The Gospel and Family Stress

Sam Petitfils

“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.”  Matthew 10:34-39

What ties can possibly be stronger than family ties?  Yet God reminds us spiritual ties trump all others.  God asks of us the supreme commitment: to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength.  When we make this commitment we discover other earthly ties may suffer.  We should not be alarmed at this, for the Bible predicts it in this very passage.  Why is this?

The Bible speaks of God’s Word as sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the very fibers of our being (Hebrews 4:12).  As such, it shapes our thinking and beliefs as no other book could.  We soon enter into the same experiences Jesus experienced, such as misunderstanding, rejection, even violence.  While not too many in our country suffer violence for their faith, we do experience the pain of facing a world that does not know our God. 

As we enjoy the Christmas season, we need to remember that we are a light and a witness to a dark world. Some of our families even reside in the dark, and they might even display animosity towards us as we live for Christ.  Jesus predicted this in the verse above, so we need not get too alarmed.  We have entered into His sorrows, something that can lead to a deeper knowledge of Him (Philippians 3:10).  Of course we need to pray about the stresses we face in life (1 Peter 5:7), but one way we can grapple with the pressures of holiday conflict is to simply expect it.  I cannot recall a time when I actually planned for conflict.  It just comes, often because of our faith.  We need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that resides within us (1 Peter 3:15), but be ready, because when we live faithfully, others will not see things as we do (2 Timothy 3:12). Some believers mistakenly think they can avoid all conflict.  No you really can’t; it will eventually seek you out. Will we be ready with the right words?

What a beautiful sight it must have been that first Christmas!  The beautiful sky above with the brilliant light of the guiding star, shining on the Christ child.  Yet not too many years later He was embroiled in severe conflict. He faced tribulation because of who He was and what He proclaimed.  He ran straight into tribulation, and yet overcame it.  We need to be of good cheer, because Christ overcame these tribulations (John 16:33).

No one likes to experience family conflict, but if it comes your way take heart, Christ has overcome the world! He will give you courage in that hour, and the proper perspective that this world cannot cough up much joy for us, even at Christmas, but God in Christ can, and He can fill your cup to overflowing with the soothing comfort of His special grace.  Be of good cheer!

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