by supporting those that belong to him we shall be rewarded. So if we:

(a) Welcome Christians into our homes we will also be welcoming Jesus. More than that, we shall be honouring God. What a privilege to have both God the Father and God the Son as guests in our homes.

(b) Show hospitality to a preacher because he speaks on behalf of Jesus we should enjoy the same respect as God's servant. We are sharing in the preacher's work - so we should share in the high regard in which he is held.

(c) Show our appreciation of a thoroughly good man in simple recognition of his goodness we should share in the high regard and esteem of others. My mother and father used often to entertain Mr Botwright when my father was the pastor of the Baptist church at Grundisburgh. He was a humble, godly man who it was a joy to have in the house.

If we value goodness as distinct from beauty, youth, personality, talent and status we align ourselves with God who does not judge by outward appearance. My parents loved and valued Mr Botwright for his sterling character.

(d) Do the smallest service for the humblest and least regarded of Christ's followers because, they too, love Jesus, our reward is assured.

We should never underestimate the significance of the smallest act of kindness. I have mentioned more than once on this website the thoughtfulness of my friend Freda May. When I was sports organiser of Pioneer Camp, and refereeing one game after another, Freda would bring me out a mug of tea. I have never forgotten those cups of tea. If I remember them, then rest assured God will never forget them.

There are innumerable small ways we can show a little love. My friend Dorothy relies now on four carers to help her. She told me recently that one of her carers goes the extra mile - she puts a hot water bottle in Dorothy's bed.

Paul said prophecy will cease, tongues will be stilled and knowledge will pass away but LOVE NEVER FAILS. We need to remember that when we get so worked up over doctrine!