“Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
Even if Jesus came to bring long division to the earth, I wouldn’t like this passage. As I’ve said all week, these words from Jesus are difficult to hear. This isn’t the Kumbaya Jesus of modern day prophets – you know, the kind that the prophet Jeremiah spoke against in Sunday’s Track 2 Old Testament lesson – who wants to give you “your best life now.”
No, this is the Jesus who has come to stake his claim on your life so that the world might come to know the kingdom of God now. Living a life of the kingdom of God in a world hell-bent on the successes of the kingdoms of power, privilege, money, and self-interest will cause division, of that there is no doubt. However, this reality seems to be difficult for many preachers to name. Instead, we hem and haw about how in the time of Luke’s Gospel, following Jesus might mean getting kicked out of the Synagogue or your family business, but we don’t really know those struggles today.
What we do know is that there continues to be an ongoing battle between the kingdom of God and the powers and principalities of this world. Following Jesus in 21st century American means doing such unpopular things as caring for the poor, showing hospitality to immigrants, honoring the sanctity of all human life, forgiving those who have hurt you, praying for your enemies, showing compassion to the weak, respecting those with whom you disagree, and generally loving your neighbor as yourself. This is 100% counter to the politics of this age that are built upon fear, mistrust, anger, and self-preservation.
Those who are called to live lives of the kingdom today will, no doubt, find themselves at odds with the rhetoric of the day. They won’t fit in with the Republicans or the Democrats, which will make them seem as strange outsiders. It will cause division in a world that is increasingly bipolar; seeing the world only in black and white, or red and blue, with no room for the beautiful color palette that makes up the middle. Jesus came to bring division, but not the sort of division that FoxNews and MSNBC have come to create. Jesus came to tear us away from hateful rhetoric of this world in order to see the beautiful peace of the kingdom of God.