Pentecost 3: Fear, Love, and Our New Family

Matthew 10:24-39


We have several pandemics going on. The most threatening is the pandemic of polarization. The Devil’s favorite weapon is polarization, or should we say scattering. Strike the shepherd and scatter the flock.


The forces of polarization peddle an alternate reality. They want to shake things up—sow confusion—divide and conquer. And the way they do this today is by creating an alien form of belonging—a false family: “Here is your family that you should love. And here is the great fear: losing that family.”


The forces of polarization do this by threatening: “Those other people out there are trying to destroy everything you love. They are trying to take away the nation, the neighborhood, and the family you love. Those people who look different, and speak alien things, don’t want to change your world for the better. They hate your world. They hate your family and are trying to destroy it!!!”


The Bible frequently lifts up the good fear—fear of God. In our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus calls out to us with a slightly different message, I believe. Yes, the One we should fear is the one who has direct power over our souls as well as our bodies—our eternal destiny and not simply a momentary state. However, there is a Poison in the world that has a demonstrated soul-killing force. It is the Poison of polarization and scattering. It is the Poison that writes off “those” people as ones we can ignore, suspect, blame, hate and destroy, because they are of no matter.


I think Jesus would recognize rightful fear of such Poison. Jesus says of his Father, “No sparrow, that you have deemed worthless, can fall to the ground without the Father falling with it. So too, no human being can be your enemy. No human being can be written off. No human being can be so feared that you must kill.”


Jesus says, “Fear is vital in life; but only if you fear the right thing.” And he says to us, “Love the right family.”


All the gospel writers agree, Jesus spoke of the need to decide–to be clear about true family. (The New Testament calls believers “adelphoi” in Greek – but though the old way of translating that is “brothers,” it really means “brothers and sisters,” i.e., the family of faith.)

But what Jesus is saying in Matthew 10 is: This is a matter of decision. If your blood relatives, or members of your social media circle, or your political party, use the threat of withdrawing their love to keep you wrapped up in selfish living, hatred of the “other,” and a poisonous vision of God, then you must be able to walk away. Find your belonging elsewhere! Find your reality elsewhere!


On the other hand, Jesus encourages: There is a family of faith waiting for you…always…being born and reborn from the Good News of God’s all-embracing love. Here you will find a love, as 1 John tells us, that casts out all fear.


If your life is colored by fear and not by love, then you must change your life. Change your reality. Start by embracing this family of faith. Then practice fearless living that frees you to love courageously. In Christ all people, even your enemies, become your family of faith in Christ who breaks down the dividing walls of hostility.



About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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