S (Scripture): Luke 12:49 [Jesus said,] “I have come to bring fire on the earth – and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is finished! 51 Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 For from now on there will be five in one household divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
O (Observation): Family was everything to a first century household. Working together (for Jewish or Gentile households) was key to sustaining life. If a family broke apart lives could be lost due to a lack of sustenance.
The coming of a savior was thought to bring peace. Life is full of worries and troubles, and yet, Jesus says he’s to bring division! What the what?!?!?
Perhaps Jesus is helping the audience to understand the most important allegiance of all – allegiance to Christ. Even above family ties, one is to remember that one receives true identity from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, above all others. An identity in Christ might cause disruption of a family tie, but only insofar as family members disagree in how they are to view their relationship to Christ. Christ first, family second.
A (Application): I’ve read Divergent, a young adult fiction set in a future, post-apocalyptic setting. (Post-apocalyptic in the literary sense, not biblical.) In this book, at a certain age, young adults designate themselves into factions. Each faction plays a certain role in society, for good order. Once they choose that faction, they cannot leave it. The phrase they use to reinforce this belief is this: “Faction before blood.”
A character might choose a different faction from other family members. If that is the case, they have essentially cut off any long-term relations with their families. Again, this is for “good order.”
Some of the characters find themselves working for the greater good, though, choosing not to live by the motto of faction before blood. And, as could be expected, these hard-line divisions cause animosity between the groups in the book, Divergent.
I find the book an interesting commentary on life today. We find many ways to divide ourselves into categories, which reinforces our fractured nature as a people (locally and globally).
Jesus tries to lift us beyond the comfort of family ties and other affiliations. Jesus moves us beyond the comfort of “our people.” With an identity secure in Christ, through baptism, I am now called to see “people” – not “my” people and “your” people…simply, people.
In the congregation I serve, we are trying to live out this moral value. We have several principles we embody:
- Jesus is Lord and Savior
- All people are God’s people
- God has a path for each of us
- God’s grace leads us to faith and obedience
These values are what we try to embody at Advent Lutheran Church, in Murfreesboro, TN. These values, given by direction of the Holy Spirit, cause us to live outside of the superficial peace that drives most of our lives. We live in a sometimes uncomfortable tension, worried about the anger or discomfort we might feel in living out these values. And yet, we feel led to keep the conversations going…conversations of the Gospel calling us to love our neighbor, in spite of the tensions that exist.
I urge you to consider how Jesus might have caused you to question or challenge your priorities, and to discover what values Jesus is calling you to live out.
P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see our values as reflections of living out your love here on earth. Amen.