Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10.32-34)
Jesus never said being his follower was about having a completely comfortable life. Christian leaders who tell you that are either selling you something, or conning you! In fact Jesus indicated that the opposite of comfort was likely to be true – those who followed him would be hated by “the world” just as he had been hated by the world.
The phrase “the world” seems to indicate what are, in effect, vested interests. People for whom change (social, political, economic or religious) will mean discomfort or a lessening of their status. Given that God’s Kingdom and principles are very decidedly NOT those of the world as it currently operates, those who do pretty well out of the current system are unlikely to embrace the change that Jesus heralds.
On first glance, what’s not to like about Jesus and the core values of God’s Kingdom? Justice, mercy, reconciliation, love, peace, healing, restoration, renewal. But to say we want those things means we have to acknowledge the lack and absence of those things – in our societies, cultures, systems, and (most painfully) in ourselves. Jesus doesn’t bring a peace that sweeps everything under the carpet and make it look nice. Jesus brings the sword of truth, that cuts through to the heart of what is really going on, in us and the world.
It’s very easy to look outwards. Looking inwards first is painful. Looking out, and realising that the pain out there is actually holding up a mirror of ourselves is a devastating realisation. Take for example the vast “continents” of plastic in the ocean, creating dead zones. Yes, global corporations are responsible for using non-recyclable products. Governments are responsible for inadequate climate policies and recycling facilities. Collectively we are responsible for not having the true will to make this a first-order issue. But I am personallyresponsible for the fact that I often choose to throw away something instead of saving it and taking it to a shop for recycling, or for buying something pre-packaged instead of loose. My responsibility may be very small in comparison to the rest, but it still exists, and if I’m telling the truth, I can’t avoid that fact.
This is where it gets messy. It’s easy to look at the broken world around us and cry out to God to fix it. But evil happens one action, one person at a time, until it reaches critical mass and snowballs out of control. In the same way, love and good happens one action, one prayer, one person at a time… God has no hands or feet in this world except ours. If we want to see change, let us pray to God to give us the courage and the power to fix things. To make the difference. Pray to God that the board of a multinational corporation is changed and puts people and planet before profit, in reality and not just in their PR. Peace doesn’t just happen – it is made, by us working together with God, and the sword of truth cuts deeply.
Jesus followed the extremely hard teaching above with words of hope. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10.39). The Greek verb translated “find” has layers of meaning. To get for oneself, to obtain, to procure. And the word translated as “life” is “psyche”, which also means spirit or soul (as opposed to the body).
If we grasp our spirit for ourselves, if we are the ones who procure or find our souls or core selves purely for our own benefit, then we will in the end discover that what we have found is not the true gold, but fool’s gold. But if we give up our desire for independence and doing things “my way”, instead following God’s way, we will find that pure spiritual gold and satisfaction that we so desperately hunger for, for ourselves, for our communities, and for humanity as a whole.