[Jesus said:] “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? (NIV)
Jesus says he has come to bring division. I’m quite sure I don’t like that. I don’t want to be divided from those I love. I don’t want to be embroiled in controversy. I don’t want the tension. I don’t want the hard feelings. I don’t want to be out of sorts. And yet, Jesus says he comes to bring division.
How do we understand it? What is the goal here?
I do not think for even one minute that division is the goal. The goal is to be true to God. The goal is to be ‘all in’ following Jesus. The goal is to be wholehearted in our commitment to living a Jesus kind of life; that is lifting up the lowly, healing the broken, encouraging the disheartened, doing justice, showing mercy, walking humbly with God.
Obedience to God’s will is different from obedience to ourselves and our own desires. Our society tells us to look out for #1. It’s all about personal satisfaction. The media promotes a culture of competition. If I am good, the other has to be bad. If the other is good, that is bad for me. That is NOT God’s way. God’s away says what is good for you is good for me. God’s way is the way of love. God’s way is the way of acceptance. God’s way is the way of cooperation. But that is not a popular worldview. The popular worldview is that everything is a competition, but in God’s creation, everything is in balance. There is enough for everyone.
When we have spent our whole lives living the way of the world, the way of competition, becoming obedient to God leads to a complete change in behavior. Obedience to God brings division in the short run, but not more division than obedience to ourselves has brought. In the long run, obedience to God—loving our neighbor, being an agent of healing, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, freeing those who are confined—all of it brings peace, harmony, hope, and justice in the long run. But realize, it won’t be popular, because it will eat into someone’s profit. It will compromise someone’s power base. It will level the playing field. It will honor God, but it will be hated by the world. Loving his neighbor got Jesus killed, but he decided it was worth it. He didn’t fight it. He wasn’t about to substitute hatred for the love he had spent his whole life practicing. He even forgave his tormenters from the cross. How loving is that!
So only you can decide.
Is it worth it? Is it better to honor God or to be popular with your peers? Is it better to be ‘all in’ with God or fit in with our culture?
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.