The Conflict That Jesus Brings

Today we continue reading from the 12th chapter of the gospel according to Luke. This is a part of what we call the “travel narrative” where Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem.

Last week we read from the 12th chapter where Jesus tells his listeners about how they do not need to worry so much about their stuff. We recognized how much we worry about our own possessions and that we never have enough. We worry about not having enough in our families and we worry about not having enough in the church.

Today’s passage comes immediately after that text and this is a really hard passage to read. Today’s passage will seem to contradict a lot of what we assume about why Jesus came to earth.

Every Christmas we proclaim the coming of Jesus as the prince of peace. The gospel writer Luke records the heavenly host of angels announcing the birth of Jesus as a sign of peace on earth.

But today’s passage will not announce that Jesus comes to bring peace. Instead, Jesus is going to announce that his arrival will lead to division.

Read Luke 12:49-56

There is this belief out there that when two people get married that conflict will not be much of a problem. If you really love each other then you will not be in conflict.

But as anyone knows who has been married or is currently married, you know that conflict is part of the relationship between two people. Let’s watch this 2 ½ minute funny video of a married couple and the conflicts that they encounter between the wife, husband, and family pet. I actually sent this video to my wife on the day of our anniversary this week.

In my house this video is pretty darn accurate. In a funny way this video shows how two people who live together will encounter conflict in the relationship. In our text today, Jesus says that in him coming to earth, there will be conflict. Conflict within families. Fathers and mothers against their children and children against their parents. In-laws against each other. Jesus says that he has not come to bring peace but division. Is this not a contradiction of the heavenly hosts proclamation of “peace on earth and goodwill to all?”

But then if we think about it, we can recall different examples where following the ways of Christ has led to conflicts within families and friend groups. Have you ever been in a situation where you had a moral choice to make? You were with a group of friends and they wanted to do something that you felt was wrong?I remember in a 12th grade high school Psychology class a friend of mine convinced the teacher to let her go to the library and take a test early. She had no proctor for the test. The teacher trusted her.

She went to the library where she took her notes with her. She took the test with her notes and recorded the answers. She then contacted me and her other friends and offered us the answers to the test.

Is that a moment where I should have said, “No,” because my faith in Jesus Christ teaches me to not cheat on a test? If I said, “No” does that create conflict with my other friends who think I am seeking to be morally superior to them?

Or how about within your own family? Have you ever been in a family conversation where something was said that was cruel or bigoted in some way and you felt a sense that you should say something?

Did you say something? Or did you remain quiet because you think that if you say something it will create conflict between you and someone in your family? I mentioned that Kathryn and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this past week. We decided to have dinner at the Kounter Restaurant in Rock Hill. Excellent food by the way.

But what makes the Kounter unique is that the restaurant contains the original lunch counter and chairs where 9 black students from Friendship College in Rock Hill went in and sat for lunch in 1961. They were arrested because the lunch counter was reserved for whites only.

They refused to put up bail and spent 30 days on the York Country prison farm. Their act of defiance and motto of “Jail, no bail” sparked a civil rights protest that led to the desegregation of lunch counters across the South.

Their act of defiance set up conflict with those who wanted to maintain the established power structure in communities like Rock Hill. But these brave students did what they did knowing that this would create conflict. But they sat down at that counter because they were rooted in their faith in Jesus Christ that taught them that they were as much a child of God as anyone else in this community.

So, yes, following the way of Jesus Christ may lead to conflict. It may lead to conflict in our homes. It may lead to conflict in our larger family. And our faith in Jesus Christ may even lead to conflict in the church and community.

But we do have to be careful. Just because we do something that causes conflict does not mean that what we are doing is pleasing to God. Sometimes conflict arises because we ignore what God in Christ calls us to do.

Sometimes the conflict that we create is not building up the body of Christ but is driven by our own selfish desires. In the words of Christ, we may not be reading the present moment accurately.

But Jesus reminds us that following him may lead to conflict. We do not need to shy away from standing up for what is right out of fear of conflict.

We do not need to passively go along with the crowd when the crowd is making wrong choices. We do not need to fear being sincere in the sharing of our Christian faith.

Because of Christ there will be division and conflict. But God can create something good out of division and conflict. The fire from division and conflict can actually be the fire of purification and the creation by God of something new. Sometimes we have to go through something difficult to help to create something better.

We do not need to fear conflict and division for God is always creating something new. Amen.

-Given: August 14, 2022 in Allison Creek Presbyterian (York, SC)