Displacing Demons: Divisive Words
by Tracy Aldrich
Jesus does something miraculous, something of the kingdom of God, and of the Spirit. The crowds are astounded, but the religious leaders' first response is to do whatever they can to try to discredit the work and way of Jesus.
As we continue to consider what it means to follow the way of Jesus: I think it’s essential for us to consider how we respond to hearing and seeing the way of Jesus. All too often I want to believe that I'm part of the crowd, amazed by Jesus, while in reality I’m more like one of the religious leaders looking for a way to ignore or disregard the way of Jesus so I can do what I want or follow the easiest path.
Jesus’ response was a warning of what happens when we ignore his way and his words: Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand (Matthew 12:25). I have to wonder what this means for us as a church, as a community. How are we following the way of Jesus as a people, if a large majority of us are looking for a way out of following the way of Jesus? This denial of Jesus leaves us at odds with one another, creates tensions, and leads us to remove ourselves from uncomfortable or hard conversations and relationships. My worry is that it’s not the concerns and divisions spoken before the whole body that are dangerous; it’s those tensions, disagreements, and frustrations that stay just among a handful of us that truly divide us. How do we resist this inner struggle? How do we fight our desires to discredit and deny the way of Jesus? We allow ourselves not only to be amazed as the crowd was, but to allow that amazement to move us into action.
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30). Jesus reiterates his message that those who are not with him and following his way will become scattered. The commentaries I’ve read agree that Jesus is directing this message towards his people, towards the church. William Barclay says, “If our presence does not strengthen the Church, then our absence is weakening it.” If we are not amazed by Jesus and choosing to truly be present in following his way we are choosing to be absent from the presence of God and from the presence of our brothers and sisters.
And then Jesus warns them where our constant denial of his way and the Spirit will lead: whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:32b).
“Therefore a man can lose the ability to recognize goodness and truth when he sees them. If he for long enough shuts his eyes and ears to God’s way, and takes his own way, if he for long enough turns his back upon the messages which God is sending him, if he for long enough prefers his own human ideas to the ideas which God is seeking to put into his mind, then in the end he comes to a stage where he cannot recognize God’s truth and God’s beauty and God’s goodness when he sees them.” — William Barclay
May we chose daily to be present with one another, to lean into the tensions and the hard conversations, so that we don’t stop seeing the goodness and the beauty of following in God’s way. May we have the strength and presence of mind to speak the truth to each other when we recognize that one of us (or even ourselves) are beginning to lose sight of God’s truth and beauty.