I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)
The image we have of Jesus is as the Prince of Peace. And that’s totally appropriate.
Then we come to today’s scripture. The words that Jesus speak seem somewhat at odds with all that he taught. The image of loving him bringing discord even within families seems harsh and equally at odds with the Jesus we follow.
Why did Jesus link fire from heaven with costly division on the earth? Did he expect his followers to take his statement of “father against son and son against father” and “mother against daughter and daughter against mother” literally? Or was he intentionally using a figure of speech to emphasize the choice and cost of following him above all else?
Jesus was challenging his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ.
It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do.
Doing what God wants us to do is at the heart of this message. You and I are called to be more than peace makers but rather you and I are called to be defenders of peace and defenders of the truth.
How is that?
As long as we live in a world where injustice and evil are present, opposing that evil and injustice is necessary. And opposing evil is hardly peaceful. Jesus does indeed call us to peace, but getting to peace is often disturbing and painful.
If we make keeping the peace our highest priority, we will never allow ourselves to upset or disturb anyone. We will always be inclined to not rock the boat. Such an approach runs the risk of covering over the injustice and evil that are present among us.
When it tolerates evil, keeping the peace is contrary to God’s kingdom.
Keeping the peace can lead us not to confront a member of our family about his/her addiction. Keeping the peace can lead us to turn our heads when we confront abuse. Keeping the peace can lead us to a shrug of the shoulders when a person in authority ignores the rights of another.
But standing up for the truth and what is just leads us to serve the cause of peace and all that the Prince of Peace taught. Often that leads to fire.
The fire you see in a teenager’s eyes when you say “no” because the request is either wrong or potentially harmful. The fire you see in an employee’s eyes who has been a disruptive force in the workplace and, after several admonitions, you must end the employment. The fire you see in your friends’ eyes when you point out that jokes about another’s sexual orientation, or looks, or race are pure and simply wrong.
Each of these times, and many more, are those instances that set us apart. Being set apart can feel divisive.
But in the end, we need to decide if we are serving the Prince of Peace or just keeping the peace. That is a call each of us needs to make.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may the fire of your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Fill me with the power of your Holy Spirit that I may always seek to please you and do your will.”
The scripture message is good news for those who seek pardon, peace, and the abundant life which God offers us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus offers true freedom to those who believe in him – freedom from slavery to sin, Satan, and the oppressive forces of hatred and evil that can destroy body, mind, and spirit. Do you listen to the voice of your Savior and trust in his word? Commit your ways to him, obey his word, and you will find true peace, joy, and happiness in the Lord your God.