In 2014 I had the chance to spend a week with a group of leaders from the underground church in Iran. The Americans were assigned to be their teachers at a weeklong training, but we found quickly that these amazing Christians were far more equipped to teach us than we were to teach them.
I loved hearing their stories about how they learned of Jesus and decided to follow him. In a country that punishes by death conversion and baptism to the Christian faith, those who had shared Christianity with each of them had risked their lives in order to do so. In some cases, God had revealed Godself to them in dreams and visions that sounded as though they came straight out of the biblical story.
Because every one of these Iranian Christians was a first-generation convert to Christianity, each had to make a hard decision about what and when to tell their family of their decision. In one case, after an adult son told his father that he was now a follower of Isa Masih (Jesus Christ), the father called all the family together and announced that the son and his wife and children were no longer part of their family and that no one would speak to them again. Without hesitation, the son pulled his key chain out of his pocket and removed the key to his parents’ home (where he and his family lived) and the key to his father’s shop (where he and his wife worked) and placed them on the table, saying, “No home or job or even family is as valuable to me as Jesus the Messiah.”
In this passage in Luke, Jesus does not praise family quarrels, but he does say that there should be no force on earth stronger than our loyalty to him. Is there anything that stands between you and a life fully devoted to following Jesus?
Isa Masih, give us undivided hearts where you are first in all things. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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