Family

Family
Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pentecost 13. "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."


So often we hear the message that Jesus has come to give us a peaceful, easy feeling in our hearts and peace in our homes in the present, and that only at the end of time will there be fire and a great division. And yet, both the gospel narratives and the witness of so many courageous Jesus-followers reveal a quite different picture: we're called to stand right now today with Jesus "in the fire"—even at the cost of conflict in our most cherished relationships—and we can do so because of our allegiance to the peaceable kingdom which is the world's coming future.

The strongest ties and responsibilities in Jewish society are those of family. If the words in verse 53 (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) seem strange to us, try to imagine how they were heard by a society based on the family unit. Separation from family would have potentially led to disinheritance and loss of status with all those around you. Is Jesus promoting or advocating family strife: NO, His purpose is not to create trouble, but to end it! Yet He knows that tension might result when some members of a family trust Him, while others do not. Think of the issue of tithing…….a wife who converts decides that 1/10 of the family income now belongs and goes to God….the unconverted husband may (?) disagree…….division will result! That is what Jesus predicts here. It’s a warning………choosing to live my way is going to give rise to problems with the people around you. Try being an accountant in a firm that wrangles the books a bit and you now have to tell them I can’t do the books that way anymore. Can you see why Jesus says “I have come to bring division.” Jesus is emphasising that the true disciple will need to be ready for conflict even with those who are closest to them. So why is our natural tendency to stay quiet? Conflict seems somehow wrong, so we compromise our stance in order to be accepted and not stand out from the crowd.

Increasingly the views of believers are marginalised in society and many of us say nothing. Perhaps we no longer know what to say. We have become like the people of Jesus’ day – not knowing how to interpret and speak out about the issues of the day.

Jesus’ challenge to us is that we should be willing to stand up for what we believe – whatever the cost.

People say they have problems with parts of the Old Testament or with Paul’s letters, but the most disturbing words often come from Jesus’ lips. I’ve noticed that the NG Kerk opposite Alberton High School has a big sign saying: “Jesus het wat gese?”


 Here the Prince of Peace speaks of fire on earth and division in families. Fire is destructive and frightening. It can also energise, however, and put passion into a person.

When we make a stand as Christians, we will win approval from some and disapproval from others. Clarity of conviction, matched by a distinctive lifestyle, always polarises response, even amongst those who are close in other ways. Here is Jesus’ wake-up call to the lethargic, a call to wholehearted discipleship.

It is love and truth on fire that change society. (Shireen’s story) The spark to ignite them is found in the costly passion of our Lord, into which Jesus would soon be plunged “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” That weekend of death and resurrection would ignite a worldwide movement that continues to this day.  

The focus moves from fire to weather. People carefully notice the wind direction and clouds when their livelihood is at stake. So the people that Jesus was talking to knew that a wind from the Mediterranean to the west brought rain and that a wind from the southern deserts brought heat. He says to them that they need to apply the same intelligence to interpreting spiritual things. If they do not, they are clearly only pretending to be interested in the spiritual, and so He justifiably calls them hypocrites. Yet the people were slow to learn from the times and forecast the future.

For Jesus’ generation there was a reluctance to face the consequences of the growing move towards rebellion against Rome. Sadly, inevitably, disaster crashed down a generation later. Nor would they see who was standing before them, speaking. But do we? What do you see in our times?

With the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone, we have the weather forecast for the day. We trust that someone reliable has read the signs well, and we dress for the day and plan our activities accordingly.

With Jesus, as we’ve seen these last few weeks during this series, all the signs of the approaching reign of God have been given: "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them" (Luke 7:22). How hypocritical for someone to act on faith in a weather forecast or an economic forecast or the gestures of love in a relationship budding toward bloom, and yet remain noncommittal about the signs of the visitation of God that is already taking place among us!

Jesus has come!......and His coming demands a response on our part. He warns us today that our positive response to Him might well draw a negative response from those we love. If this is your experience, take heart and hang in there. He does not yet rule the world in all His glory, so the time of the fulfilment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies of world peace are not yet realised….we don’t yet see people beating their swords, assault rifles, drones into ploughshares! But that doesn’t stop us praying for His Kingdom to come, knowing, because He has warned us, that being Kingdom people will actually bring division…..some will acknowledge Him as Messiah, while others will not, even in the same family, so families will be split down the middle on this issue.
In Him, there is strength to stand apart from the crowd, even when that crowd is people we love and who actually love us….that’s the sad irony.

So often we hear the message that Jesus has come to give us a peaceful, easy feeling in our hearts and peace in our homes in the present, and that only at the end of time will there be fire and a great division. And yet, both the gospel narratives and the witness of so many courageous Jesus-followers reveal a quite different picture: we're called to stand right now today with Jesus "in the fire"—even at the cost of conflict in our most cherished relationships—and we can do so because of our allegiance to the peaceable kingdom which is the world's coming future.

Make no mistake, in Jesus God is accomplishing peace. He is the "dawn from on high breaking upon us...to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79). 

Lord, you said that the peacemakers are blessed. Mold me into an instrument of your peace, and keep me that way when others take offense. Make me a messenger of the future victory you have already won. Amen.





No comments: