Disrupt and confront?
It sounds like an odd couple of verbs to associate with Jesus. And yet it has to be said that Jesus is the most divisive character in the history of the world. Our entire dating system divides on the purported year of his birth!
And it was Jesus himself who said he was divisive. In fact, according to one passage, his whole reason for coming to this earth was to bring division:
‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ (Luke 12:49-53)
Jesus Brings Division
The first two statements are puzzling. Perhaps it’s something like: “I’m a fire-starter and I wish the blaze was high! I have a baptism that will take me low, and oh how I wish it was done!” But these are metaphors which are explained by the third statement :“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Malachi spoke of the Lord being “like a refiner’s fire and like a fullers’ soap” (Mal 3:2) that separates (that is to say, divides) good from evil; purifying the good and destroying the evil. This fire is cast upon the earth and it divides the faithless (evil) from the faithful (good).
And what of the baptism? The fact of its being accomplished in the future means that this doesn’t refer to his baptism at the hands of John the Baptist (Matt 3:16), but his death, burial, and resurrection (Mark 10:38).
In other words, Jesus is going to be immersed into death. And the result of this baptism will be the kindling of the refiner’s fire that is cast upon the earth.
And the result will be a division. Jesus described that division in terms of light and dark, when talking with Nicodemus in John 3. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:20-21).
Those who do “wicked things” hate Christ and run from the light of Christ. Those who do “what is true” love Christ and run to the light of Christ.
As a result of Jesus’ work on earth, people are either running from Him or to Him, thus resulting in division on earth.
And his division will cut deep; even within our own families. In Luke 14:26, Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” The word “hate” is hard to hear, but it’s part of the same matrix of thought. Truth divides. One cannot love God and love the hatred of God. You have to choose sides.
Jesus Brings Peace
Thankfully, Jesus does bring peace. When Jesus said he did not come to bring peace on earth (v51), He meant peace with the world; peace in the sense of accommodation with a worldly system of life.
No, Jesus did not come to bring peace with the world but peace with God.
Romans 5:1 explains, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This peace is brought about by God “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14). The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus brings us peace and we are called “children of God” (Rom 8:16). The peace Jesus bring is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and it is the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding [that] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
What does this mean for me?
I guess I just have to accept the blog title (which is from The Message), that Jesus disrupts and confronts! I am dislodged from my comfort zone and given a new way of understanding life itself. And it doesn’t stop there. I become part of a disruption and confrontation process whether I like it or no: the message of the cross of Christ means a confrontation with the powers of evil and the disruption of all false securities. Things just can’t stay the same!
And Jesus continues to divide good from evil. So “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…”
No indeed. What is happening is that every disruption, and discomfort, every pain and percecution drives you deeper into the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. This was Peter’s perspective (1 Peter 4:12-16):
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
Hang tough. We don’t pick fights or make waves, but every act of love is a rebuke to hate. And so, like it or no, “In this world, you will have trouble…” You just WILL!
“But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)