Peace and Division

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Luke 12:51

Did Jesus come to bring peace on earth, as the angels sang at the first Christmas (Luke 2:14)? Or did He come to bring division, as He Himself announces here?


Let us first acknowledge the apparent contradiction. The way Jesus answers His own question here—“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No…”—seems mutually incompatible with both the angels’ declaration and with Jesus’ instruction to His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Indeed, it seems that Jesus is refuting the emphasis of His whole earthly ministry by associating Himself with division and discord. How, then, are we to reconcile Jesus’ claims that He would bring both peace and division?

What Jesus meant when He spoke about bringing division is directly tied to the work that He accomplished in effecting peace. In other words, when we come to understand the good news—that “for our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)—we can never be the same again. It is too magnificent a work to result in apathy.

When we are renewed at our core, everything about us changes—our values, our focus, our purpose, our dreams. We are now at peace with our Creator, and we are able to live at peace with ourselves. But sooner or later, this transformation will prove divisive. In sharing, speaking about, and living out the miracle of our reconciliation with God, we will be met with disdain, hostility, and judgment, sometimes even from those within our own homes, as Jesus went on to warn (Luke 12:52-53).

Jesus’ coming to bring peace laid bare the division and conflict between the Creator and His image-bearing creatures that had existed since Adam and Eve first rebelled. Your words and actions, directed as they are by the commands of heaven and not by the ways of this world, will lay bare that same division. For many of us, the division caused as a result of trusting in Christ is a trying and painful reality of life.

Yet there is a great hope for all of us: Jesus’ ultimate objective is not division but harmony. The Bible is absolutely clear that the Prince of Peace will one day reign eternally. In the meantime, do not be under any illusions: following Jesus has a cost—a cost that you can, by the power of His Spirit, joyfully pay as you risk division in order to hold out the divine offer of peace.


Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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