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A House Divided!

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In the darkest hour of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln quoted the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “A house divided against itself cannot stand…” (Mark 3:20-35).

Certain scribes were trying to question Jesus’ great acts of healing. They were disturbed at his escalating popularity. People were thronging to hear him and to see him everywhere he went. “It is said that he can cast out demons,” the people declared. 

Defensively the scribes replied, “No wonder. He is possessed by the Devil himself!” Jesus immediately exposed the flaw in their criticism. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. ”And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, it cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand….”

No wonder those words captured Lincoln’s imagination. Their truth is self-evident. A house divided against itself cannot stand. This is always true. 

There was a time in the Old West when cattlemen began fencing off their ranches. Barbed wire was used to mark the boundaries. The wire let everyone know whose land was whose, and which cattle belonged to which ranch. The barbed wire kept cattle in, and it also kept the stranger and the rustler out. 

One author has suggested that every family goes through a process of “putting up barbed wire.” We define our boundaries as a family unit. 

But what happens when the barbed wire is taken down and moved inside the house — restrung down the center of the living room? We have “A house divided….”

A sixth-grade teacher in an upper middle class California city asked her class of thirty students to complete a creative writing assignment by finishing a sentence that began with the words, “I wish…” 

The teacher expected the children to respond with wishes for bicycles, dogs, computer games and trips to Hawaii. She couldn’t have been more wrong. A full TWENTY of the thirty children made reference in their responses to their own disintegrating families. Here are a few samples:

“I wish my parents wouldn’t fight and I wish my father would come back home.”

“I wish my mother didn’t have a boyfriend.”

“I wish I could get straight A’s so my father would love me.”

“I wish I had one mom and one dad so the kids wouldn’t make fun of me. I have three moms and three dads and they botch up my life.”

“A house divided against itself….”

A nine-year-old girl once said, “I don’t know exactly what a family is, but I do know one thing: Your friends can go off and say they don’t want to be your friends anymore, but people can’t just go off and say they don’t want to be your family anymore.” 

I wish that were true, don’t you? Nothing on this earth is sadder than when a family is divided against itself. And the same is true of the divisions in our country. 

In the dating world today, two-thirds of liberal and conservative singles reject a potential match with someone who does not share their politics. 

This is not to say that any home or any country can ever be free from conflict or controversy. Where authentic human beings live together there will be honest disagreement. This is natural and it is healthy.

Thanks to King Duncan for sharing many of these thoughts. Thanks to Timur Weber for the photo. 

Has YOUR house or family ever been “a house divided?” What steps are YOU and other family members taking to come together?


Here is a Sunday Message to share: Enjoy my Podcast. 

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