Lee Stroebel, author of The Case For Christ, talks about his wife’s conversion to Christianity and how he set out to disprove the Resurrection of Jesus in order to “rescue” her from the “cult” she’d joined. Her Christianity caused a clash of worldviews in their family. It was a problem for him. The outcome wasn’t exactly what he expected.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35
Or how about that time in Matthew when he dropped this bomb?
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “ …a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Matthew 10:34-36
Though he be the Prince of Peace, Jesus divides people. What if sometimes it takes division to get to peace? Why do we think peace is an easy thing? Is it because of its association with tie-dyed t-shirts and free love? Everyone is fine talking about God until the name of Jesus enters the conversation. Something about Jesus can either start the conversation or stop it in its tracks. Could it be because his very presence causes “the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed”?
If we are looking for cheap unity and an easy peace we should probably move on from Jesus. His peace is costly and his brand of union is all-consuming.
Something about us wants to believe peace and unity are possible without Jesus. Something about us wants to have the Peace of Jesus without going the way of Jesus. It’s too costly. It’s easier to paper over our conflicts (or worse, deny them) and settle for the superficial harmony of getting along, with a little Jesus sprinkled over the top.
The hardest thing we will ever do is to settle our undivided allegiance to Jesus. It will cost us our idealism, our idolatries, and our ideologies. Until we do, everything about us, including our relationships, will be divided.” – Seedbed.com devotional 4/4/17
Lee Stroebel’s own testimony, now produced in a movie, affirms this devotional from Seedbed and points to the way in which the name of Jesus causes division. It is not so much that Jesus himself causes division….it is the expectations and demands of those who either believe in Jesus or don’t believe in Jesus as Teacher/Savior/Incarnate God that results in division. It is what believers demand of Jesus and demand others to believe about Jesus and the resistance of those who don’t believe that causes the division. Jesus is simply who he is……and when we confine our actions to simply witnessing to our own experience of Jesus and trust that Jesus will reveal himself as the Truth of who he is when others feel safe enough to explore Jesus’ claims for themselves that he will reveal himself to them.
I had talked with a young lady who had been raised in a religious tradition viewed by many as a “cult”. The practices of her family’s faith left her feeling “different”, disconnected, and embarrassed among friends whose families engaged in more widely “popular” traditional Christian practices. As an adult she had chosen to simply avoid the confusion of organized religion and trying to discover the truth of Jesus. She felt incapable of reading and understanding the Bible on her own. In a safe mentoring relationship she was affirmed in what she DID know about God and was helped to explore the Christian scriptures in a low-pressure way with an easy-to-understand translation that made approaching Bible study easier. She was encouraged to let the Holy Spirit speak to her heart and was able to get questions answered honestly without judgement. After a couple of months she discovered the joy of feeling God’s presence, hearing his voice through the Word, and found personal peace. She said she’d never known that kind of joy before in her life. It birthed in her a hunger to know more of the Word and share her personal experiences of Jesus in her heart with others in the same kind of personal one-to-one way in which he had first revealed himself to her.