I am sure we have all been in situations where somebody says something which, at first, seems so unusual that we are left completely gobsmacked. It must have been like that for Jesus’ disciples when, in the gospel reading for tomorrow, He asks: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
In the troubled, uncertain world in which we live, we are reminded by Jesus that there are two kinds of peace: peace without justice and peace with justice. Peace without justice is simply a lack of open conflict. Peace with justice is the peace that people and nations experience when justice is done and righteousness sought. Jesus was saying that there comes a time when each person has to decide “Whose side am I on?” An individual can be at peace and yet not any justice to be found. When people are not personally disturbed by injustices – poverty, hunger, violence, child abuse, lives being ruined by drugs, crime – and live oblivious to these injustices, that is peace without justice. When people fail to speak out against sectarianism , against wrongdoing, against evil, God’s justice is not realised. Jesus said: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus meant we have to make divisions. We have to divide between right and wrong. We have to speak out against injustice against our fellow human beings. We have to condemn discrimination, violence, crime, oppression, and all factors having a detrimental effect upon us morally and spiritually. We may not like having to ‘stand up and be counted’ in response to Jesus’ question, but we must decide. It’s like the hymn which begins: “Who is on the Lord’s side, who will serve the King?” Jesus claims division may even take place in families. Friendships are known to be strained because someone stands up for the gospel. People hate being told they are wrong or that their way of life is misguided. But, remember, people hated Jesus for the same reason. Jesus said: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
This does not mean that Jesus did not come to bring peace to the souls of those who believed. He does that. He gives a peace that passes all understanding. But this peace is not cheap, it is a gift of God’s grace.
Jesus had to enter into conflict with evil and be crucified to secure that gift. Which side of the dividing line are we on?