49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 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.” (Luke 12:49-53 NIV)
This text (and its parallel in Matthew 10:34-36) has troubled me for the better part of my years as a Bible student. To get to the core of my troubled thoughts, let me state the following plainly: Jesus may divide a family against itself. For those who have experienced a division such as this, it’s no laughing matter. Some poor souls were told that Jesus would make their family happy, even warm and fuzzy, but then in walks Jesus with his “fire” and “division”. We expected a big Jesus-filled group hug, but what we got was the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Mt. 10:36)
What are we to do when the Prince of Peace seems to bring everything but peace to our families?
Let’s consider a couple of responses to the above question beginning with the option of retreat.
If the situation involves a family member deciding to follow Jesus while others are opposed to such a decision, the temptation can be for the believer to take a more private approach to Jesus. After the big announcement of repentance and belief there’s a backlash of some sort with the new believer deciding to “keep her faith to herself.” This approach begins with a desire for family unity, but ultimately ends with the believer suppressing the truth out of fear of rejection which will also produce other negative spiritual consequences (more on that later).
Secondly, the new believer can pursue the way of rage.
I title this option in a way that’s a bit hyperbolic, but essentially the new believer want’s to beat the circle peg of their new-found faith into the square-shaped hole of their family member’s heart. “Good morning son, how did you sleep last night? Well dad, I would have slept a lot better if I knew you weren’t going to burn in hell!” Because I believe that salvation involves more than just an external declaration by God, but also includes the giving of a new heart to the believer; graciousness is the mark of the new believer. This approach tends to understand belief in terms of mental assent alone, while forgetting that Jesus asks for us to TRUST in him as well. Trust is hard, especially for those who do not yet have the Holy Spirit…we are wise to remember that.
More to come…your responses are more than welcomed!