An Urgent Message About Division

Last Sunday morning in our message about Abraham riding in to save Lot, like an old William Wallace on a camel, I mentioned how Abraham brought rescue and redemption by setting the captives free. I then showed how it all relates to our Great God coming to rescue us. I closed the message with a quote from John Piper that said that there were six reasons for Jesus coming:

  1. To ransom many,
  2. To call sinners,
  3. To give sight to the morally blind,
  4. To divide households,
  5. To save from divine condemnation,
  6. To give eternal life.

I have had someone in my own GC asked about number 4: To Divide Households. After my GC left for their homes I checked my email and another GC leader had emailed me the same question. I thought I should/could briefly answer it to clear up any confusion.
There are a couple places where Jesus talks about division, such as Matthew 10:34-35, but let’s use Luke 12:49-53 because it adds a few dynamics.
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! Fire refers to judgment…so there is a judgment coming.
50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!  This is referring to his death on the cross for our sins.
51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.For from now on in one house there will be five 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.”
First, notice the “on earth” part from verse 51. He did not come to bring peace on this earth as we understand it. He did not come to change the social structure of this world, He came to change His people and bring peace (reconciliation) between God and us again. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came there would be a time of world peace. But Jesus is clearly showing how following Him, though it brings peace between God and us, usually brings division to relationships around us.
Simply preaching a social gospel that tries to get people to change their behavior misunderstands the nature of sin and what it has done, and continues to do, to people. Every time the Bible speaks about offering peace to humans (Luke 2:14; 7:50; 8:48; 10:5-6; Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:13-17), we have to understand that peace comes to those who have responded to God’s call of salvation.
A sword divides and exposes as it cuts. When people respond to Christ’s call it typically brings division to families. I know young men whose fathers will not even speak to them because the sons follow Jesus. I know children who stop speaking to their parents because the parents followed Jesus later in life and are now preaching the gospel to their kids who want nothing to do with Jesus. I know Muslims, Mormon’s and Jehovah Witnesses who now follow Christ and the rest of their family will no longer even speak to them.

The sword Jesus brings exposes the true love of our hearts, whether it is Jesus or someone (or something else).  In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul speaks of the cross being folly to most of the world, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Where we should be a people who strive for reconciliation, the cross, by its nature, will divide the proud and arrogant from the broken and humble.
The peace on earth that Jesus brings, from being born in a manger, is a peace that is extended to those who love God. That peace is then extended through us, as God's ambassadors, and flows out from us by preaching the gospel. Jesus came to change us, and through us partnering with Him, just like in Genesis 1-2, to change and shape the world into a place that truly reflects the greater glory of God.