The Rev’d Roger Elks
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I was very interested to read Sajid Javid’s account of his resignation and what had put the thought into his mind. It came, I understand, whilst listening to a sermon at a prayer breakfast event at Parliament, and the sermon was on the importance of integrity in public life. And God’s Word spoke to him, and he acted on that which he heard. So those of us who pray for our leaders and those in authority, we can be thankful that our prayers have been answered, that God’s word spoke. Now, Sajid Javid is a non-practising Muslim by faith. However, his wife is described as a churchgoing Christian; not just a Christian, but a churchgoing Christian! And he has admitted that the only faith practised in their household is Christian. And so we pray that the witness of a faithful Christian wife, as the Scripture says, will be doing its work in the life of Sajid Javid and his responsibilities in government.
Our reading is about faith in family life. It’s from Matthew Chapter ten, beginning at verse 34. (NIV)
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
So families can be a place where we learn faith and share faith and support each other in faith and bring each other to faith. This is certainly true for me as my elder sister’s Christian witness and encouragement to me brought me to a place of faith. But, families can also be places where there is tension over faith. Sometimes our faith is undermined by our family commitments, by the values that our families have that we perhaps own just out of inheritance. Jesus says here that our priority as Christians is first to follow Jesus and then to our families. And we pray, don’t we, that those two aims following Jesus and looking after our family might be the same. But if push comes to shove, when the chips are down, (whatever metaphor you want to use), Jesus comes first.
Jesus doesn’t necessarily come to bring peace in our lives. I hope you enjoy a peaceful life. I hope you have significant relationships around you, as do I. I have relationships that are supportive and encouraging in my life and in my faith. I hope you also have some degree of comfort. However, this text reminds us that these are not given. These are not to be promised. Because our peace will be compromised, if we follow Jesus Christ, it will bring us into places of conflict. As we seek to prioritize our faith and the values that that faith brings as we encounter those, those even in our own families, who do not wish to hold those values.
But Jesus encourages us. It is not all bad. Even if we were to lose our life in this world, we will find it in following Jesus Christ. verse 39. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life, for my sake will find us. Find it?
Help us, Lord Jesus, to put our lives into the perspective of our faith and the faith in the cross. We thank you for our families. And we thank you for the privilege of family life and love and friendship. But help us to remember, Lord, that our first priority and loyalty is to you and to all that you call us to be as children of God. Amen.
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen