Why Did Jesus Bring Division

[49] “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! [50] I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! [51] Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. [52] For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49–53)

This description by Jesus is so harsh one may wonder why this Scripture is included in readings for worship services. It turns out the conflict between family members starkly illustrates our dire need for Jesus.  

It is jarring to compare what Jesus is saying in this passage with some of his teachings. This is the same Savior who praised making peace with others (Matthew 5:24) and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Yet Jesus is uncomfortably clear about future family confrontations. Why must this happen? 

It must happen because Jesus’ “baptism” must happen. This baptism is Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. And, yes, Jesus’ sacrifice earned the forgiveness of sins for the world, making peace between God and all people. Just because Jesus made peace with us doesn’t mean we will live in peace with each other.

We don’t live in peace because human nature is human nature. We are born in sin and we sin. Some will reject Jesus as the Savior. This will place them at odds with those who, by God’s grace, believe in Jesus. We still see this tension in families today. 

While we acknowledge such family disputes, we remain hopeful. Jesus did give His life for the sins of the world. God the Father still desires that everyone in every family be brought to faith in Jesus. No matter how stridently people oppose God, the Lord is still there for them. 

(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)

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