Family Lessons 95: Families Divided

I have already written about my ancestor, Lawrence Breres, who fought in the civil war for the King and Earl of Derby, and his nephew Edward, who fought for the Parliament as captain in Alexander Rigby’s regiment. Neither did well out of the war- one paid with his goods, the other with his life. Yet it is remarkable that they were on opposing sides; it is even likely that they faced each other, with Rigby commanding the siege of Lathom at which Lawrence was a defender. Those awful wars divided families, generations and friendships. The most famous example of the latter is that of Sir Ralph Hopton and Sir William Waller. When it was learned that both were on opposing sides, Hopton wrote to Waller requesting a meeting, which was declined. Waller’s last letter to his friend follows:


The experience I have of your worth and the happiness I have enjoyed in your friendship are wounding considerations when I look at this present distance between us. Certainly, my affection to you is so unchangeable that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship, but I must be true wherein the cause I serve. That great God, which is the searcher of my heart, knows with what a sad sense I go about this service, and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as an Opus Domini and that is enough to silence all passion in me. The God of peace in his good time will send us peace. In the meantime, we are upon the stage and must act those parts that are assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do so in a way of honour and without personal animosities.

Whatever the outcome I will never willingly relinquish the title of Your most affectionate friend. William Waller

Whether uncle and nephew could summon such generosity of spirit is not known. Blood may be thicker than water, but it can also prove to be rather more bitter. There are many things that divide modern families, such as politics, football, Brexit and money. Yet the greatest division is between those who believe the gospel and those who do not. It is the fence between the sheep and the goats, the differential between heaven and hell, between rightness with God and opposition to His kingdom.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53, NKJV)

If your unbelieving families tolerate and respect your Christian faith, rejoice, while praying their eyes may be opened. If they reject it, remember that Jesus’ own brothers also rejected Him while He walked among them. If the war between Charles and his parliament divided families, how much more the ancient war between good and evil, light and darkness?