Peace. We all want peace. We want peace in our family relationships. We want peace within our neighborhoods and towns. We want to peaceably go about our lives without the worry of violence. We want Jesus to give us the peace we seek. Unfortunately for us, this peace is not what Jesus is talking about in this reading. Instead he is talking about division, even in our most valued relationships of family.
So what gives? Why can’t we have what we want? Why won’t Jesus give us what we want? Jesus said he came to bring division instead of peace. He wanted to bring fire upon the earth and couldn’t wait for it to be lit. This doesn’t sound much like peace. The fire is the active presence of God establishing the kingdom’s presence over everyone. When God’s rule of forgiveness and mercy comes into contact with our understanding of peace, we start building crosses.
The trouble with wanting peace is that we want peace on our terms. We want peace that comes with being in control. We want peace where we have the power. We want the peace that prefers us over them. If we don’t get the peace we want, we blame our spouses, parents, neighbors, immigrants, those of a different race, the other political party. In reality this isn’t peace, it is abuse and violence of the powerful against the weak. This is not the peace that Jesus has come to support.
If we seek peace then we have two choices. One is the fake peace of violence, abuse and crosses. The other is the peace that comes from God who raised the crucified Jesus to life. This is the real peace that brings life in the place of death. This kind of peace asks of us to repent and seek the ways of the kingdom of God. We die to the old ways of violence and crosses so God can bring a new life that is peace. This change is going to be met with division, even within family.
Jesus called those in attendance a bunch of hypocrites. They could tell by the wind patterns if it was going to rain or bring a hot day. Yet, they could see what Jesus was doing and teaching but not recognize the action of God bringing his rule, his kingdom to the earth. The great challenge for us is to look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and see the work of God bringing his kingdom to us. This is the hard work of seeking peace on God’s terms.