Is conflict always avoidable? Is conflict always a sign of failure? Can good come from conflict?
I want us to learn that conflict is a part of the complete Gospel message.
We will discuss Luke 12:49-56, a world on fire, family conflict and interpreting the times.
Luke 12:49 “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! 50 I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. 51 Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! 52 From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.
53 ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”
54 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. 55 When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is. 56 You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The World on Fire (vs 49-51)
Jesus came to set the world ablaze. The context is specifically about the fire of division. Peace on earth is in the hearts of men as a gift of the Holy Spirit, but not between all people now. That peace comes with his Second Coming. In the meantime, there will be division between people. Conflict is part of Jesus’ divine plan.
Literally, Jesus brought division. Analogously, Jesus suffering is another symbolic baptism among many non-literal baptisms in the Bible. He brought the fire of division. Morally, if we have no church conflict, we should ask if ours is the genuine Christianity of Christ. Prophetically, we should not be shocked by the division that comes within churches and between Christians and non-Christians.
Naïve Christians are shocked by it. Older Christians try to avoid it. But, where human beings are division is unavoidable. We cannot always run and hide from it. So, we should not be shocked when conflict comes around, and be prepared for it when it does. When Jesus preached about his bringing division, he was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified. We must also remember that although in our country converting to Christianity sometimes causes family problems, in Muslim, Hindu and many other societies it almost always does. Conflict can be good for us. Like fire purifies metals, conflict can purify us. A Christian who has seen many battles is more mature than one who has been mollycoddled.
Family Conflict (vs 52-53)
The description of family division is two-fold. There are two against three and three pairs of one against one. Who is the cause of these family splits? Christ himself takes the blame. He has come to divide people against each other. It is Jesus who divides families, in this context, not some other cause. Is this because some believe and others do not?
Literally, Jesus predicts family conflict because of him. By analogy, the whole world will divide into two camps, for and against Christ. Morally, this contradicts Malachi 4:6. Does Malachi only apply to those who follow Jesus, but not to those who refuse him? Prophetically, this foreshadows the great division that will take place in eternity between heaven and hell.
While some conflict is unavoidable and possibly even necessary not all conflict is. For instance, the conflict between conservatives and liberals is often an argument over two sides of the same coin. Conservatives are concerned with loving God through righteous living. Liberals are concerned with loving our neighbor in action. Conservatives are concerned with telling the good news; liberals are concerned with being the good news. We need to live moral lives AND help the poor. We need to both announce the good news AND be the good news to those in need. Both conservatives and liberals have weaknesses. Perhaps a better term is orthodox, because Jesus seems sometimes liberal and other times conservative, yet always teaches the orthodox truth.
A naturalist once picked up a cocoon and feeling sorry for the butterfly about to emerge he pulled out his pocket knife and slit the cocoon open. The butterfly emerged weak and unable to muster the strength to fly. So it is with our children. If we pamper them too much, they will grow up weak and unable to survive life’s struggles and trials. Many nations became great because people had to struggle and build a land from a rough and hostile environment. Now we live in luxury with grocery shelves filled with food and our civilization is in decline. We are soft and spoiled. Is that why Jesus allows his church to go through conflict, to make us strong?
Interpret the Times (vs 54-56)
The people cannot interpret the times. They don’t see the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. In that part of the world, a cloud rising from the west, the Mediterranean, could indicate rain. Morning wind from the south, from the desert, would indicate a hot day. Yet, they could not or pretended not to see the signs of the kingdom.
Literally, Jesus calls the crowd hypocrites. By analogy, would it be many of them who will divide themselves from the faithful? Morally, does the strong word hypocrite seem to place the blame on them for unwillingness to discern signs of the times? Prophetically, is Jesus saying that those who refuse to acknowledge the kingdom of God in their midst, are culpable?
Division is not always avoidable. It is not always a sign of failure. Sometimes it can even be a sign of success. Good can come from conflict. Jesus predicted that we would have divisions among us because of him. Whose side will we be on?