Sunderer or Peacemaker?
“ I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.”
“Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Lk. 12:49-53
I’ll bet most people think that sweet, loving Jesus came to bring peace. Many raised in the 70’s went through a religious education program that was all about the warm fuzzies of religion and made lots of banners saying, I “heart” Jesus! It was very poor catechesis and children learned little about the true faith. The approach was most likely a counter to an image of God as harsh, ever watchful to catch us doing bad and always judgmental. All of it was poor theology complicated by erroneous misinterpretations of Vatican II.
Jesus actually told us that he came to bring division and that this division would tear families apart. He came to sunder the excessive legalities of the old law and introduce the new law of love and mercy. The Pharisees saw this as heresy. The zealots saw it as weakness and not what the Messiah king was supposed to do; that is defeat Rome. Many suffer from the illusion that love is all sweetness with no discord, no need to forgive or work out differences. Remember that song ‘Love means never having to say I’m sorry’ ! That’s Hollywood babble. Love is hard work, at times it’s painful, it requires letting go of self and being willing to compromise. It means being willing to forgive and being patient. Jesus’ life and death are the ultimate example of true love taken to the limit; an excruciating death just to prove the lengths to which his love will go to keep you for himself.
This is the fire he came to enkindle upon earth and he was eagerly longing to get it started. Jesus wants to set us on fire. Fire purifies, burns the dross and melts us to the degree we can be molded into a glorious creation worthy of our destiny. He longs to separate evil from our
lives, our actions, our desires. He wants to set our hearts on fire to love only what he loves and to hate only what he hates. He wants us to be saints!
In another context, he spoke of separating sheep from goats. The sheep are on fire with love for their shepherd and will do whatever he asks, follow him trustingly and faithfully. The goats will go their own way. God will never violate the gift of free will that he has given us. Choose life or death. Eternal life with the God head or eternal misery and suffering in Hell with the Father of all those lies you followed.
This is the division he came to create on earth. That having encountered Jesus we would be so enflamed with love for him that his will is also our will, our choice. Gladly choosing everything he desires for us and for us. No sacrifice would be too great. The New Testament is a love story. Jesus shows us what becomes of those who refuse to follow him. It is their own choice not something God does to them. Daily Jesus reaches out to sinners as he did to the good thief on Calvary. Remember that the other thief spurned Jesus. Just because both thieves suffered the same kind of death does not mean they met the same end. Each made a choice.
As children, our parents often tried to separate us from negative influences. We probably didn’t agree with them but trusted their wisdom and love for us. We also know that some kids rebelled and did not always come to a good end. Good parents try to create the divisions that will protect. It’s only as we mature that we see the good of it all and relinquish the resentments toward our controlling parents. Family life is supposed to be a microcosm of God’s kingdom and the rules he sets before us. If we grew up in a house that had fair rules designed to teach us how to be contributing members of the family, as well as good citizens but most of all to be good Christians, we were blessed Jesus’ rules are no different. Follow his way and the reward is beyond your greatest dreams The journey may be fraught with fire but perseverance will win the prize. “Keep your eyes on the prize.”
Jesus never promised that his followers would live in bliss on earth. He said that we would meet conflict and persecution just as he did. We may even be betrayed by those we love.
Recall how under Stalin’s rule children were taught in school to betray their own parents for violating Stalin’s edicts. Jesus asked how we would plead when we are dragged before the tribunal. If we are not for him we are against him. There is no middle ground. Save yourself in this life and you may lose Heaven but if you lose your life for His sake then bliss awaits you in the next. God grant us the fortitude to stand our ground for your sake.