Reading: Luke 12.49-53
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, 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 her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Chapters 11 and 12 of Luke’s gospel make difficult reading. Chapter 11 opens with Jesus giving us the perfect model for our prayer life, and then a challenging journey begins. Jesus criticizes Pharisees and lawyers for their superficial and self-interested attitude to the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Then, Jesus turns his attention to us. This week we have been warned about the dangers of worry, greed and selfishness with our God-given gifts and talents. Today, Jesus’ presents us with the starkest of warnings in relation to the way we view the various allegiances we feel we have to our fellow human beings and God.
There are many who portray their Christian faith as a comfortable journey with a dear friend and companion. They go to church, when it is convenient, and they occasionally read their bibles and pray. They do their best to get along with other people, but regularly fall short of loving and forgiving enemies and neighbours. Sometimes they give time, talents and treasure to worthy causes, but they remain very judgemental of many who need their help the most. In fact, they wrap up their Christian faith in a reasonably sized box and make sure that it only gets opened when the challenges aren’t too great. One thing is certain of such comfortable Christianity – it comes nowhere near facing the stark reality of true discipleship.
Today, Jesus presents us with a picture of what such discipleship might well look like. Jesus spells out that his Incarnation was intended to shake things up. Over the last six months we have constantly encountered Jesus teaching us a new way of living. Jesus came to show us how we should be striving to shape our relationship with God, he did not come to pat us on the back and say: ‘Well done!’ This is thrown into sharp relief when we read of how even the closest of families may be split asunder over matters of faith. So often I see good Christian people do anything to avoid ‘offending’ friends and family by speaking about their faith. Such people often believe that, by avoiding conflict and criticism, they are treading the path of peace and goodwill. Today, Jesus is telling us that that is wrong. Today, we are being told, in no uncertain terms, that even if it causes division, it is our Christian duty to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ whenever and wherever we can.
So, when was the last time we avoided speaking of Jesus? When was the last time we stood up for the Christian message even though the result was contempt and conflict? Be assured that God will be with us through the difficult times, but also be assured that keeping quiet and not following the path of discipleship does nothing other than distance us from God.