Comment (18th August 2013)

Luke 12:49-56 

Jesus came to bring fire on the earth – the fire of judgement which burns up the flammable material leaving only the inflammable gold and silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), the fire of the refiner removing the dross from the metal in the crucible (Malachi 3:2-4). The passage from Isaiah sets the scene: a beloved son’s vineyard which was prepared well and planted with the best vines, yet yielded only bad fruit and was now ear-marked for destruction. That vineyard, says God, was the nation of Israel; God looked for justice and righteousness and found only bloodshed and tears. The historical result was exile and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.
 
Judgement could not begin until sin itself had been condemned – and that happened when Jesus took our sin upon himself and received the punishment that our sin deserved. Jesus calls the cross a ‘baptism’ – an act of cleansing which marked a new beginning. When Jesus bore our sins and their punishment, he was paying our debts in full, so that there is nothing left for us to pay. Sin was exposed as the terrible evil it is, it was fully punished, and the result is that it has been completely dealt with. We are clean in God’s eyes; there is no barrier between us, nothing in us that might put God off. Now we can live openly in God’s sight, without any sense of condemnation or fear of punishment as we aim to please him in all we do.
 
Peace with God does not mean peace on earth – not while anyone continues to go their own way and ignores or rejects what God has done through Jesus Christ. We may hope that our families, at least, will live in a way that brings God pleasure – that hope is enshrined in the baptism service. But experience shows that such peace cannot be taken for granted. When one member of a family, or the members of one generation of people in the family, seek to follow Jesus conflicts are almost inevitable. I remember long debates in the church youth group I attended as a teenager, about how to deal with parents who didn’t want their children to have anything to do with church. Many of us know godly parents who are longing for wayward children to come back to the faith they’d been brought up in, or to embrace the faith their parents had since embraced. What happens in the family happens on a larger scale as well – conflicts in communities and between nations.
 
Today the good news of Jesus has spread further than at any time in history, with more people believing in Jesus than ever before; yet today there is also more persecution of Christians than ever before. Judgement is already at work, sorting out light from darkness, good from evil. As Jesus said, ‘This is the judgement: Light has come into the world… 
everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.’ (John 3:19-21.) There will be a final judgement sometime; but for the present, whether a person is silver or dross, loves light or darkness, is still a matter of choice!
 
Questions 
 
1) How do you feel when the Prince of Peace promises division?
 
2) How can we help people love the Light? What if they don’t want help?