Do you do division well? Difference of opinion furnishes opportunity for decision. Jesus is comfortable with his followers having to make decisions about how to live with division. That tension of real life shows what our faith is made of and shows Jesus to the world…
49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 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.”
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. This is one of his Christmas identities for which we worship him as the baby in the manger. Joy and peace. Reconciliation. In Ephesians 2 we see that Jesus is our peace. He brings us into reconciliation with the Father and also breaks down the dividing walls between people groups. All true.
So how do we reconcile those truths with Jesus’ words, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division,” which are spoken as prophecy regarding the discord Jesus would bring? It’s a both-and. There is no escaping, though, that when people follow Jesus and believe upon him for salvation, and worship him for his sacrifice on the cross, division results.
I have been following Jesus for 30 years. I have seen this division first hand. Some of this division was at my own hand. A zealous, young follower of Christ was keen to share the truth with those around me in my immediate family. I strained the relationships in my actions. Likewise, the atheist family friend was quick to criticize and ridicule, putting a date to when my new-found faith would fizzle out.
When issues emerge in the world around us, family members will have to agree to disagree on many topics. When life events occur (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc) relationships are tested. For the follower of Jesus, there are always choices to make – decisions to make – about how to follow Jesus and reflect Jesus and share Jesus. As much as we can intend to be winsome, division can result.
Difference of opinion furnishes opportunity for decision. I think Jesus is quite comfortable with his followers being pushed into making decisions about how to live as his followers. It is within that tension of real life that Jesus can see what our faith is made of. And without the contrast of followers of Jesus living as examples of discipleship, family members will not see the difference Jesus makes to a person’s life.
Do you do division well? I don’t always. I’m learning to do it better as I gather more experience and wisdom. If I push people away with my approach to our differences, I won’t have the opportunity to say anything, let alone what Jesus would want me to say. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” (Romans 12:18).
The truth is, division isn’t going away. As long as someone follows Jesus, there will be division. It’s what we do with division that shows our mettle in following and representing Jesus in the world…