Last week we discussed some of the difficult sayings Jesus offered, as recorded in Luke’s gospel. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters…he cannot be my disciple.”
The main point of these startling words is that the Gospel message is so powerful, no one can be neutral about it; he either will accept it with joy or reject it with scorn. After all, the “good news” of Jesus Christ is the difference between life or death, Heaven or Hell.
So, having quarrels and hard feeling within families about whether or not people truly need to put their faith in Christ is quite unfortunate, but at least the issue that causes the rift is monumental. It is nothing less than the eternal fate of precious human souls.
It’s quite ridiculous, then, that family divisions similar to what Jesus described—people hating their father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—actually occur over trivial matters.
I suspect most of us are aware of situations where someone has not spoken to a family member in decades, and the feud is very intense, filled with much anger and bitterness. At this point in time, no one even knows anymore what actually started it. It might have been a sarcastic comment after one too many cocktails; it might have been a snub or a slight or a forgotten birthday; it might have been no more than a particular tone of voice that was taken the wrong way, but was just enough to release a torrent of pent-up resentments.
In most cases, if someone involved in one of these squabbles was asked to explain what caused the family fracture, the explanation would contain one-percent fact and 99-percent fantasy.
This is not only sad, it’s downright pathetic. These division are not caused by something important, such as the question of whether or not it’s true that Jesus is the “way and the truth and the life, and no one come to the Father except through [him].” If family members fight over this question, at least they’re grappling over an issue that has eternal ramifications.
But to see families split, and loved ones refuse to speak to each other over silly issues that, if done on a school playground would be considered immature—even for second graders—is one of the saddest things in the world. No doubt Satan is cackling with glee over these angry feuds.
The only solution to these terrible inter-family rifts is found in different words from Jesus, which we discussed about five weeks ago. When asked by Peter how often he should forgive his brother when he sins against him, Jesus said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” In other words, Jesus commands us to forgive each other—especially family members—an unlimited number of times.
We must forgive always. We must forgive our loved ones over little things, over big things, and over everything in between. We must forgive them even if they are still angry and don’t ask for forgiveness.
Being aware of two important truths can help. First, we must remember that we are sinners ourselves, and if we’re honest, we’ll admit we say and do hurtful things quite often. This realization should make us more humble.
Second, we must remember that everyone in this fallen world is hurting—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Usually the nasty comments people blurt out originate from their own pain and fears. If we can change our anger toward someone’s behavior into pity and compassion over their pain, the bitterness and resentment melt away.
If we’re humble about our own shortcomings, and understanding of other people’s struggles, we can heal long-standing feuds and keep new ones from starting. If we do this, we’ll be doing what Jesus desires for us, rather than what the Evil One desires.