‘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.’
This is, no doubt, a tricky passage and there are many commentaries which cover what people think Jesus was saying here. Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he is in full prophet mode. He is speaking about how he would bring people to make a choice. The Pharisees had made their choice not to follow, even some of Jesus’ own family had chosen not to follow him (Mark 3:21). Jesus was saying a time is coming when all people will need to make a choice, for him or against. We know that even the disciples, when faced with possible persecution or crucifixion, found this choice a hard one (John 6:60-66).
Making a choice to follow Jesus may result in being at odds with the rest of your family, friends or even nation. We see this most acutely when people in countries where Christianity is banned become followers of Christ. This often brings the threat of being imprisoned or worse. Sometimes it is even family members who betray their Christian family members. Closer to home, Jesus calls us to make a choice, do we follow him and bear the consequences from our family, friends and work colleagues or do we hide our faith to keep us safe? Jesus, in this passage, makes it clear that “fence-sitting” and neutrality are not an option when it comes to following him.
Lord God, We pray today for our persecuted sisters and brothers across the world, surround them with your love, protection and give them courage to stand for you. As we see their faithful example, help us to make the right choices for you and your Kingdom for Jesus sake we pray. Amen
The Rev’d Stuart Nixon, SCM Pioneer minister, MediaCityUK Church