Luke 11:14-23 “A House Divided”
Some of you may remember that on my mother’s side I am related to John Alden of the Mayflower. I usually hold back on stories of my mother’s side of the family. However, it is mother’s day, so I guess I can get away with it today!
John Alden and Priscilla Mullins married and had 10 children. Four of those were boys. The land that John Alden built his original house was passed down to the sons, and eventually to the grandsons. The land was divided as was necessary to accommodate the grandchildren. Two of the grandsons co-owned the Alden House in Duxbury, Massachusetts. That house still stands and is today a museum.
Two things you would probably notice as you were walking up the brick sidewalk to the house. First, there are names on those bricks. These are the names of donors who have given to the museum. They are almost exclusively Alden family members. When my mother passed away, our family honored her memory by buying a brick with her name on it.
The other thing that you will probably notice is that it seems that the house has two front doors. It does in fact have two front doors. The original Alden house had but one front door. And, there was a singular fireplace on the one side of the house. Today, the fireplace is right in the middle of the house. What happened was that the two great grandsons of John and Priscilla disliked one another so much that they divided the house. On the side where the fireplace had stood, a match to the original house was added in reverse. The hearth of the family home itself was split into two.
In this way, the two brothers lived in the same house, but with two front doors, two hearths, and the like. The stories are told that the two boys never really spoke to each other after the division of the house. And that, is part of my family history.
In those days, entire families slept in the same bed together to keep warm and shared everything in common. Not MY ancestors! For America, I think they invented the “house divided” concept. The house does still stand by the way. The family may have splintered, but the timbers have not.
Of course, when Jesus says this about a “house divided not standing” anymore, he was talking about family. The word in the Greek, as in English, can mean the family within the physical structure. The reference can go beyond an individual family to represent a larger social concern as well. Someone at the Tuesday afternoon Bible Study noted that the US Congress is a house divided, and that was not in reference to it being bi-cameral. Yes, we have the Senate and the House of Representatives, but within both of these institutions we see tremendous divisions. Because of these divisions, it is very hard to ever get anything accomplished. That level of divisiveness is perhaps what Jesus himself is referring to when mentioning a house divided.
I knew of a couple once that was heading towards divorce. They counted themselves as legally separated. However, for economic reasons, they could not afford to live apart. So, naturally they divided up everything in the house. They even divided the freezer and refrigerator! They divided which rooms either could occupy. There were set times for kitchen usage. Everything was divided. When they did finally divorce, it was a blessing in a way because that house divided was horrible for all who lived there, and even those who visited from time to time.
The only experience I ever had with living that way was once with my twin brother, with whom I shared the same room growing up. At one point we put tape right down the middle of the room. We could not cross into each other’s space. Fortunately, I had the door and closet on my side of the room! Eventually, we grew out of that kind of divisive behavior. We get along great now.
When people start dividing things up, the result is that suffering ensues, and the family happiness is destroyed. We must see this as how essential evil works to destroy families and institutions in our society.
This last week, congress released 3,500+ social media site addresses that were created in Russia in 2016 prior to our elections in this country. What is interesting to note is that these sites were such a variety extremism. Russia was not supporting one side of a national debate but was fueling extremist views on both sides. They produced “Black Lives Matter” propaganda at the same time they were putting out White Supremacy advertisements.
A foreign adversary was just not happy with all of us here in America just trying to get along. They wanted to divide our house so that we would fall as a country. This was an amazingly malevolent and wicked way to attack the fabric of society here in America.
Jesus himself is telling us here that if we want to do away with evil, then we must not allow ourselves to be divided. We must look at what it is that is that is keeping us divided and set that aside. Most of the time it is pride or hurt. Some of the time it is a hatred that has been ingrained into us by others. We must remember that we are called as Christians to love—even our enemies. Matthew 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. . .”
That being said, the best way then to defeat your enemy is to share the love of God through Jesus Christ. Which brings us to the text that appears right before Jesus makes the statement about the house divided. What did Jesus do first? He took away the demon of being mute from a man. We do not know who this man was really, but I want you to consider that there is really only one good reason that Satan would send a demon to this man to make him mute. The man must have been speaking truth about God in heaven. The man must have been preaching the Word of God. Satan heard what he was saying and decided the best that he could do was make him mute.
Of course, nothing really can stop the Word of God. In the Book of Numbers 22:22 and on, is one of my favorite stories. This is the story of Balaam and his donkey. Three times an angel comes to Balaam, but he does not see it. Finally God makes the donkey that Balaam was riding speak to Balaam. The donkey had seen the angel three times. Now the donkey is able to speak directly to the one riding him.
One of the prayers for today then should be that who ever is “riding” you (so to speak) should also heed the angels and hear us speak for God has opened our mouths as well! I a stupid donkey can speak for God, surely we can too. Lord, take away that demon that Satan has sent that has made us mute!
Once the man is able to speak again, we read that the crowds were amazed. Why? It was not just that he could speak again. He was shouting hosannas to Jesus and lifting the grace of God to all who would hear him that day. What else should we do but praise God for all the healing in our lives? Amen?
I want to focus lastly on the final part of today’s scripture in which Jesus tells us that even the Devil knows when he is beat and will stop fighting. Can we read that together in verse 21? “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder.” In other words, worldliness might give you a sense a security if you have money and power. Yet, what is that if God comes for your life?
You can make a deal with the devil. He is always ready for business, giving people that false sense that they are safe in what they are doing. That may work for you for a while. In the end someone greater will come for you! That is God.
From Paul’s letter to the Romans, 8:31 and on: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? . . . .No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things past, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The world in all of its evil is always trying to divide us. Yet, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from—the love of God. If you have the love of God in your home, evil cannot touch you. You are a house NOT divided! You are one in the love of God.
Verse 23: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” God’s love is the action of bringing people together. Whoever is not loving on and sharing the faith, not gathering people together, is therefore scattering people apart.
Be the house that is united in love with God! Let God’s power open your mouth today to speak of this love to others and to invite them into God’s oneness.