Jesus and Division
“Do you suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, you see, families will be split down the middle: three against two in a family of five, and two against three, 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.”
Luke 12:51-53 Jesus didn’t come to bring peace on the earth?! That does not sit well with the title of my blog and podcast! In fact, that doesn’t sit well with the Gospel! The Gospel is good news about the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven; of course it should in mean peace on the earth. In fact, when Jesus was born, the angels declared: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace upon the earth among those in His favor.” Luke 2:14 “Ah,” says the Calvinist “it is peace for God’s elect, but destruction for the unbelieving!” Maybe so, but this needs more teasing out. Do we imagine God’s elect to be a group of pre-approved people who sit smugly by, listening to Jesus tell others the truth while we sit back comfortably, being vindicated at every corner by our exalted leader? We would never articulate it like this, but isn’t it more or less how we think? Jesus may have some hard words to say, but we are the elect, we are the predestined-to -believe-people, we are the people who believe “the truth”, and none of Jesus’ words really phase us. We are already on the inside… This is actually a very similar disposition to some of those whom Jesus came to in Luke’s gospel. Israel was God’s elect. Israel was waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. Many thought that the Messiah would come and destroy the enemies of Israel, set-up God’s kingdom and vindicate the elect, that is, the true Israel. These actions would result in “peace upon the earth among those in His favor.” Yet, when Jesus finally did come, He brought healing and He had power and He claimed to be ushering in God’s Kingdom, but He was also stepping on the toes of many of the “elect”. The Pharisees, for example, were an unofficial power-block, made up of mostly lay people though including some priests, who worked breathlessly to purify Israel and in that way to speed the coming of the Messiah. Their whole purpose was to prepare Israel for God’s saving action. Yet, the Pharisees and Jesus often did not see eye to eye and they began to have confrontations with growing animosity. Jesus may have been doing amazing acts of healing, but His presence and person was becoming more and more divisive. The Pharisees saw themselves as the guardians of the purity and piety of the nation, the ones who made sure people lived as true Israelites. Yet, Jesus was claiming to redefine what it meant to be Israel around Himself! The “elect” were having their loyalty and their ideas questioned and they did not like it one bit. So, yes, Jesus came to establish God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and this will result in peace among those in His favor and ultimately in the whole world but, in the meantime, it will also mean division even among families as competing definitions of what is important battle for dominance. “What makes the elect, the elect?” Jesus said it was when you believed in His movement and followed Him. The Pharisees said that Jesus was of the devil. That’s pretty divisive. So, what about you? Are you part of the elect? What do you think about Jesus?