Fire of love, engulf us

Scripture of the Day: Luke 12:49–53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Division and the Prince of Peace

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us his heart is in anguish.

The omniscient, omnipotent God who made himself fully man in all things but sin, and living in time-space, the heart of the Alpha and the Omega burns with love. This fire of love manifests as anguish until his mission complete. But once Jesus endures this baptism, the anguish will subside.

  • What is Jesus’ mission? To pay the debts we cannot pay and reconcile the one lost sheep (which represents all of humanity) with God the Father.
  • What is Jesus’ baptism? Death by crucifixion. (Here, Jesus does not refer to his baptism by John in the Jordan River.)
  • What is the anguish? Truly incomprehensible to us. For certain it is not limited to the physical and emotional suffering he knows he must endure as man; it includes the spiritual weight caused by the gulf of separation sin creates between God and his beloved children and a heart that longs for reunion and for man to be restored to the love and freedom for which he was made.
  • What is the fire? John the Baptist says that he baptizes with water, but one is coming after him who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11).

LOVE yearns to reconcile each one of us with the Father and to set us ablaze with the fire of God’s love.

When we begin to respond to God’s outpouring of love, however, division will result. Many people don’t acknowledge their need for reconciliation and healing and won’t understand what his happening in our lives. They deny God; they reject God; they refuse his ways.

Those who come to know and live Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, Savior, Redeemer, and King will require new wine skins. The old must pass way. Jesus must increase, and we must decrease. The division that results remains among men until the end of time, when all things will be reconciled. (Leave the wheat to grow with the weeds, and when the harvesters come, they will separate the two.)

We should not let this division be a source of fear or anxiety. Rather, we should focus on the fire that Jesus wants to blaze in us. God says I’d rather you be hot or cold; the lukewarm he will spit out (God’s message to the church in Laodicea, Revelation 3).

Why does this fire that Jesus desires not burn? The fire does not burn because this movement of love is continually rejected — not just by nonbelievers, but also by us, by those who claim to be Jesus’ friends!

Our conversion is not a one-time profession that Jesus is Lord. Faith is expressed through our behavior. The battle is in the world, because it is also within each man for the duration of earthly life. When we strive to follow the first commandment and put God first our life, when we commit to his ways and not our own, and strive daily to die to self, we are guaranteed a struggle. The world, the devil, and the flesh are all opposed to the Spirit of God.

Some family members may rejoice with the angels that a lost sheep has been found; others will not only not understand, they may make fun of you or outright reject you. Consider for a moment the disruption (family, community, work) in the lives of

  • a first century Jew who embraces Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah (in the early days of Christianity, if a Jew accepted Jesus as the Son of God, his family would hold a funeral for him; they treated him like he was dead);
  • a modern day Muslim who encounters the Good News and discovers that Jesus is Lord, that though God is master, man is not a slave but rather a beloved child of God (In Muslim countries today, if you convert from Islam to Christianity, they kill you as an apostate; I suspect they don’t bother with a funeral);
  • a new age seeker who trades shifting sands and temporary spiritual “experiences” for the solid rock of Christ; or
  • a cafeteria Catholic drifting about in the secular culture who returns to the sacraments and discovers Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the fullness of life.

People (seemingly) have much to lose when they turn to Christ. Secular culture (in Americas or Europe) will mock you for sure, and hope to do much more than that. Those who have found the pearl of great price know what there is to gain and sell all to have it. Amid the chaos and division of conversion, Jesus is ready to fill you with his peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, because it conquers earthly circumstances.

Draw near to the Lord, and he will draw near to you. When you hear Christ knocking, open the door, welcome him, and he will come and dine with you, and he will bring his Father and the Holy Spirit. With God’s help, we will navigate the division in our families and communities and share in Jesus’ mission of reconciliation to bring about a much greater peace.

Jesus set our hearts ablaze!

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