“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”Luke 12:51
We call Jesus the Prince of Peace, yet these verses seem like a stark contradiction to that notion.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”Luke 12:49
Whenever fire is mentioned by Jesus, especially in John’s writings, it has always denoted Holy Spirit. Jesus is talking about Holy Spirit, who was to come after His resurrection and will give the disciples the power of discernment and recall at the apt moment, everything Jesus had taught them.
In Acts 2 when Holy Spirit entered the church, those gathered could not stop themselves from speaking in other tongues. Even the previously cowardly Peter, stood up in the council of leaders and boldly proclaimed his faith.
Similarly, the fire is kindled within us when we receive the true anointing of Holy Spirit and then we will stand for Jesus and proclaim his true testimony, no mater what our friends and family think about us.
“But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!”Luke 12:50
Jesus talks about a Baptism that He is to undergo, but didn’t He take one already at the hands of John? (Matthew 3:13-17)
Jesus is not talking about the ritualistic act of baptism but rather his purpose for coming to the earth, to die for our sins. And until that time, the Holy Spirit could not be ‘poured freely’ on His disciples. Till that time that Jesus is resurrected and sin had been defeated once for all on the cross, there was a constraint on what disciples could do or even understand. Perhaps, that is why Jesus told them to not leave Israel before the ‘counselor’ had come. (Luke 24:49)
Among all the family members that Jesus pointed out, he does not mention division between the most fractured unit of our families today, the husbands and wives. While in another verse we do see Jesus talking about hating our spouses,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26
but when we read the same in Matthew’s version it leaves no doubt as to what Jesus is talking about in these two verses.
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:37
Our love for Jesus must overshadow our love for our fathers, mothers siblings and even our spouses. We must hate our own lives and put Jesus first and since God has united a married couple as one, we cannot hate one without the other. So both ourselves and our spouse is mentioned in this verse.
But when Jesus talks about division between separate members of a family it is not between husbands and wives. When God created the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:21-24) He called man and woman as one body as they are one in front of God.
When we look for an ideal life partner, it is usually based on criteria like income they earn, the family they belong to or perhaps even something as superficial as height or color of their skin but we fail to look at the most important aspect that should match, our faith level, not religion but faith level.
How can a couple be one before God if their belief in God is at different stages? How can one body be at different faith level. For example, when choosing our partner in a classroom, we want to sit with someone who is at our own level, so that we can challenge each other and grow, rather than sitting with someone who will hold us back. Should not the same be applied to our life partners in terms of our spiritual levels?
If a couple is not one before God, then they too will be divided for the sake of the Kingdom just like we read that the word of God separates even our very soul from our bodies.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.Hebrews 4:12
Jesus and His family
The members of Jesus’s own family were divided against Him. His mother and brothers came to one of His gatherings demanding that he come out so that they could bind Him and take Him away. They even called Jesus out of His mind for taking a stand against the pharisees.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”Mark 3:21
Even His own brothers did not believe Him and ridiculed Him, daring Him to reveal himself to the Jewish leaders knowing full well that they wanted Jesus’ blood. (John 7:1-5)
His hometown full of His relatives and friends drove Him outside the town and tried to murder Him upon hearing Him preach. (Luke 4:14-30)
But isn’t this passage contradictory to our Sunday school verses. The Bible says honor your father and mother to live long in the land. How can we do that if we are divided to follow Christ?
Honoring our earthly mothers and fathers is important but that does not mean that there will be no disagreements between us, based on our different understanding of what God wants in our lives.
Think of it this way, a family that does not go to church or does not ever discuss the scriptures will never have arguments based on the word of God. The division that Jesus talks about is not because of property disputes or our parents not letting us major in the subject we want, it is always division for the sake of the gospel.
Division Among Church leaders
In Acts 15:36-41, we read about problems between two powerful workers of Christ, Paul and Barnabas. If they had not been divided, they would have kept traveling together for the sake of their friendship but because they were divided, they covered more ground as they went in separate directions.
We must understand that the division Christ is talking about is only for the sake of the Gospel and not other worldly arguments we have with our family and friends. Remember, that the division Jesus brings will cause a separation from this world but draw us closer to Him. Division is good only if it is bringing you closer to God’s purpose in your life. The division that drives us away from our family members and from God is brought upon by satan.
Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed! I came to make people choose sides.Luke 12:51 (Contemporary English Version)
I like the Contemporary version of this verse which plainly states that the time for sitting on the fence is over, either you are with Jesus or against Him.
He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.Matthew 12:30
Prince of Peace
So, did Jesus not come to bring Peace on earth or have our childhood christmas carols gotten it wrong?
Jesus did not come to bring peace with the world but rather peace in our relationship with God. That was His only purpose, to repair our broken relationship with God. Broken, because of our transgressions.
He knows us before we were born and is the only one who knows us in and out. He already knows the sins we will commit in our lifetime and paid the price for all of them when He died on the cross.
Jesus did come to bring peace in our hearts by making us realize the love of God and not of sinful humans. When we reconcile with our brethren, we receive a temporary peace, our peace of mind. But what Jesus offers us is much more. It is the ultimate peace in our hearts, knowing that our broken relationship with The Father has been fixed by His death on the cross.