The Divider

Luke 12:51-“Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus dismisses something more intimate than the dream of world peace in these words. Even our most intimate relationships, even family, can be divided by the gospel. He pictures for us a small Jewish family with a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter. The son has married, and in ancient tradition, he and his wife live in his parents’ household. His sister is unmarried and lives at home, too.

To our modern minds, married children living with their parents might sound like a recipe for division in the family. But that is not the way it was in Jesus’ day. This was a generally accepted and usually workable arrangement. In this case, however, the younger generation is divided against the older: father-son, mother-daughter, mother-in-law – daughter-in-law. The reason for the division is Jesus himself.

Does that make sense? Doesn’t our Lord promote family values? Doesn’t he teach children to obey their parents, parents to love their children, and husbands and wives to be committed to each other? Doesn’t that make families stronger?

Yes, but what happens when a new generation stops believing in him? Some of you may have suffered this sad experience. Relationships cool. Priorities, morals, and values change. Urging church attendance or talking religion is perceived as unwelcome meddling or even hostile judging. Not peace, but division.

On the other hand, what happens when a new generation is the first to know Jesus? Christian missionaries can tell you that new converts are often shunned by their parents and grandparents. They have abandoned the old gods and betrayed the family traditions. Not peace, but division.

So why does our Savior trouble us with such unpleasant possibilities? He is teaching us something about the cost of discipleship. Believing in Jesus is free. He does not charge us for forgiveness, heaven, or any other gift that comes with salvation. We are saved by this grace.

But after we follow him in faith, there is a certain price we pay by being his disciples. This is not a price we pay to him. It is not a price we pay to purchase what he has to offer. It is a price we pay in the suffering and sacrifice that come along with being on his side.

When I attend one of my children’s athletic events, there may be no admission charge involved. But there is a certain price I pay in time and exposure to the elements. Maybe I come home soaked by rain or sunburned.

Jesus does not charge admission to follow him, but doing so may expose us to any number of unpleasant experiences. These include the division of our families and friends. It may alienate our children, drive away a potential mate, offend a friend or colleague, or upset a parent. Would that price be too high for us? Does he really have first place in our hearts if it comes to a choice between him or them?

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