“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” – Luke 12:51-53
During my time in seminary, I became acquainted with a Christian brother who had migrated to the United States from the Republic of Sierra Leone. Even though he called Sierra Leone home, it was not the country of his birth. He was from the Republic of The Gambia.
He told me that, as a young man in The Gambia, he became exposed to the Christian faith through the missionaries. His whole family was Muslim. Upon hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, he converted to Christianity.
This infuriated his father. The consequence of his conversion to Christianity was devastating to him. His father disowned him and declared him persona non grata. Not only did his father disown him, but his life was also threatened.
Had he stayed in The Gambia, his family would have killed him. For this reason, the missionaries smuggled him out of The Gambia to Sierra Leone. That is how Sierra Leone became his home.
When Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but division, he was talking about situations like that of my Christian brother from Sierra Leone. Because of the gospel, many families have become divided. Families are still being divided because of the gospel.
Who would think that the man of peace, love, joy and forgiveness would give a message of division? Yet that is what his ministry did to many families.
Some 60 years after Jesus had spoken these words, Luke wrote them. A decision to follow Christ exposed believers to rejection in their communities.
At various periods in the history of the early church, professing faith in Christ led to persecution. For some it meant crucifixion or other painful death.
It took a lot of courage to be a Christian in those days. In many parts of the world, it still takes much courage to be a Christian. The consequence has been, and still is, disruption in family life.
In the early church, some parents did not understand why their grown children would risk their lives for the teaching of a simple carpenter from Galilee. Some children could not believe their parents had joined a group started by a political radical, whom the Romans crucified.
Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law found themselves on opposite sides of the fence. All of this happened because of Jesus’ teachings.
Division, rather than peace, came to many families because of the gospel. Even in our world today this is still evident.
I know of a Bahamian man who forbade his wife from attending church. Thank God, she did not accede to his demands.
This gentleman has since passed from this life to eternity. However, before he died, he became an invalid and did not have the physical power or mental capacity to stop her from attending church.
Notwithstanding the consequences, we should keep “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at the Lutheran Church of Nassau,119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N-4794, Nassau, Bahamas; telephone 426-9084; e-mail email@example.com; or website www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.