Division? Fight? Fire? What is Jesus Getting at?
Division? Fight? Fire? Isn’t Jesus all about peace? Love? Joy? Today’s gospel reading might rub us the wrong way a little bit. Jesus talks about causing division between family members who should love one another. This can seem to be completely counter to popular conceptions of Jesus. In fact, I remember a time when I was discussing tuition payments with a family that had the means to pay tuition. They responded by saying to me, “I thought Jesus was about love.” I responded that Jesus was also about people getting paid for the work they do as well.
In fact, sometimes when we want to do something that we simply want to do, and not inspired by authentic faith in Jesus, we can find ourselves resorting to the loving Jesus. But today’s gospel is a reminder that sometimes following Jesus means having the commitment to stand up for what we believe in, even if it comes at great cost to us.
Martyrs do this. People of great principle and character do this too. What about you? Are you willing to stand up for Jesus even at the risk of causing difficulty? To be sure, this is not about causing difficulty for the sake of causing difficulty. That is not a witness to the gospel, but just being obnoxious. It is picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight. This is not the way Jesus expects us to live at all.
What we are called to remember is that for anything worthwhile, it takes effort and discipline on our part. We must make a choice. That is the blaze that Jesus is hoping to start and start soon. Jesus is hoping people will follow Him even if it means that we will be separated from others. Parents realize this when they say “no” to their children when their children want to do something harmful to themselves or to others. People do this when they set appropriate limits and boundaries in relationships. And Jesus wants us to do this in following Him.