Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Zephaniah 1:7-13, Revelation 14:1-13, Luke 12:49-59
Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace, so why would he have told his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided.” He says sons, fathers, daughter, mothers, and in-laws will be set against each other. Is this the picture of Christianity we try to embrace and promote?
Fortunately, we have the entire Gospel to help us understand the broader context and character of Christ. His vision of love, mercy, and forgiveness was uncompromising. To follow him meant (and often still means) taking a stand against social and religious norms. For many people, such a challenge is unacceptably threatening; truth and mercy don’t always trump the desire to maintain the status quo. In families struggling with dysfunctions of alcoholism or abuse, family members who seek to regain emotional health through counseling and treatment, which necessitate exposing the problem, are often vilified by other family members who believe they benefit from keeping the situation under wraps. Dysfunctional religion involves similar behavior, and people confronting problems are often accused of creating them.
When you stand for what you believe in, you will create enemies, even out of family members. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to them. He tells us to forgive as many times as we have to. And in the midst of it all we must remain humble, because despite our best efforts to follow Christ, some of the stands we take in good faith … will be mistaken.
Have you heard of “cheap grace?” There’s also “cheap peace.” It’s the kind of peace defined by an absence of conflict. Cheap asks us to compromise our principles and values to achieve an imaginary state. Divisions will always exist. Real peace, the kind we find in Christ, exists in our hearts and relationships despite passionate arguments and harsh disagreements. We must decide whether to address them by building bridges or walls.
Comfort: Christ brings peace to the most difficult places.
Challenge: Grow your faith not by appeasing your enemies, but by finding ways of doing good to them while holding firm to your values.
Prayer: God of peace and love, I will look for your peace in all situations. Amen.
Discussion: When have you been forced to cooperate on a project at work, home, or church with someone you disagreed with? How did it go?
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