Based on: Luke 12:49-53
It can really put a knot in your stomach, when you have something difficult to tell someone. You know it is something that needs to be said, but you don’t know how it will be received or maybe you do and that is what makes it difficult. Sometimes as Christians there are difficult things that need to be said, and it is out of love for others and concern for their souls that we are compelled to say the difficult things. We must tell the truth, what God’s word says is truth, because that is what’s best for the soul. That is the “tough love” that will rescue lost souls from hell, but this kind of love will also cause division.
In Luke Chapter 12 Jesus tells us to stay focused on him and on the eternal kingdom that we have, but here in these words of Jesus that we read today, Jesus warns us there are consequences in this world for remaining in the truth. Jesus, who loves your soul enough to die for it, tells us that he did not come to this world to bring peace. He came to bring division. He promises conflict and strife because of him.
Why then did the angels sing, "Peace to men" when Jesus was born? So many people misunderstand what the angels said. They think there should be peace between men. There should no longer be wars or fights on the earth, and we should all live happily together. But that’s not what the angels said. Rather than a promise of peace on earth between men, with Christ’s birth there is now peace between God and man. Jesus makes clear his purpose, "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." We will never have world peace until this sinful world is replaced with the “new heavens and new earth” promised by God on Judgment Day.
In these verses, Jesus tells us when He, who is the truth, came into this world there would be conflict. Jesus wants Christians to cling to him, the truth, and to separate themselves from false teachings that damage the soul. It is been said, "There can be no true love where there is not also true hatred – no love of truth without abhorrence of error.” (C.P. Krauth) You cannot love the truth, and then also love what contradicts this truth. If you love the one, you will hate the other. This causes the conflict between Christians who hold on to the truth of God’s word and others who are opposed to this truth in this world – even conflict with Christians who hold on to false teaching. At times this conflict even happens among members of the same family. As painful as these divisions can be, it exposes the true nature of this world – that it is opposed to Christ and his truth. This conflict increases our desire for that heavenly kingdom to come where there will be no conflict.
Christ promises division on this earth, and yet some will try to create their own unity. There are two church organizations that come to mind. These two organizations have an agreement of fellowship between them. They claim to have unity and yet one of these organizations agrees with Scripture that homosexuality is wrong, that it is a sin just like any other sin. They will offer forgiveness for those who repent of this sin. The other organization, however, accepts homosexuality and even allows pastors who live with their homosexual partners to remain as pastors in the church. Do these two organizations really have unity? If God says something is wrong, what business do we have ignoring God’s command for the sake of the appearance of unity? This may seem like unity to some, but it is not unity with God.
The difficult part is when this division happens in families. Jesus says, “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 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."
When these words of Jesus come true and families are not united in God’s truth, you can feel it in the pit of your stomach. It creates stress and tension. It happens when a family member is living in sin. You need to tell them they are disobeying God. You need to tell them that for their own spiritual good, but it can cause division and the words of Christ are proved true. Maybe there is a family member who does not trust Jesus as their savior and you tell them they are a sinner and they need a savior. That can cause division and the words of Christ are proved true. It may even happen when a family member says something that is contrary to God’s Word, and we need to gently correct them with the words of Scripture.
We could easily tell them what they want to hear and keep peace in the relationship, but wouldn’t that be a lie? Would it be loving? Would you tell your teenage son its ok for him to take the car and see just how fast it will go? That’s probably exactly what he wants to hear, but that statement is very likely to cause him some pain at some point –maybe not the first time he takes the car, but maybe the second or third.
We could tell our friends and relatives exactly what they want to hear about Jesus Christ or just keep quiet. Some might say how loving you are to overlook their faults, but is it love? Does it create real peace or just a superficial peace? Does it bring them closer to their Savior or closer to hell? Some may call Christians arrogant and ask, "How do you know what the truth is?" But as we study God’s Word, the Holy Spirit shows us the truth. As your shepherd, God has commanded me not only to proclaim to you the truth of God’s word, but also to warn you of those who teach false ideas.
Sharing the truth of God’s word with someone in a loving way is the most loving thing you can do, but often you will not be thanked for it. You may even be called unloving. Remember how Jesus tried to call the Pharisees to repentance, and they had him crucified for it. We don’t go looking for conflict and we don’t disagree for the sake of argument, but our goal is always in love to share the truth.
Our Lord wants peace and unity within his church. He wants true unity, which is unity in the truth. True unity happens when all of us agree with God and his word. Agreeing to disagree is not unity and agreeing with each other even though we disagree with God’s word is also not unity. We don’t give up the truth for a false peace on earth. That will separate us from God.
I, like many other Christians, have struggled with these issues that cause division, and I have not always handled them in ways that I would be proud of. But the truth that sometimes creates division with others is the same truth that unites us with God in Christ. That truth is Christ’s life and death for me and for you. The truth is God forgives me and God forgives you for Christ’s sake. When he looks at us he sees Christ and what he has done for us.
Our true peace and unity is with our Savior. We wait for the day he will bring us to heaven’s perfect peace where there is no division and no war and we live in unity with our brother’s and sisters in Christ.