Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not Peace, But Division

My father, comes from a small town in the eastern Mediterranean country of Lebanon. He is a confident, hard-working man who grew up in a poor home. He experienced his father having trouble producing income. When he was a child, Catholic priests from the town would visit his home to pray and teach. They did this, as my dad would later find out, to earn money. Since they did not seem educated, and were consistently not very charismatic or personable, my father grew up seeing the clergy in his town as “lower class.”

My mother, grew up in a Greek Orthodox home in Lebanon that was quite wealthy. Her father had many property investments, and all her brothers were successful engineers and teachers. She grew up with close friends who valued status, appearance, and image. Her perception of the Greek Orthodox clergy was that they were distant from the common citizen. Many of them were monks, unmarried, poor, and had a hard time connecting and inspiring the common person.

My parents married in 1975 and came to America that year to flee from what would become a civil war. In America, they attended a local Roman Catholic parish, and unfortunately, their experience with the clergy was the same.

I was born in 1980 and was baptized at a Roman Catholic parish. It was a tradition in my family to baptize infants, although both my parents were unaware of the meaning since they had not been taught. They did the best they could do.

My faith was not nourished as I grew older. However, after times of unfulfillment in college, I attended a local university ministry to inquire about God and the meaning of life. After three months of attending a men’s group, the Holy Spirit brought me to saving faith in Him, I was born anew, and my life was changed forever. God created in me a passion for studying the Scriptures and sharing the Word. After a few years—while studying for an electrical engineering degree—I continued to feel compelled to preach the gospel and knew that my gifts and callings pertained to the pastoral office. All of my brothers and sisters in Christ encouraged me in this path.

It came time for me to share my desire to prepare for the pastoral office with my parents. They were both against it and thought that if I followed through with these plans they would be losing their son. My mom was so devastated that she removed all the family pictures that included me from the house. She was in tears for months. How could her son leave a prestigious profession such as engineering, for a lowly and distant clerical office?

During this time of conflict I learned that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. I learned that honoring one’s father and mother is necessary, but not at the expense of honoring God. I also learned that following Jesus Christ would not always bring peace, but division. This brought significant meaning to the passage where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father…a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-37, 39 ESV).

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