United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

(Incorporating Romans 6:3-11)
by Rev. Mike Capron
June 25, 2017

Matthew 10:19-39

  1. Here is Mike’s axiom for reading the gospels: “Every time you think you have Jesus completely figured out, you don’t.”
  2. Every time someone says they just want to get rid of all the extra stuff in Christianity and get back to the simple truth of the gospel, they are fooling themselves that there is such a thing as the simple truth of the gospel.
  3. It’s complicated.
  4. It is complicated because Jesus is a person, not a set of rules or axioms.
  5. So in today’s passage, Jesus the long promised prince of peace who told us to love our enemies back in the Sermon on the Mount informs us that he has come not to bring peace, but a sword.
  6. The normally pro-family Jesus states he will set fathers against sons, daughters against mothers and mothers-in-law against daughters in law.
  7. 2 out of 3 of those are surprising...     
  8. But seriously, what are we to make of this?
  9. The best thing I can come up with is that in some situations Jesus wants to bring peace and to other situations he wants to bring division.
  10. The larger message of the Bible is that God is redeeming the entire world to bring such a peace: that all death, all hurts, all illness and all tears are long distant memories.
  11. But before that happens there will be a lot of conflict and pain.
  12. So let’s talk about conflict, and how Christians can respond to it using this passage.
  13. There are three basic ways to respond to a conflicted situation.
  14. #1. You can avoid the conflict, running away or going a long way around it.
  15. Sometimes that is the best option.
  16. #2. You can engage in the conflict, fighting as best you can.
  17. Sometimes that is the best option.
  18. Or #3 you can try to work through the conflict using negotiation and compromise.
  19. Sometimes that is the best option.
  20. Those of you who know me, know that I’m in favor of approaching conflict with a calm, prayerful mindset.
  21. I do my level best to make a conscious choice about how I am going to engage in conflict.
  22. I don’t want to give a knee-jerk reaction. I want to choose whether my response will be avoidance, engagement or negotiation
  23. I want to choose whether I fight fire with fire, fight fire with water or just plain run the other way.
  24. There ought to be a balance.
  25. I believe that if you always follow one of these methods, that pattern probably isn’t good for either you or the people around you.
  26. If you find yourself avoiding conflict over and over again, then you are training yourself in cowardice.
  27. If you find yourself fighting with people over and over again, then you are training yourself to become a combative person, someone who will always have conflict around them.
  28. And if you find yourself always compromising, then you are training yourself to become a person that stands for nothing, drowning in vacillation and uncertainty.
  29. The mature person chooses their response to each individual situation. They aren’t stuck in just one pattern. 
  30. Now where does conflict come from?
  31. It is important to note that Jesus’ disciples are not causing the conflict.
  32. He has sent them out to do good, to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons.”
  33. They are supposed to leave peace wherever they possibly can.
  34. But as Jesus sends them, he warns about the “wolves”, people who will oppose and hate them.
  35. It is a sad truth of the world that there are wolf-like people who do evil things.
  36. They will point fingers at people and call them devils.
  37. They will maul and lynch people.
  38. In the 21stcentury, they will blow themselves up in order to kill others.

  39. Why do they do this?
  40. There are, of course, many reasons.
  41. But one of them is religious persecution—sometimes persecution against us, against Christians.
  42. This should not surprise us.
  43. Christians should never be surprised at human sin and evil.
  44. We worship a savior who was himself arrested, framed and put to death.
  45. And he warns us, “Whatever happens to the master (to Jesus) happens to servants; whatever happens to teachers happens to students.”
  46. As we seek to be the people of Christ in the world, we should expect opposition, persecution and hatred from time to time, because the world opposed, persecuted and hated Jesus.
  47. It is Jesus himself who is the focal point, the dividing line.
  48. Whether you follow Jesus or not becomes something that separates one person from another—even members of the same family!
  49. Did you know that in many parts of the world, becoming a Christian is dangerous?
  50. It may be illegal or unpopular. It may cause your family to disown you. You may find yourself targeted by extremists of other religions.
  51. Why is being a Christian so threatening?
  52. I think it has to do with allegiance. If you acknowledge Christ as the focal point of your life, you are not showing allegiance to something else.
  53. If Christ is your Lord, then no political figure or party is.
  54. If you worship the Christ, you are not worshipping other gods.
  55. If Christ is the most important thing to you, then your company is not.
  56. If Christ is the most important thing to you, then your family is not.
  57. Some of those other things may still be important, but they are all placed in a subordinate position, after Christ.
  58. I said that our commitment to follow Christ is threatening to some people because of allegiance.
  59. But that is only part of it.
  60. The larger reason is spiritual transformation and spiritual power.
  61. We actually become different persons as Christians.
  62. We are not like other people, just seeking to get our own way, or get rich, or push other people around.
  63. In Matthew 10, Jesus lists some signs of this transformation.
  64. The biggest one has to do with fear. “Have no fear of them; the truth is that they are living in the dark, full of secrets and lies.”
  65. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
  66. My friends, if we are in Christ, they have no power over us.
  67. Even if we should die in this life, we will live on, in promised eternal life with God, with the communion of all the saints.
  68. On the contrary, it is they, those who oppose God, who should be afraid. They should fear God’s righteous judgement in life and in death!
  69. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes eloquently about this transformation that happens in us.
  70. I’m going to give him the last word today as I read Rom 6:4-11.


We have been buried with [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.