Jesus Christ, the Great Divider

The Gospel reading for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time contains an important teaching that is fundamental to the faith:

“Do you think that I came to give peace upon the earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  For henceforth in one house five will be divided, three against two, and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against his father; mother against daughter and daughter against the mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Lk. 12:51053).

This teaching is so important that Jesus dwells on it for a moment, explaining and emphasizing it almost to the point of being redundant.  Simply, following Him will produce all types and degrees of division between people, even between members of the same family.

This is not the message we hear from the world, or from the world in the Church.  Rather, Christ is allegedly the great harmonizer Who “heals” all divisions.  If we follow His Gospel of unity, then we will find ourselves generally at peace with the world and with those around us.  In fact, the mark of the true Christian who “gets it” is that they are relaxed and open to others and to the life styles and beliefs of others.  They are peacemakers in the sense that they object to nothing and accept everything.  They simply live and let live.

It is a lie.  The worldling’s notion of peace and harmony is, in fact, the sin of religious indifference  and the vice of cowardice.  And these common moral failures are far more popular than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Hence, you will hear this indifference and cowardice preached far and wide, from both pulpit and podium, from both Church and State.

Jesus did not come in order to bring division.  Dividing people was not His immediate purpose.  But because He has come and called all of us to accept Him, His teaching, and His Church, there will be divisions even between the closest of persons – between spouses, parents and children, and best friends.  Why?  Because some will accept Him while others will reject Him.  Some will embrace His teachings and others will denounce them.

Let’s not be subjective about “accepting” Jesus.  In using the term, I don’t in any way refer to a vague and sentimental sort of acceptance, so that we merely have warm feelings towards Christ.  For genuine faith ultimately is theological; it is specific and holds with undying certainty to clear defined ideas about God, man, the world, and the future.  And this is the reason that true faith brings hardship and division: it holds uncompromisingly to certain defined truths which concern all human persons.

In the last Beatitude, Jesus said,

“Blessed are you when men reproach you, and persecute you, and speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you, for my sake.  Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven; for so did they persecute the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5:11-12).

This passage refers to unjust persecution for the sake of Christ.  In other words, one is mistreated and mocked by others specifically because one is faithful in some matter to Christ.  This is the division that the faithful cannot, and must not, avoid.  As the world and its adherents increasingly immerse themselves in the most depraved forms of immorality and irreligiosity, and as they continue to promote these – first as an enlightened way, and then as the only permissible way – as a result, standing firm in the truths proclaimed by Christ and His Church will increasingly identify us as “different,” and therefore, as divisive.  Fidelity to the Gospel will separate us from those around us.  Loyalty to the God of revelation will divide us from those who overtly or covertly reject that revelation.  This concerns both doctrines and morals, for to accept one thing as true requires that we accept the contrary thing as false, and this is precisely what Christ asks of us: to adhere to the light and renounce the darkness.  But it’s also the consequence of being creatures endowed with reason.  Hence, it is only logical and consistent that, to believe in one body of beliefs is to disbelieve in all contrary bodies of beliefs.  Of course, the modern knee-jerk reaction to this view is to say that one should remain open to all beliefs.  But this is ultimately to say that nothing is true; therefore, belief is irrelevant.  It is doctrinal and moral relativism and the vice of indifference parading as the virtue of tolerance.

To accept as true the teachings of Christ and His Church, and to strive to practice them and teach them to others that they, too, may accept them, is to be divisive.  Sorry, but truth divides, as do love, goodness, and beauty.  Hence, when considering the religion of Islam, one is faced with two  very different Gabriels.   In the Gospel of St. Luke, the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a Son who would be called the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God” (Lk. 1:32, 35).  (Incidentally, at Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin Council, the high priest asked Him if he was the Son of God, and Jesus answered, using a Jewish mode of affirmation, “Yes.”)  And yet, the Quran – allegedly revealed to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel – asserts that it is below the majesty of Allah to have a son.  Therefore, it flatly denies the divine Sonship of Christ.

This presents the faithful with a dilemma: we cannot accept both Gabriels, for one denied what the other affirmed.  Both revelations cannot logically be true, for they are opposites.   In addition, at #67 the Catechism says,

“Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations.'”

This passage certainly refers to Islam, since Muslims claim that wherever the Bible and the Quran disagree, the Quran is to be followed since it corrects the corrupted biblical text.

To accept the Christian revelation as true requires that we reject the veracity of the alleged revelations of Mohammad.  This will cause division between Christians and Muslims (though there need not be violence), but there is no other way except the way of indifference, of feigning agreement by avoiding the facts of our respective religions.

