A house divided: what side are you on?

A house divided cannot stand.  I have heard this saying many times.  But I am not sure I ever realized that it came from the Bible. Today as I read the Gospel reading, and then re-read it and re-read it again, I struggled to understand what Jesus was saying.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

Mark 3:22-27

We are a nation divided. Deeply divided. How can we stand?

Currently we do not stand. We do not stand together. We do not stand at all.  We cower behind social media.  We attack children who wear red hats and call them racists; we attack infants in their mothers’  wombs and call those who oppose it sexist.  We build walls that only divide us.  We oppose the death penalty for even our most heinous criminals but celebrate murder of our most innocent victims.  A house divided will not stand…  but are we standing now?

My first thought when I heard this passage, was a call to unity.  We must come together as a country, or we will fall.

But as I read the full passage, Jesus compares the kingdom and house to Satan.  At the end of the day, I am not sure it is necessarily about coming together as a country, although that would be a nice by-product.  It is about coming together as God’s people.  Kingdoms fall.  Houses fall.  These are human creations.  And when Satan gets a hold of them, Satan causes division.  Satan does not fight himself.  Satan will not drive himself out.  He will not go against himself.  Only God can defeat Satan.  Only God can drive him out.

But God gave us free will.  We can choose Satan.  We can choose division.  We can stay quiet and not stand.  We can choose not to oppose what we know to be wrong.  We can choose to take our fight to social media, instead of taking our plight to God.  We can be weak and allow Satan to plunder our house, plunder our country, because we are not strong enough, on our own, to stop him.  Or we can choose God.  God has the power to bind Satan.  God has the power to unite.  God and only God has the power to save, to destroy Satan, to destroy the division that Satan creates.  To heal our country.  But we have to choose.  God will not stop us from choosing Satan.  We have to choose.

I choose you God!  I am not strong enough to defeat Satan.  I am not strong enough to fix the division that permeates our country.  I need your help.  I want your help.  We are weak.  As a country, we are lost.  Guide us.  Lead us.  Show us your way.  Help our leaders find your way.  Help each of us, leader or not, seek you.  Help us come together united as your children. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  You are my Way, my Truth and my Life.   I reject Satan.  I choose you!

 

 

Let me cling no more!

Oh.  Today the Bible opened and hit me right where I feel most vulnerable.  Jesus’ words expose my weakness.

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;  In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7: 5-8

“You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  It is amazing that 2000 years later Jesus’ words are still spot on.  Very few things survive the test of time or maintain their relevancy.  But God’s words do.  I should be in awe by this — but in my head my response is “Of course God’s words are still good.”  And my second thought is, why haven’t we learned this by now.

Jesus has hit right on the head where many of my failings start and where I sometimes get lost — following human tradition, following human ways.  It is easier to see and follow human rule.  God’s rules are not so easy and there isn’t always the immediate response to know when we are on the right path.  As humans though we receive money and praise and facebook likes when we have done “good” under human standards.

Wouldn’t it be great if God could send us a thumbs up picture when we do good.  And a quick thumbs down when we do wrong — or even better a big thumbs down right before we do wrong.

But as I think about it…  He kind of does.  It just may not be that blatant.  But I feel the guilt.  It is just easier to ignore.  Particularly when there is human reward.  Oh I am stupid.  I know that God’s reward is far greater.  But I do it time and again.

My hope in today’s verse, is that I am not alone.  For 2000 years this has been an issue.  I need God’s grace and forgiveness, just like everyone who has come before me.

Father,

I am a sinner.  I have disregarded you and your commandments more times than I can count.  Help me to fix my eyes on you.  Help me fix my eyes on the reward in heaven.  Help me to live as you want — not as the human world rewards.  Help me to cling no more to human traditions and human ways.  Help me put my heart into my prayers and into following you so they are not just words on my lips.  I need your grace.  I need your forgiveness.  Forgive me, Father.

 

“It is I”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually see what is right in front of us?  Today, the Bible opened in Mark:

Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,* while he dismissed the crowd.  And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.  Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.  But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were [completely] astounded.  They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

Mark 6:45-52

Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, but His disciples had not fully understood.  They still did not grasp who He was.  He walked on water and they were afraid, thought he was a ghost.  They did not understand.  Today it is easy to think how much more obvious could it be.  But He had to tell them “it is I”.

How many times in my life is it obvious.  How many times is God at work in our lives and we ignore it, look the other way or take credit for it ourselves.  God is calling out to us and telling us, It is I.  He is here.  Do not be afraid.

God,

Help me to see you!  Help me to know your presence. Thank you for taking care of me and those around me.