I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime during my time in seminary, I realized following God’s call was not guaranteed to be easy, all full of sweetness and light. Yes, there is sweetness, there is light, and there is also sadness, pain and persecution. Jesus was always very clear about that. And I don’t think we could find a passage in which he was clearer about it than in today’s Gospel. Living the Gospel, Jesus tells us, could well put us in the middle of all kinds of unpleasantness, including family discord. You know yourselves that doing the right thing isn’t always a universally accepted value. People disagree – sometimes vehemently – about what God would have us do.
But the answer to the question is simple enough: live the Gospel. Even doing that, though, does not guarantee that life will be uncomplicated. Think of the many persecuted Christians, currently and throughout history; think of all those who have died for the faith. So many have to witness to the Gospel at great cost, even including their very lives. We too may have to witness to the Gospel at great cost, even including relationships that may be important to us. But Jesus never said it was going to be easy.
This is kind of the Gospel version of “Mama Said There’d be Days Like This.” Jesus makes it clear that there is cost to discipleship. But if we truly wish to set the earth on fire with the compassion of Jesus, we must be willing to suffer division and persecution. We have to be willing to pay the price, because the price of not being a disciple is so much more. May we never give away the Kingdom to save ourselves from discomfort.
Back in seminary, I realized that Jesus never said to me “hey, here’s something easy you could do for me…” So every day I am learning how much more important it is to pay whatever the price may be. May we all set the earth ablaze by living the Gospel with integrity.