This blog series is based on the book "Gospel Medicine" by Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal minister who has written several books based on her own life and her sermons. "Gospel Medicine" is a book of sermons around the concept that the Gospel of Christ is medicine to the soul. I discovered this book while attending a morning book club at my local United Church and I was blown away by the depth and beauty of Taylor's writing. These posts will be looking at each of the chapters of this particular book.
I'll admit I was a little taken aback by this chapter. I come from a church that claims to love family and put family first and then proceeds to give people, especially men, so many callings and responsibilities that they're rarely home. This chapter claims that Jesus and the gospel will tear families apart.
"There they are sitting around the dining room table one night, minding their own business, when the gospel falls like a sword across their dining room table and quivers there, with half the roast on one side and half on the other, green beans everywhere. Some of those sitting around the table are struck to the heart. They want to pull the sword out and run straight into the street with it, swinging it above their heads and making perfect strangers listen to what just happened to them.
Others want to clean up the mess and get on with supper. Sure, it is the gospel, but there is no reason to get all upset about it. Being a good Christian is not all that different from being a good citizen, after all. You just stay out of trouble and be nice to your neighbors and say your prayers at night. There is absolutely no reason to go make a spectacle out of yourself.
And then there is always the family member who does not see a thing, who does not believe in swords and who goes right on eating as if nothing ever happened, muttering under his breath about how everyone in this house is stark raving mad."
I loved this visual so much I had to reproduce it. It's true though. We all know or at least know of people who fall into these categories. Most I suspect appear to fall into the last one. We can't stand the ones that fall under the first. The middle ones are okay.
It is true though about the gospel tearing families apart. We've all heard of parents turning their backs on their gay kids citing the bible as the reason. Or on their kids who marry outside of their faith. Or because their kids have left the family faith. There are churches including mine who use excommunication to get rid of the undesirables who dare to present different ideas.
Churches war with each other. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Joan of Arc, the tug between Catholic and Protestant where nobility had to jump back and forth between faiths in order to keep their heads. The Westboro Baptist Church. We look at those who committed the horrendous 9/11 act and take a blind eye to the warring that goes on in Christian communities.
Jesus did warn us. "I have come not to bring peace but a sword." Matt 10:34
He knew that His message was controversial and would cause division, not just between people and nations, but between families.
I don't think Jesus wants families to be divided. His commandment was to love one another. I don't think he wants us to reject our children and not take care of our parents and then blame him for our behavior.
But there are times when it is necessary to turn our backs on those we love. When those we love abuse us, when they are toxic to our well being, when our existence in their lives allows them to continue with bad behavior, when they are a threat to the children that God has entrusted to us. Then we need to take a break from them. We need to allow the sword to separate us so we can heal, protect, and guard from the bad influences.
The trick is knowing when that is.