Sunday, August 14, 2016 Reflections on Luke 12:49-53
by Elizabeth Dede
These are difficult words from Jesus—a hard prophecy about family relationships. But to follow Jesus is often difficult.
I have experienced this division first hand in my family. As a young adult I made decisions that were painful to my family. Until I turned 24, I had been an obedient child, doing everything I could to please my family.
When I finished my Masters degree, I made a decision to follow Jesus’ call in my life, rather than the duties and obligations that my family called me to. I was expected to become a teacher, but I didn’t hear the Holy Spirit asking me to do that.
Instead, I heard a call to life in community. When I told my mom that I was going to live at the Open Door in Atlanta, Georgia, she said, “Well, don’t expect me to ever come visit you.” My oldest sister Susan actually called my favorite college professor and asked her to convince me that life at the Open Door was crazy and a waste of my God-given talents. I know that I was a disappointment to my father, even though he didn’t say that directly. Once when I visited Susan, she had her husband Doug take me to downtown Indianapolis to his law office to show me around. He took me to his office way up high and showed me the view from it. He practically said, “All this can be yours.” I felt like I was being tempted like Jesus in the wilderness. I wanted to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” But I knew that wouldn’t go over well.
So I was a daughter set against her mother, a sister set against her sister. My family was divided by Jesus’ teaching. There was a time in my life when I thought that life in community was the only way to live. I alienated a lot of my family and friends because they were turned off by my life that was so different from theirs. I wasn’t interested in making money. I didn’t want to live in my own house with my own car. The sad thing about all that was that I thought everyone should live that way. So I threw up barriers against my family and friends. I couldn’t see how I was being just like them in insisting that my way was the only right way.
Fortunately, I grew up and matured. I learned that there are many ways to live a life that is faithful to the call of Jesus. I learned that my way was only one of the ways. Now I try to live in such a way that reconciles my differences with others. I don’t try to force others to live and work like me, but I try to be faithful to the call that I hear for my life.
This has led me down different paths. I’ve just finished reading a book about the Imperial Hotel takeover in downtown Atlanta and how that event led to affordable housing for hundreds of formerly homeless people. I was part of that takeover and was full of self-righteousness at that time. It was exciting and daring, but it wasn’t the only way to get affordable housing. I thought it was. The book was helpful in pointing out that many people worked for affordable housing in Atlanta. Without a plan from the mayor, without progressive developers, without the Task Force for the Homeless, none of it would have happened.
So I learned that we are a many colored garden, growing side by side. Sometimes Jesus’ call divides us into rows of different kinds of flowers and vegetables, but still we are one garden. Even though my sister Jocelyn is going to vote for Donald Trump, I can still love her. I have to admit that it’s difficult at times, but I still love her.
So, yes, the life following Jesus brings divisions, but we can learn to live peacefully together. Amen.