24‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26‘Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30Even the hairs of your head are all counted, 31so do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32‘Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
34‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,
35for I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.
In the context of the opening verse of chapter 10, in which Jesus empowers the disciples to cure the sick and to drive out unclean spirits, the opening of this scriptural passage brings us into the reality that, though we have been given powers which we would otherwise not have, we are only as capable as Christ Himself. Furthermore, we are likely to be subject to the same rejection as He was, from the same sorts of people. Let’s not forget that Jesus was unable to heal in His home town, and He was rejected by members of His own family because He kept challenging them to accept a new way of life. Jesus doesn’t want the disciples to think that they will be better than Him. What horrors befall Christ will be unavoidable for a true follower. There is no escaping that truth, and it extends to today’s world, though, depending on where we are in the world, we might face other forms of horror. To the people of the time, “Beelzebul” (or Beelzebub) meant “prince of demons”, so being associated with, and following, Beelzebul wasn’t the best place for followers of Christ. The religious authorities of the time made every effort to label Christ as Beelzebul, but thankfully others sawy through their efforts. As Christians we are to reject evil and constantly ask ourselves “what would Christ do in this situation?”
There are many ways in which we might encounter evil behaviour in our lives, and the churches are not exempt. The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in Institutions showed how bad an example of following Christ was set by many who should have known better, and whose very authority should reflect a different approach. Verses 26-28 tell us to not be afraid of speaking up. Those who have been part of a Rostrum group will know the promise that is made to “not be silent when I ought to speak”. All too often we act out of fear, but “the truth will set us free”. God knows everything, and would like us to spread the word about things which ought not to be, so that they can be addressed properly. Sometimes that requires us to work “behind the scenes” so that issues can be addressed before they get out of hand. We have a copy of “Blood on the Rosary” at home at the moment. It tells of the harrowing story of twins, one who became a nun, the other a priest, and the sexual abuse of children which was swept under the carpet for far too long, partly from loyalty to family and partly to avoid scandal in the church. It’s hard to stand up against family. Speaking up made a difference, despite the fact that it took a long time, and a lot of effort, to be heard. Will we learn lessons from such experiences? I doubt it. In no way do I wish to reduce the significance of any sexual abuse, but it’s not the only way in which we are mistreated by those who have some authority. I have just been told about someone who has been threatened with a loss of work for refusing to do something which would put lives at risk. Last year I dealt with a case of a casual worker who was dropped from an overworked, understaffed, situation for no apparent reason other than management wouldn’t talk. Proclaiming such issues from the rooftops may not get desirable results because it’s an all-too-familiar story, but failing to speak up wouldn’t get any improvement.
Scripture tells us that we are ALL children of God. The devoted Father loves all His children unconditionally, but He doesn’t love the sins we commit. Unlike us, He has no problem separating the two. It doesn’t matter how many birds of whatever species we count, we are still more valuable to God than they are.
In verse 32 Jesus tells us to acknowledge Him, not only in church, but in our daily lives. Let it be known – proclaim it from the rooftops – that we are dedicated to Christ, and He will be a witness of our dedication with God, but if we deny Him the respect He deserves then He will not be able to be a witness for us. It sounds Deuteronomistic – do the right thing and be blessed, do the wrong thing and be cursed – but this has to do with our allegiances, not to the love which God has for us.
Verses 34 to 39 seem so cruel, and so much against the idea of the unconditional love which God has for us, but let’s revisit that book I mentioned earlier. The message which Christ brought to us was to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. In that context family members are neighbours – just think of Christ’s response to the question “Who is my neighbour?” When any form of abuse gets in the way of being a united family, and when we try to hide evil ways and keep people silent, we are going to divide families, friends, communities, … and churches. Where is our allegiance? Do we ask ourselves, often enough, what Jesus would do in our situation, here and now? Do we fight for the devil, or for God? Are we prepared to continue to raise concerns until those with authority acknowledge the concern and do something about it? The more I ask those questions the more I realise that I am not doing as well as I should be. How about you?