32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
34 Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
37 If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
40 Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
This passage is strongly worded to say the least. It is also prone to serious misinterpretation, which is usually characterized by a person regarding their calling, their ministry, as of such importance that even family must be sacrificed for it, that nothing can stand in between you and the cross you have to bear. It is further characterized by a misunderstanding of that “cross” as something abstract, like a particular organization or church or career. Those things are abstractions to the extent that they are not focused on the people they have to do with. You can be really busy working for a church and yet have little contact with the actual people who make up that church. This leads directly to the serious misinterpretation because the entire point of the cross is sacrifice for other people. Bonhoeffer said, “the church only exists when it exists for others.” (from his Letters and Papers from Prison) This applies here because your calling, ministry, cross is only ever service rendered for other people. You can’t privilege family in such work (Jesus didn’t just die for his mother and siblings). Some people will oppose what you are doing, often people close to you who would rather see you adhering to the world’s standards for work and life style. Jesus addresses both those here. But he does not in any sense give license to run rough shod over people in order to carry your cross. We’re supposed to carry our crosses, not run around swinging them wildly. The burden we bear should not become the occasion for wounding other people. That gets this badly wrong. Carrying our crosses, carrying out our callings, should take on the same characteristics as Jesus’ example in bearing the cross on our behalf.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.