32 “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.
Verses 32 & 33 I see most frequently on Facebook posts and emails instructing me to prove I love Jesus by copying and reposting, with the threat that my failure to do so will cause me to be disowned by Jesus. I never repost those. I know my salvation is not dependent on electronic chain mail and quite frankly I find the holier than thou attitude of those posts to be more detrimental to evangelical pursuits than helpful.
To read verse 34 out of context is confusing. Jesus; the Prince of Peace, saying he did not come to bring peace but a sword? This chapter, verses 7-8, tells of Jesus’ instructions to the apostles as he gave them authority to drive out demons and heal as He sent them out specifically to the people of Israel. “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Jesus knew his disciples would face trouble and turmoil. 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. He knew some people would believe their message and some would find it blasphemous, thus causing division even among families. Their work would divide the people of Israel. That is the sword that Jesus brought and it is still dividing people today. He was warning them of the rejection and persecution they would face for him. Jesus knew he had to encourage them to stay strong in the faith in order to accomplish His mission here on earth.
Jesus also told them of the rewards they receive: 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 was this the coach’s pep talk before the big game to just the apostles for a certain time and place, or do we apply it to our lives today? We are divided from nonbelievers with a different mindset and different values. We acknowledge Jesus today when we are unashamed to pray in public. We acknowledge Him when we pray for and find opportunities to share the good news in an open and non-condescending manner. We acknowledge Him in seeking His will for our lives and with gratitude for all He has done. We acknowledge Him in our walk, our talk, and in our service to others.
Dear Lord, We know we are fairly protected in our culture, but there are many places in the world where admitting to follow Christ is a death sentence. We pray for those brave brothers and sisters who are persecuted for your sake. We see fewer believers in our country and moral decline and lawsuits against those who hold fast to Christian beliefs. We pray to have the faith, if we are in you, to know what lies beyond this world is more than we can imagine or hope for. May our trust in you far outweigh any fear of rejection or death of this world. In Jesus Name, Amen