Notice that I referred above to the “veracity” of Mohammad’s revelations, and not to their historicity.  It is entirely possible that Mohammad received the contents of the Quran through a real angelic revelation.  I don’t dispute that.  The question is, however, What was the nature of that angel?  And here I’m obviously suggesting the possibility of a demonic event.

Would you like to avoid all division with others?  Would you like to be thought of as an easy-going laid-back and peaceable sort of character who gets along with everyone at all times?  Would you like to escape those tense disagreements about morality with others, those agonizing discussions with your homosexual son, lesbian daughter, cohabitating friends, or transvestite co-worker?  Are you tired of being called “judgmental” purely for mentioning the idea of right and wrong conduct?  It’s very simple and the approach is sure to work: simply be a lukewarm Christian, a cafeteria Catholic, a closet Catholic, a fair-weather friend of God.  Pick and choose from the Deposit of Faith only the happier and easier items.  Follow the spirit of the times and hold only the popular opinions.  Simply omit from the ancient faith whatever the world deems inappropriate, and therefore, divisive.  Let the campaigning politicians, the Hollywood whores, and today’s most militant special interest groups be your savior and redeemer, your Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher).  If you follow the world, then the world will let you be.  It will let you be its slave, that is, and permit you to think and act only as it thinks and acts – minute by minute and trend by trend.

The disciples of Christ are not called to be mundane slaves, but free men and women who follow their Lord wherever He leads.  And to the degree that we do follow Him – yes, we will often be divisive in the opinion of the world, dividing truth from error, good from evil, and light from darkness.

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a measure, but upon the lamp-stand, so as to give light to all in the house” (Mt. 5:14-15).

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Jesus Christ, the Great Divider

  1. Interesting reference to the slave, who by definition has no choice, no option of will; who cannot chose to conform to God, but must conform or be condemned. The nature of God, who offers Himself, his being, to be drawn to, to be chosen freely is that which divides. Our reason demands it. The nature of Allah, who makes no such offer, forces his will, his predominant feature, upon the human race.

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    1. That’s a good point. The nature of the God determines both the natures of the call and of the disciple who answers it. And say what you want about the identity of the God of Mohammad and the God of Jesus Christ, their natures differ drastically, and that makes all the difference in the world.

      I suppose some one could object that, if, in order to be saved one MUST follow the divine will, then the believer is not free; rather, their morally upright life is a type of slavery. On the surface, this objection makes sense. But to abide by the Divine will is to conform to our true God-given nature, rather than to our fallen nature. It is, in the profoundest sense, to “be yourself.” Such a freedom is real, though presently difficult because it causes interior conflict.

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  2. Everyone is a slave in the spiritual sense. We are either slaves to sin, which is our natural state, or we are slaves to Christ. The writers of the New Testament willingly declared their status as slaves of Christ. Paul opens his letter to the Romans by referring to himself as a “slave of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1) and his letter to Titus by calling himself a “slave of God” (Titus 1:1). James opens his epistle the same way, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). Most translations say “servant” or “bond-servant” in these passages, but the Greek word doulas means, literally, “slave.”

    In John 8:34 Jesus tells the unbelieving Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” He uses the analogy of a slave and his master to make the point that a slave obeys his master because he belongs to him. Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it. But, by the power of Christ to overcome the power of sin, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Once we come to Christ in repentance and receive forgiveness for sin, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us. It is by His power that we are able to resist sinning and become slaves of righteousness.

    Jesus’ disciples belong to Him and want to do the things that please Him. This means that the children of God obey Him and live in freedom from habitual sin. We can do this because Jesus has set us free from the slavery of sin (John 8:36), and thus we are no longer under its penalty of death and separation from God.

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  3. All true, but I would add that the nature of this “slavery” is so different from the general notion of slavery as to be its very opposite, and it’s related to the reality of being “redeemed” or bought back by Christ. For we have been set free by Him in the most superlative sense and, in spite of the slavery imagery, we can’t belittle or de-emphasize this fact. The saints in heaven are “slaves” in this new sense, too, and no one is freer than they who, not only can’t sin, but forever and freely don’t want to sin. And that permanent state is the whole point of our present willing “slavery” in Christ. The same can be said about the good angels, who can never sin or opposes the divine will, not because they aren’t free, but because they are free in the most superlative sense that they would never want to do the wrong.

    My point is, the slavery image is excellent, but it also falls short, as all human language regarding God and the spiritual life must. Hence, we could carry on here just as much about our new freedom as the sons of God.

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