Based on: Luke 12:49-53
Why did I come to St. John’s? I know – God called me here, but did you think I would come and be nice to everyone? Did you think I would come and tell all of you to be nice to everyone else and not make others upset? If that’s what you thought, you are mistaken! I came to deliver God’s message to you. I came to do my best to be Christ’s representative among you. To show you the love of Christ. To deal with you as Christ would deal with you.
That means that to the repentant sinner I will say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace!” But that also means sometimes I have to say the difficult thing that causes anger, hatred, and division. I have to say, “This offends God! This goes against what God says.” If I didn’t say those things, I wouldn’t be following Jesus. You too, as you follow Jesus will be the cause of conflict and division. That’s what Jesus said. Jesus brings division and everyone who follows Jesus will experience that division. To follow Jesus means conflict with the world. Expect it. But blessings come with and through the conflict so also cherish it.
Jesus is not talking about a division in the family because you can’t decide who is going to host the Thanksgiving meal this year or because you disagree on how to arrange the furniture. It is more than that. Real Christ-induced division comes when those holding on to God’s Word clash with those holding on to their own ungodly desires and ideas.
Realize that when Jesus came to this earth, he was not coming to a friendly place, but a hostile one that would eventually take his life. He came into enemy territory to establish his kingdom as a base of operations in this sinful world. He came with the specific purpose of causing division between you, whom he has called to faith, and the unrepentant in this world. When God brought you to faith, you stopped being at peace with the world and at war with God and you switched sides. Now you are at peace with God and at war with a sinful world.
That means there will be conflict with unbelievers, with those who teach false things about God’s Word, and with those who simply want to follow their own ideas of right and wrong. Don’t be surprised when that conflict comes. Expect it.
Certainly, it is obvious there will be conflict between the Christian and the unbeliever. When it comes to evolution, abortion, the definition of marriage, there is all sorts of conflict. Instead, let me give you two examples that might hit closer to home, after all, Jesus makes it clear that this conflict will happen even in families..
The first example starts with this quote, “We really do die and cease to exist. We will not be saved by a heroic soulechtomy, that is, by extracting an immaterial soul from our material body. Sin is a cancer that eats away at the totality of human existence leaving no organ, whether physical or spiritual, uninfected. The resulting death means true extinction”
You can find this quote in the book, “God – The World’s Future” by Ted Peters. Ted Peters is a professor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in California, one of the seminaries of the ELCA. According to Mr. Peters, when you die, you cease to exist. There is no resurrection. However, you know that God promises just the opposite. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if you don’t believe there is a real resurrection of your body, then it is pointless to preach Christ or believe in him.
Think about that! A seminary professor who teaches future pastors in the ELCA saying there is no resurrection. And he is not the only professor in the ELCA teaching this and the ELCA is not the only church body teaching this to their future pastors. Think about the problems that creates. Don’t you think the false idea of no resurrection will get passed on to their members? Do you think those pastors are able to give much comfort at a funeral? Are they leading their flock to Christ or away from Christ? Do you see why there is a division between us and them, just as Christ promised?
This very likely affects all of us in the way Jesus mentioned – in our families. As other family members attend churches that teach things contrary to God’s Word there will be conflict – perhaps in discussions about God’s Word, perhaps when we ask them not to take the Lord’s Supper with us. Expect conflict. Jesus promised it.
Here is another example of the division that Jesus brings even in families. A set of parents have a grown child who is living with a boyfriend or girlfriend. In other words, they are acting like a married couple without being married. This goes against what God wants for marriage. Just look at the 6th commandment or passages like Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
But what should the parents do? Just accept it or say something to the child and risk their relationship with that child? God would have parents and all of us warn that child of their sin and what it is doing to their relationship with God. To warn someone caught in sin really is the loving thing to do, but in case there is doubt about that remember what Jesus said, “anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Expect conflict.
None of us really wants to be involved in this conflict. We usually want to avoid it, but look at where you live. You live in a sinful world and, even though many claim to be religious, they reject God and his Word. Jesus said “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” You can be sure that as you remain faithful to Jesus, you will experience conflict. Expect it. Jesus promised it.
Yes, Jesus promised it and because Jesus promised it you can be sure that conflict is a necessary part of being a Christian in this world. You can be sure Jesus will use it in a loving way for your good. For that reason you can cherish the conflict that comes from being a Christian.
But why the conflict? I thought the angel said “Peace on earth” when Jesus was born. Yes, and Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace”, but it is not a worldly peace. It is not a peace with the world, but peace with God – a peace far more valuable than any other, a peace that means we can stand before our creator, confident that he will not send us away, but receive us as children.
This peace comes to us without any effort or cost on our part, but for Jesus the cost was heavy and the effort great. To secure this peace for us with God he endured conflict after conflict while walking this earth, always pointing out false teaching, always pointing out sin . . . always calling people to repent and receive the peace he would give them. Then he endured the conflict with the world that put him on the cross, and more than that he endured the division with his heavenly Father that is hell. He did that because we deserve to have that division between us and God. He suffered it so we wouldn’t.
Have you avoided conflict in the past? Have you avoided the conflict Jesus is talking about and by avoiding conflict shown contempt for the peace you have with God? Doesn’t that bother your conscience? It is forgiven – wiped away. God no longer sees your sine because Jesus brings you peace with God.
This is the peace we want. This is the peace for which we will suffer conflict with the world. We can cherish the conflict because we know the peace that comes with it.
I know conflict is not pleasant, but there are other reasons for saying we can cherish our conflict with the world. It drives us to Christ and as it drives us to Christ, it also draws us to one another. It helps sharpen our understanding of God’s Word – we learn better what we believe. It separates us from a sinful world that tries to pull us away from Christ.
Do you know what Jesus is telling us here? One conclusion we can draw from these words is this: being a Christian is not easy. Jesus is warning us that as we follow him we can expect conflict. But remember what Jesus told us last week – Do not be afraid, little flock, the kingdom is yours. As we endure this division with the world we can also cherish it, because it means we have peace with God.