On September 30, 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich having brokered a peace treaty with Adolf Hitler. By giving Hitler what he wanted, Chamberlain believed that he had brought "peace for our time." But less than a year later, Hitler - emboldened by the Allied appeasement - invaded Poland and plunged Europe into World War II. Chamberlain misread the nature of the conflict and became the poster boy for the dangers of "appeasement."
I have sympathy for Chamberlain, because I would prefer to avoid conflict if possible. Often it is avoidable, and Christians are called to be peacemakers. But our Christian calling is not to make peace at the cost of truth and faithfulness. In this section, Jesus reminds us that his kingdom is opposed to the normal human course of life. Jesus came to reconcile God's enemies to himself, and his death reconciles believers to each other; but Jesus was opposed by the world in his earthly ministry. He promised that his followers would also be opposed in their earthly ministries. Of course, Christians can sometimes be opposed for the wrong reasons, our sin or our unkindness can make unnecessary enemies. Twice though, Jesus reminds us that following him brings conflict. "I am sending you out as sheep among wolves... and you will be hated for my names sake" and "I have not come to bring peace but a sword." These statements remind us that our faithful connection to Jesus will inevitably lead to a certain measure of conflict. Even in our own families! (verses: 34-39)
But Jesus offers two encouragements. God is our heavenly father through faith, he knows us intimately, and he has absolute power over all of his creation. Therefore, we need not fear what other humans will do to us. (verses: 28-33) Also, our association with Jesus and his people will be rewarded. Jesus doesn't say the exact nature of our reward, but he shows us that our actions in faith are not in vain. (verses: 40-42)
In what places is God calling you to be faithful - even if it may lead to conflict? How does it change your outlook to remember that the Sovereign Lord of all creation promises to be with you and care for you as you walk into conflict? -MK