Division isn’t something I’m all that crazy about. Especially right now, in this incredibly divisive presidential election season. I want us all to be harmonious and unified over the things that are really important, and not worry too much about the things that aren’t.
Maybe everyone feels that way (except for the few who live for division and controversy). The problem is, of course, that we can’t agree on the really important things.
That may be what Jesus has in mind here:
‘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.’ [from Luke 12]
I’m guessing the disciples must be pretty confused by this. I know I am. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?”
Well, yes, actually.
Jesus said a lot of things about peace. I love to preach about peace and unity and think they are some of the most important principles by which his followers stand.
He’s making an important rhetorical point here. Yes, peace is important. But so is justice. Real peace brings justice. The famous Pax Romana (Roman Peace) of the time wasn’t true peace at all. It may have embodied one of the signs of peace—the absence of war. But in order to preserve that truncated view of peace many, many people and cultural groups were oppressed, kept from full cultural expression, forced to use a language that wasn’t theirs, prohibited from following some of their religious practices.
That isn’t peace. And it certainly isn’t justice.
When we promote real justice and thereby seek true peace, we may anger the powers that be (whether they are capitalist, socialist, communist, Democratic, Republican, or Independent). When we seek liberty and justice for all as a religious practice—and we can’t even all seem to agree about what that kind of justice looks like—we may find ourselves creating division. Jesus certainly found that to be true.
In our culture, we try to thread the needle that allows us to make peace (and justice) and also attempt to keep the peace. Honestly, they are both laudable goals.
And they are also often difficult to accomplish.
© 2016, Melissa Bane Sevier