Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Peace... But A Sword

I used to have a really hard time with this piece of scripture. Not because I thought Jesus was getting violent with a sword like some folks take this to mean (it doesn't) - but more so because I couldn't comprehend Jesus saying His presence could break up a family. Not when the bible spends so many words saying how important family is. I just couldn't see it.

Until I lived it.

See - what Jesus was doing here was not declaring His intention of breaking up families - but rather He was dropping a little foreshadowing on us and letting us know what one of the costs of following Him could be. Really embracing true Christianity and following Him could be all it takes for you to be misunderstood and ostracized by your family.

No way though... right?

On December 23, 2011 I wrote a blog post called "Early Christmas Present." It was all about how my younger sister had gotten involved in church and her life was feeling "much fuller." That's worth celebrating in my book. So I did celebrate it - and in doing so mentioned our upbringing that was pretty much lacking a Christ-centered focus.


What's that thing Jesus said about setting a "man against his father...?" That's the offensive power of the gospel - that's what it is. And I was about to feel it full on. Shortly after that blog post was published my family was confronted with one very angry person - namely my earthly father.

He took serious issue with what I had said about the way we were raised and he let me know it. He proceeded to say things like:

"I definitely won't dive into any type of analysis of your self-righteous bulls$#@. That would only spark your desire to throw more mythical Christ bulls$#@ at me. I have had much more than you of that crap."
"you are strictly nothing but a piece of garbage to me. "
Then he proceeded to write things about my children and myself that I can't even repeat in writing.

Was I offended? You bet.

Was I angry? Unbelievably so.

Was I hurt? More than I care to admit.

Was I vengeful? Well - here is where that sword slices in and separates me from this man who'd call himself my father. Ten years ago I would have already had the plan hatched to retaliate. To get him back. To make him pay.

But that was all before Jesus and His sword came into my life.

Now... well now I just felt sorry for this dude. Why would somebody be so angry? So sad? So hurt and lonely and mean? The only thing I really thought was "Man - I need to pray for him."

And listen - full truth here folks - those prayers for him were HARD! But I prayed. My kids have prayed. I didn't pray for resolution and peace between us - I prayed for a healed heart for him. Because what I was seeing wasn't just a man who didn't know God - I was seeing a man who actually HATED God and was running precariously close to sealing his eternal fate.

So I prayed. Confused, hurt and angry... I prayed.

And in the midst of that confusion is where God led me to Matthew 10:34. And suddenly... I got it.

The sword had separated this family.

My belief in God - my family's love for Jesus - it offended this guy. Deeply. So much so that he now spends the vast majority of his time writing things online like this:
"10 Reasons You Should Never Have Religion"
"I am totally against churches. Really, I am against the very spirit of a missionary."
"A missionary is more concerned with you, with your changes. A poet is more concerned with himself, with his own expression. I have to behave not like a missionary but like a poet."
Or even more personal things like this:
"Poverty Will Never End and Africa will Never Develop!"
(wonder who that was directed at)

or this list of pretty much nonsense:
Christian Hypocrisy #1
You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

Christian Hypocrisy #2
You define 0.01% as a “high success rate” when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

Christian Hypocrisy #3
While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” may be all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.

Christian Hypocrisy #4
You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs — though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most “tolerant” and “loving.”

Christian Hypocrisy #5
You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

Christian Hypocrisy #6
You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

Christian Hypocrisy #7
Your face turns purple when you hear of the “atrocities” attributed to Allah, but you don’t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in “Exodus” and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in “Joshua” including women, children, and trees!

Christian Hypocrisy #8
You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

Christian Hypocrisy #9
You feel insulted and “dehumanized” when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

Christian Hypocrisy #10
You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

He has even attacked Christian organizations and called my current employer out by name before changing it where he posts it.

This is more than the musings of somebody who doesn't believe in God. This is somebody who has disdain for God. Anger... hate for Him.

So why the hateful, mean, targeted and angry diatribe online?

I think Matthew 10:34 tells us exactly why... the sword came and separated families.

Yeah... it's a pretty big sword. An offensive, gospel of a sword.

And truthfully - I am not sure I would have even ever wrapped my head around that verse if God hadn't allowed me to live it. And now I see it...

One article I read when researching it said this:

"From my experience, it seems that in a non-Christian family, the older generation is usually more resistant to the message of the cross than the younger generation. It is more often the younger people who come under the opposition of their parents when they come to the Lord."

If that isn't the truth I have seen played out before my own eyes then I don't know what is.

I guess the next logical question is, "Why share this, Tymm?" I've thought about that. A lot. I've prayed about it. A lot. Praying right now as I type this actually. For me - there's a couple reasons.

One - I am not the only person on the planet who has experienced this. And if one other person reads it and says "Yeah man - I get that! That's whats been going on around here too!" then sharing it is way worth it. Understanding that Jesus KNEW this was coming well before you or I graced this earth is comforting in a way. He knew. He still knows.

Two - our identity is in our Father not our father. And people need to know this. I need to know this. My kids need to know this. Their daddy will fail a LOT - it doesn't make them failures.

Three - this buck stops here. I have made a ton of decisions to make generational change in our family - and by throwing this stake in the ground and declaring it out loud - I am making myself responsible and accountable for it. I know that I never can know what the future holds - but I will do everything in my power to equip this family with what it needs to build a trusting, loving relationship with the only Father they ever need to worry about - God. And modeling that love as best as I can is one of the most effective ways I can think of to do that.

So back to this guy who I once called "dad." What about him? Well - we still pray for him. My kids aren't dumb - they have asked about him. And we're pretty much straight shooters around here - so we've told them like it is.

And while there is no chance they will ever, ever meet him - my prayer is that one day I will find the strength to remember some shred of goodness and share that with them instead of the truths I have to share as to why he isn't known by us.

Camp Hoffman - you guys are my rocks - and I am asking you to hold me to this - that I ALWAYS lead you to Him, that I ALWAYS seek Him and that in all I do - I give HIM the glory.

We're putting the swords away - no love of Christ is going to separate around here - it will only bring us together!


Jess said...

Just what I needed to read! Thanks so much, this hits so close to home.

Tymm Hoffman said...

I knew it would be for somebody Jess... hope there's some peace in knowing Jesus KNEW this stuff would happen. There is for me.

JudyJ said...

Keep hanging in there Tymm. Even the rocks will cry out when the time comes!

waitingarms said...

My heart breaks for you and I am filled with pity for your dad at what he is missing out on. I am so impressed that you made very intentional decisions to change the course of your kids' future - it is so easy to default to what is familiar. Praying that God would pierce even the most hardened of hearts.

Tymm Hoffman said...

no breaking hearts for me WaitingArms - I am okay. I think it's sad and mostly a sad existence for him. He has pushed away anybody that ever mattered in his family - and not just pushed away - but did it with vengeance.

Thanks so much for your kind words - I am thankful to God for giving me some sort of ability to see past my examples and decide on something different for my kids and my family.

And yeah - I am with you - praying for even the hardest of hearts to break and know Him...