Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Luke 12: 49-53
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 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:
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.”
In a world already so greatly divided and polarized, why, oh why would Jesus say that he came to split even families apart? Isn't there enough disharmony already? What happened to being agents of peace? What is all this about bringing fire to the earth?
Jesus has seen the earth. He has seen the state of the world. He knows the polarization that existed then and that we still experience today. He's seen the poverty and oppression, the greed and violence. He's seen egos played out; security of oneself and one's family and one's belongings and one's nation as top priorities. We work hardest for our own. Defend our own. Forgive our own. Empower our own.
It's the way we do life. We want and work for the good things in life- for our own. The cost to others is, if not entirely overlooked, is of little concern to us. We know that by having some of the things we have, it harms others, even children, yet we swallow down that twinge of guilt with whatever self medication we can get our hands on.
Jesus came to give us a new way of being, a new way of living- for others. Jesus teaches that "others" are just as important as we are. That their families, their belongings and their nation are just as worth working for and defending as our own. That we are to empower, AND forgive, not just our own, but others.
It is the fire of which Jesus speaks. Using images of fire, and sword, and speaking of division, Jesus plays out for his disciples (did you remember that Jesus is speaking to his disciples?) what the process of healing will feel like; it will be painful. He's talking about breaking down every system (corrupt or not) that we have! Actually, he's talking about dismantling every institution and ideology we embrace as a people; down to the institution of the family unit.
The new way of Jesus means that your children become ours, that your parents are ours, and that we become as one family/people. That we forgive, even the ones who hurt our family members. That we support and nurture the poor and give them every "advantage" we have; and that what we need/want/have will not come at anyone's expense. That no one remains "disadvantaged." It sounds both wonderful and very scary at the same time, doesn't it?
If you are having trouble envisioning what such a world would look like, and can not picture this kind of a caring/sharing world; if you have trouble thinking about your 'enemies' child as your own, or that you are somehow responsible for the least of these, you are not alone. It's a completely new way of seeing one another and seeing the world. It will not (has not) been easily accepted or implemented. It will cause division. It will cause us to sacrifice greatly. It will hurt.
Jesus calls us to discipleship to bring about a new world of God's shalom. The good news is that it is within our grasp, should we be willing to follow. Don't be afraid little flock, for it is God's great pleasure to give you the Kin-dom.