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COLUMN: Jesus, friend of sinners

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s column is based on a reading from Matthew 10: 34-39: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For 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. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever 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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In the reading from Matthew chapter 10, Jesus makes reference to two types of relationships, physical family relationships and spiritual family relationships
First, I want to discuss physical family relationships and how they are affected by Jesus’ teachings. I am going to do that with a story about my own family. I grew up in a non-Christian home, but when I was about 7 years old a neighbor man invited me to church and I became a Christian. As I grew up my brothers and sisters did not see things the same way I did, when it came to spiritual things. I would try to explain to them about having a relationship with Jesus, but it did not seem to go very well. It was like they were going down one road and I was going down another. We were going in two different directions. Some of you know what I am talking about.
When I became a teenager I was talking with a relative about Jesus and he became upset and said to me that he had heard about enough of this talk about Jesus. This is what I think Jesus was talking about in verses 34 to 36: 34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For 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. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
These verses point out that conflict can and often does occurs in family relationships, when one person is a Christian, and one is not. Now let’s turn our attention to spiritual family relationships. When I mentioned about being invited to church by the neighbor man and then becoming a Christian (a follower of Jesus) it changed all of my relationships. The most important relationship in my life became my relationship with Jesus. Jesus changed the whole direction of my life for eternity. Listen to the words from verses 37-39 : Whoever 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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
These verses can be very difficult to understand if we fail to see what Jesus means. In these verses Jesus is telling us that our first love is to be him, because he is our savior. He will not take second place to anyone or anything. Anything or anyone that gets in way of our relationship with Jesus is a false god or an idol and that breaks the first commandment, which says:
“You shall have no other gods before me.” What does this mean? “It means that we should fear, love and trust in God above all things.” It means that “Jesus is either Lord of all or Jesus is not Lord at all”. It means that you are either for Jesus or against him. (Mk 9:40. Mt 12:30). There is no middle ground, no gray area, and no fence riding with Jesus.
I would like to close our discussion on this matter by finishing the story I started about my relative and me. About eleven years ago I quit my job as a mechanical engineer to go to seminary to become a pastor. This really shocked my relative, so much so, that he asked me why I would do such a thing. I told him that I quit my job, because I believed that Jesus called me to serve him full time as a pastor. This would allow me to spend more time introducing people to Jesus as their savior and friend. This would allow me to spend more time teaching and preaching about Jesus. This would allow me to spend more time giving spiritual care to God’s people and serve his church more. This would allow me to spend more time reaching out to a lost and dying world with a message of hope, forgiveness and eternal life.
I explained to my relative how Jesus gave up his life by dying on the cross for all the things we did wrong and that he wants us to be his followers.
You will never believe what happened, after that conversation with my relative a miracle happened. My relative started going to church, received Jesus as his savior, and was baptized into the family of God. To God be the glory, great things he has done. Jesus is no respecter of persons, what he did for my relative he can do for and you your loved ones. Tell them about Jesus and what Jesus has done for you, and then let the word of God and the Holy Spirit do the rest. Amen