Fire, Not Peace?
Jesus and his Passion
“'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over! (Luke 12:49-50)
Jesus The Cause of Dissension
'Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three…” (Luke 12:51-52)
This is a hard Word -hard to understand and even harder to live. Jesus is Love, so shouldn’t he be about making things all warm and cozy? Certainly this is the prevailing view of our culture: ‘Let’s just all get along …You do what you believe, and I’ll do what I believe …You’re ok, I’m ok, it’s all ok.’ Yet, the words of Jesus bode otherwise.
Luke 12:49-53, as above, is presented as two separate topics, but the second can only be correctly understood in the context of the first. How is it that the Prince of Peace came to bring division? The answer is in the first two verses. Jesus came to bring fire to the earth: A Fire that would arise out of his Baptism of Blood; a Fire that would be lit with the Passion of his Cross, with his Body, Soul, Mind and Divinity immersed into a Suffering that would forever remain burning in the hearts of Believers; purifying our body, soul, mind and humanity of Darkness and Sin –making us a people set apart (1Peter 2:9).
The Kingdom of God has a Warrior King, wielding the Sword of his Word, separating Sin from Truth, bringing about purification by Fire, that we may know his Peace. His Sword never feels peaceful, yet we must suffer its purification, of all that is not in his Image, before we can know his Gift of Peace. Yet, paradoxically, this Gift of Peace causes our hearts to bleed for those who know it not. It is for this reason we can answer with all our heart both “Yes” and “No” the enigmatic question, “Is the Kingdom of God a kingdom of Peace?”
Before God revealed himself to humanity we were without his Law, and, as St. Paul explains in Romans 7, sin was as dead, as there was nothing to be disobedient against. This all changed when God began revealing himself to us through Abraham, the father of our faith. Not surprisingly, from then on disobedience flourished. But, when God saw that we were ready for a Savior, he came among us, as Jesus our Lord. He gave us the fullness of his Word, and he released his Holy Spirit -to empower us to live that Word in the communion of his Church.
Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom of God. A kingdom cannot exist without boundaries. So, when Jesus gave us his Word and established the authority of his Church on earth, he knew that in defining its boundaries, division was inevitable -that his Kingdom would be at war till the end of time defending those boundaries. Forever more, humanity would be confronted with a forced choice: “Are you with me or are you against me?” Until he comes again, the Kingdom of God will be at war with the forces of Darkness. Those who choose to live within the Kingdom will forever be locked in battle with those who choose to live outside. Those who abide in the Kingdom will know the Peace of Christ, but they will never be at peace with the forces of Darkness, nor with their separated brethren whom have fallen victim to it.
So what do we do? Do we throw up our hands, resigned to the fact that many are calling condemnation upon themselves, by warring against God? Did not Jesus himself tell the Seventy-Two to shake the dust off their sandals and walk away from those who refused to repent? Does not this give us permission to insulate ourselves within the walls of our church and forget about those destined to be Lost? I believe certainly not.
The Seventy-Two preached to a people before God’s Ocean of Mercy was released from the Cross; before Christ’s Death and Resurrection; before the Power of his Spirit was released on Pentecost, where he sent us out to make disciples of all nations. We belong to the new Epoch of Hope. We have been commissioned and empowered to bring God’s Mercy and Salvation to all God’s Children.
Holy Spirit, may your Fire purify the sin in my heart, that I may become a Loving Vessel of your Mercy and Hope. May your Fire consume me with a Zeal to bring your Good News to my family, my friends, to all who cross my path. Thank you for saving me. Use me, I pray, to further the bounds of your Kingdom, that you may be Glorified by a great chorus of hearts on Fire with your Peace. Amen.