Read this before you read the response below: Both Honor and be enemies …?
Leland, the first rule of Biblical interpretation is to read each passage in it’s context. That is, to first understand who is speaking, to whom they are speaking, and what they are speaking about. While every passage of scripture is “God breathed” and is intended for our edification, not everything is addressed specifically to us today. Rather, it is meant that we will learn the precepts that God is teaching.
The first passage you quote is Jesus explaining to his disciples that he has not come at that time to bring a universal Messianic reign of peace. His point is that the Gospel will not be accepted by everyone and therefore it will cause division. He is not saying that he INTENDS for there to be division, but rather that he knows his message will offend those who do not receive it. This is a general principle that we call “the offense of the Gospel”.
In your quote from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul is instructing the church on precepts that bring order and blessing to life. He is explaining that we have a responsibility to remember the commandment to honor father and mother – because this is the one that specifically carries a promise of blessing. We learn that it is a vital precept to have an understanding of authority structures and to submit ourselves appropriately.
These are not in conflict, but rather are in fact different topics. Jesus is NOT commanding strife in a family. He is explaining that the Gospel will divide people. I will give you three examples:
1. In the first century many people were put out of the Synogogues for faith in Jesus as the true Messiah. This was a matter of social disgrace and shame. Some people were therefore abandoned by their adult children for it – in violation of the commandment. Until the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70, Jewish Christians were persecuted by Jewish non-believers with great hostility. The story of Paul the Apostle is just one of many such accounts.
2. When I first became a believer, my extended family rejected this. We had come from a religious tradition that did not fully accept the Bible as the word of God. Instead, our historical tradition held to many teachings of people in addition to the Bible. As a result of my stand on the Word of God alone – and salvation exclusively by faith in Christ, my family rejected me. I was once expelled from my Grandfather’s home for trying to explain the wonders that God had done in my life by faith in Christ. Some of my family grew very hostile to me; Not because I sought it, but because they refused to accept my beliefs. My own mother pled with me to come back to the family tradition and I told her I could not. She said “then you don’t love me”. To her, I was being hateful and unloving by my commitment to Christ.
3. In 1999 I met a Muslim from Afghanistan and we became good friends. I asked him if he had ever heard the Gospel or if he knew of Christian missionaries that had ever established a church in his country; I asked him to consider becoming a Christian. He said to me “you don’t understand, no matter how compelling the message of Jesus, I cannot.” I asked him “why?” and he said “to follow Jesus, I would have to deny my father and mother, my brothers and sisters; I would have to deny my entire nation and even deny myself!” I said “you have actually just quoted Jesus; and you are right”.
Now, I can also tell you that it is possible to honor your father and mother, even if they do reject you for your faith. I know people who have been blessed for doing so. I also know many who have later won their family to faith in Christ by their faithful commitment to honor.