Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

Luke 12: 51

 

I must admit that I don’t frequently think of Jesus in this manner. Now, I am long past those Sunday school images of the kind faced, soft bearded young European man who was carrying a lamb on His shoulders. The Jesus that I have encountered in God’s Word and in life is strong, wise, all knowing, merciful, and has a nature that is subtle and nuanced and ranges from the darkness of wrath to the light of glory. So, encountering the divisive Christ should not surprise or even startle me. Yet it does. The Christ of my usual thoughts is the reconciler of humanity to God and of people to each other. However, in this instance, I think that Jesus is actually talking about that very thing with these words of stern warning.

 

God demands certain things from us. We are to live in a manner that reflects Him in this world, and we are to do this because we know and respect Him. In order to gain these relational characteristics of knowledge and respect we are required to submit ourselves in total to God through Jesus Christ. This is a point of division among people. We have never been good at submission. Almost no one wants to give up our sense of complete freedom of choice in order to follow the will of another, and this remains true even when that other is God, Himself. But God does require this. In Christ, He was also willing to suffer and to take the pain of the penalty for sin upon Himself in complete obedience to the Father’s will, and in this suffering, death, and resurrection we also find a point of division in our world.

 

We want a King who sits in regal splendor in our world and who grants us a place of power, authority, and ease at His side. We dream of a time and a place where the royal command of our world’s ruler will remove all of our discomfort and loss. Yet, that is not the world where we live, and this is not the way that God has ordered things in His Creation. As we follow Christ we enter into the division that He causes. By virtue of allegiance to Christ we are separated from other people, and the only way for this division to be resolved is by and through a common bond with Christ. For followers of Christ, this tension and the rejection of others is something that we need to understand and accept as an on-going aspect of life. Yet, we, like Christ, do not need to settle into acceptance of separation, for we can join Him in seeking to know and to love the very people with whom our relationship with Christ has caused division.