In Matthew 10:24-33, Jesus gave his disciples an earnest rundown of how their lives would be changed due to following him. Although discipleship would be a blessing, it would also carry a cost. Faithfully following Jesus would be accompanied by struggle, conflict, and separation in many ways.
Due to this, Jesus told his disciples that they had a choice to make. Maintain their personal relationships or follow him, knowing that some of their relationships would experience turmoil due to their commitment to him.
If the disciples claimed to follow Jesus and people did not always respond well to him, the disciples could expect that the world would not respond well to them when they followed in his footsteps.
As was recorded in all four gospels, Jesus regularly experienced opposition from multiple groups, even when he was doing good deeds that helped people and made their lives better. None of his good works went unopposed by the people who were supposed to be leading others to a stronger relationship with God. The people that should have been most sympathetic to his ministry were the most confrontational.
Despite this opposition, the disciples were not to fear any of the people who stood in opposition to them or Jesus and instead were to trust that God would protect them as they proclaimed the message of the coming kingdom that was found in Jesus.
As they did this, they could have peace knowing that God was with them and would protect them. They could trust that God was not disengaged from them or the message they were sharing. They could be confident that God would be paying attention to them as they sought to be faithful to their calling.
I understand from this passage that modern day disciples of Jesus who answer the call to follow him and proclaim the message of the coming kingdom that is found in his life and ministry are going to experience conflict due to their faith. These challenges arise from the fact that we believe God loves all that God has created and God wants to be in relationship with all of God’s creation. Because God loves and cares for us, Jesus came and gave us a glimpse of what it can be like to be personally connected to God in intimate ways.
Since not everyone believes this, when we share our belief in the truth of God’s redeeming work through Jesus, we will inevitably find ourselves in conflict with people who could care less about this message.
Being a Christian will not and should not always be easy. Standing up for the people that Jesus stood up for should never be easy. Helping the people that Jesus helped should never be easy. It should always lead to tension in our lives because it always led to tension in Jesus’s life.
Experiencing challenges for walking, living, and serving others as Jesus did is not such a bad thing because when we experience tension due to our faith, it reminds us that we are walking in the footsteps of the one whom we believe brought salvation to the world and whose actions, attitude, and faith we are to imitate.
Terrell Carter is vice president of community life and chief diversity officer at Greenville University in Greenville, Illinois, community team leader for Churchnet, and pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church in Webster Groves, Missouri.