Christ of Divison or Peace?
Proper 15, Year C, RCL, Track 1
If we observe our society, we will undoubtedly notice that we are in a time of great division. We often think of Jesus as being a peacemaker, not a divider. Yet how many readings are there in the Bible where Jesus brings peace? There are clearly some, where Jesus prevents destruction, such as when the disciples want to bring fire down on the Samaritans. There are times when Jesus wriggles out of a tight situation preventing the stoning of himself or others. But I’m not sure that is really bringing peace. Avoiding conflict isn’t the same as peacemaking. Conversely, with the exception of Jesus turning over the money changer’s tables, Jesus doesn’t call on violence either. The divisions Jesus brings us are God’s Word, His truth, and his call to us to follow him regardless of what others think.
Many of the divisions we have in our country, especially the political ones, seem to be couched as religious divisions. From abortion, to black lives matter, to which political party we belong; these seem to be viewed by many as religious statements as much as they are political. But the truth is that these are not the divisions Christ is talking about. Divisive politics, that are labeled as religious, are not typically rooted in systematic theology, where an overarching belief system is thought out in making a decision. If life is precious, for example, so precious that abortion is appalling and abhorrent, then most systematic theology would say the death penalty should be equally appalling. If we hold something up, as a statement of faith, such as the sanctity of life, then this belief will likely have a ripple effect on many other aspects of what we believe is good and just.
Christ’s message was radical to the people 2000 years ago. Christ’s message is radical for us today. When we follow the teaching of Christ to our best ability, we may find that some people push back. In business, doing what is right and best for your employees may not be most cost effective. Stockholders may not like the lower return on investment. Interracial marriage, especially in years past, has caused friction in families. Interdenominational marriage, especially between protestants and Catholics, has caused tension. Fulfilling our Christian responsibility by helping the poor and needy, and standing up for justice and truth causes friction between people. Jesus knew that following him would cause friction, tension, and unfortunately division. Jesus tells us that following him does not make your life easier but, in fact, will likely make it harder. Even though we often believe we live in a Christian society, society itself does not hold Christian values or it distorts them into something they are not.
The author of Hebrews tells us of faithful people, such as Moses parting the Red Sea and the Hebrew people encircling Jericho. And he reminds us of the prophet of old. The author holds these people up, as examples to us, of what faithful people do. Yet, looking at their stories, we see that their road was not easy. How many times did the Hebrew people rise up against Moses? His own son built a golden calf, while he was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. Moses, as difficult as it was, stayed faithful to God. Even with his faith and fortitude, Moses never made it into the Promise Land. The earthly promise was never given to him. Yet he received his heavenly reward.
I can’t think of an example in the Bible, Old or New Testament, where following God was seen by society or government as the best course of action. And I believe this is because following God is costly. It’s costly monetarily. You will give away more of your resources. It’s costly in time. You will spend less time with your family, or on yourself, and more time with others, possibly the ones society says we are not supposed to associate with.
Imagine, for a moment, spending more time and money in service to others. More time in prayer with God and Christ. Making a commitment to do these things will take away from other things. The routines we have that are well established will have to change. Sometimes we must break patterns and cycles to improve ourselves. We may have to give up some things we “Enjoy” to make life better for ourselves and others, to do what God has called us to do. Changes such as these may cause friction in your family, with your friends, and with those who hold a stake in your business. Changes such as these may cause disruption to others and their routines.
Christ didn’t come into this world to keep the status quo. He didn’t come to allow the political and religious powers to remain the same. He didn’t come to keep the peace. He advocated for those who had no voice, no power or influence. He advocates for us to look at ourselves and see how our actions or inactions affect others. He came into this world to disrupt the way of life and society so it would look more like God’s kingdom. And even with that, some thought he didn’t do enough or didn’t think he did it the way “it should” be done. He didn’t use violence to topple their powerful opponents’. So, they crucified him. They broke his body, thinking this would solve the problem; put the power back in their hands. Yet even this violence fulfilled the work God set out to do. It brought to each one of us the ability to know that the living God is with us in our lives and that God’s promise will be fulfilled, not in our lifetime but in the age to come.
So, he asks us, are we going to work toward the kingdom of God? Are we going to stand up for what is ultimately right? Are we willing to do this work even if it makes life hard, putting separation between us, our family, and friends? Only you can choose to what depth you are willing to do this work and how far you are willing to go. Only you can decide if comfort lies in the things we have or in a shared life where all people are the children of God.