This is Day 38 of my 40 day Lenten Blog.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36).
Christ unites. In fact, Christ is the greatest uniter that ever lived. But wait...Doesn't Christ Himself contradict that claim in the above verses? Doesn't Christ say that He came to divide? Yes, the verses do say that. So how can I claim that Christ is the greatest uniter that ever lived when by His own admission He came to divide families? Because He has to divide them, before He can unite them.
You are no doubt familiar with the phrase "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." That applies here. Jesus came to a world ruled by the devil. He came to a world where mankind's selfishness, pride and greed dominated everything. He came to a world where few wanted to hear His messages of love and self-sacrifice. But it is that selfishness, that pride, that greed that divides us, not Christ.
Strife came into the world when Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a consequence God told Eve "your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16). This is the beginning of strife within the family. It was created by sin, not Christ. Christ came to take away the effects of sin, including strife. But first strife must increase.
It's like when you clean out the pantry. In order to clean it, you first have to make a bigger mess. You pull out everything, get rid of the bad stuff and then put the good stuff back in an organized manner. Before Christ can unite us, He must first pull His people away ("separate the wheat from the chaff") and leave behind those who refuse to listen to Him ("let the dead bury their own dead.") Then He will mold us to be like Him. Only once we have been purged of our selfishness, greed, and pride can we truly unite. Only when we think of others as more worthy than ourselves will strife end. And only in Christ is that possible.
Christ teaches us to identify ourselves as brothers and sisters in Him before identifying ourselves by nationality, race, gender, political affiliation, or favorite sports team. He teaches us to love EVERYONE, even people of other religions, even our enemies, even those who persecute us for our faith in Him. EVERYONE! He teaches us to treat others as we would like them to treat us, and that what we do to others we are really doing to Jesus Himself. If Jesus was in front of you now, would you lord over Him? Would you argue with Him? Would you call Him an idiot? Or would you get down on your knees and wash His feet? Jesus demonstrated the proper choice following the Last Supper when He, the King of the Universe and God of all creation, knelt down and washed His servant's feet. That is the position we should all take toward our fellow man--that of a servant.
But that is not what the world teaches us. The world teaches us to be self-centered and step on others as we climb the ladder to fame, wealth and power. The world teaches strife. The world wants strife. Because the devil is ruler of world...for now.
In a men's group I'm involved in we discussed a survey that showed that most people believe the world to be too uncivil. When asked why the world had become so uncivil most respondents blamed two categories 1) politicians and government officials and 2) the media (regular media, social media, and Hollywood). It doesn't take more than about two minutes of watching the news to see how true this is. Politicians and the media constantly try to divide us, make us hate one another and even make claims of division where none exist. That is because they are of the world and are being used as tools of the devil to create strife.
Jesus tells us that "if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away." (Matthew 5:29). If paying attention to the media and politicians is causing your heart to fill with hate, turn it off. In fact, I'm going to give you a challenge. Do not watch or read any political news, make political posts on social media, or comment on political posts until after Easter. I know that will be hard since COVID-19 has been completely politicized and everyone wants to keep up with that, but let's try. And further, try to imagine yourself in the shoes of the political or media figure that irritates you the most to understand where they are coming from and understand why they may be angry or lashing out. Try to truly understand their point of view (not agree with it, just understand it). And pray for that person every day. I think we'll all be struck by how much less strife we have in our lives come Monday morning.
Lord Jesus, You are a uniter, but the world is so divided right now. We need You to unite us now more than ever! Please Lord, turn our hearts away from the world, away from ourselves, and to You. Turn our hearts to love. Turn our hearts to self-sacrifice. May we be one, just as You and Your Father are one. Amen.
R.C. VanLandingham is the author of the Christian fantasy novel Peter Puckett & The Amulet of Eternity. He lives in Florida with his beautiful wife and three wonderful boys.