I knew someone once who would exaggerate about the things they did to make themselves look better. It took me a while to realise this is what they did. At first, I didn’t know them well enough to question what I was told, but then they started to say things and I’d think, hang on a minute, that’s not the case. They’d do something and then say, I always do this, but I knew that wasn’t right. I never did quite understand why.
I think integrity in words and actions is so important, which is why I think Jesus’ teaching here is much deeper than just what we say. It’s what we do. Denying Jesus, isn’t just about saying that we don’t know him—though that is part of it—it’s about whether our actions deny the reality of Jesus in our lives and God’s call.
For example, we could sing hymns of praise to Jesus, but if we ignore the plight of the poor and the oppressed, we’re not really praising Jesus. We can pray earnestly daily, but if we’re not reaching out to those in need, we’re not really hearing the voice of God in our lives.
Moreover, if we just speak about Jesus in the comfort of our churches and sing songs and pray together, but we don’t follow it with action, we’re not a threat to the systems of the world. And this is what Jesus means when he talks of the sword: if we truly follow Jesus as his disciples, we will upset people, especially those who are privileged and wish to protect their comfort. Taking up our cross means following Jesus by risking our own comfort and standing alongside the poor, the oppressed, the captives. It is then that we truly bring good news to our communities.