13th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:49-53 Sermon
August 28, 2004
HYMNS (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
556 "Rise Ye Children of Salvation"
517 "Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid"
507 "Jesus Master, Whose I Am"
560 "Onward Christian Soldiers"
TEXT: (vs. 51-52) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”
It’s hard to imagine that football season is just around the corner. A week from today, Nebraska will be playing their first game of the season. And of course along with this will come the usual sights associated with Husker football.
If you look at the people assembled in Memorial Stadium, it’s like looking at a sea of red. Husker fans take great pride in identifying with their team, and so they will wear red clothing of some description.
This isn’t always the case however. Last year at the game between Nebraska and Kansas State, there was another major color added to the scene. Since Manhattan isn’t that far away, a lot of K State fans made the trip to Lincoln—and of course they weren’t disappointed. K State fans wear the color purple as proudly as Nebraska fans wear their red.
The stadium wasn’t it’s usual “solid red” as it would be normally. The crowd was divided between red and purple. And as Nebraska continued to lose, the red became less as people left. By the middle of the 4th quarter, the color purple became the predominant color in the stands.
The people attending a football game are a divided people. It’s the same with any sporting event. And in the case of a Nebraska football game, you can tell a person’s team preference simply by the colors that they wear.
There are a lot of things in life that divide people. Ethnicity, culture, race, politics, and religion are dividing things.
In our text for today, Jesus is talking about division. Some people are very uncomfortable with that, and have come up with some rather wild theories in an attempt to explain away those words. I’ve heard people say, “well, Jesus really didn’t speak those words; they were added by other writers later on.” If that were the case, then those “other writers” would have had to have doctored both Matthew and Luke (since they both contain this bit about division) and would have done one slightly different than the other.
No, I don’t think there can be any mistake about what Jesus is saying. He is straight and to the point, and leaves no room for wild interpretation. He says, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” There will be those things that divide; and what’s more Jesus is telling people that he will be the cause of some of this division.
The first and primary division is that between a believer and an unbeliever—sometimes referred to metaphorically as the division between the “sheep and the goats.” A person is either a Christian or they aren’t one. In some families, this has been a huge dividing issue. For example, Madelyn Murray O’Hair, the rather famous and outspoken atheist, has a son Bill, who is a devout Christian. This division certainly had to make for some interesting conversations!
I’m going to talk more about various divisions in a bit, but there is another issue that I’d like to address first. What about churches that create division where there shouldn’t be in the first place? What I’m talking about, is churches that will take a public political stand about something which isn’t directly church-related. When the church enters the political arena, and a pulpit turns into a political platform, then the church has over-stepped its authority.
Here’s an example. The “Gambling with the Good Life” people, who are the people opposed to the expanded gambling issue in Nebraska, have asked the churches for an endorsement. I heard a pastor on the radio just this past Sunday talk about this, and how he planned to preach against gambling and how it was going to be his mission to try to keep this amendment on the November ballot from passing. He felt no compunction whatsoever about using his pulpit and the name of his congregation in accomplishing this.
I’m not going to do this, primarily because of its divisive nature. Do I have an opinion? Yes I do; but here is neither the time nor the place to share that. I’m also not going to try to pretend that my opinion on an issue is God’s opinion, specifically in areas where Scripture hasn’t spoken. In almost every congregation there will most likely be people on both sides of the issue. And I’d be willing to bet (no pun intended) that this issue is divided amongst families.
For the church to come up with a public endorsement of anti-gambling legislation, is almost like saying that it will be a sin if you go to the polls and vote in favor of it.
I believe that you have the intelligence and the right to make up your own minds on this issue without any help from me or the endorsement from a particular church. You may go to the polls and vote whatever way you want without fear of retribution from God. The person who abstains from gambling needs Jesus and the church just as much as the person who goes to a casino and feeds a roll of quarters into a slot machine for entertainment.
Another item that gets dragged into the pulpit is the death penalty. Many churches have taken official stands against it. Many pastors have thumped their Bible on the “thou shalt not kill” passage protesting capital punishment.
However, just a simple cursory check of Romans chapter 13 will show you that God does allow the government the authority to use the death penalty. Whether we like it or not, God does allow it.
But even though God allows it, it doesn’t mean that the government HAS to use it. And just because God allows it, doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to your opinion about it. Your faith does not hinge on whether or not you are opposed to the death penalty. This is another issue where many churches will take a political stand and divide people in an area where they shouldn’t.
It’s kind of ironic too, that so many people who take the anti-death penalty position on the grounds that “killing is wrong” are quite often the people who support abortion and the killing of the unborn. Abortion, unlike the other political issues, is a moral issue, and it is an issue where God IS NOT silent. Therefore, when a church takes a pro-life stand, it is speaking where God HAS spoken, quite apart from issues which are only in the political arena.
I could go on with more. Suffice it to say that congregations will have a mix of Democrats and Republicans and independents. People will support different political candidates and issues. People will have different ideas of what should and should not be legal in society.
Considering the vast differences and divisions in God’s people, we read what God has to say to us—first in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And then we read in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel that I may share in its blessings.”
From those two passages of Scripture which I just read, there are two very important phrases which stand out above the rest: “Christ Jesus” and “the Gospel.” For it is in the words of these two phrases where we find the platform and work of the Church. Our ministry is one of Christ Jesus and the Gospel. That is the Evangelical nature of the Lutheran Church. And that is what we’re all about.
If we look at society in general, we can see the influence and domination of sin amongst human beings. We can see this in our own lives. We can see how Satan influences us in so many ways. We need a place where we can find rest and nourishment for our souls; a place where we can find forgiveness and peace.
And so we gather here, together as a church. We come, not to hear the latest political agenda, but we come to meet Jesus and to hear the Gospel message. We come confessing our sins and weaknesses, knowing that we will find forgiveness through faith in Jesus our Saviour. We know regardless of whatever earthly thing divides us, that Christ does unify his true believers in the one true faith.
Earthly divisions are erased when it comes to an individual’s soul. The message of the Gospel will save each and every soul in exactly the same way. Everyone needs to have faith in Jesus their Saviour to be saved—regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a man or a woman, or whether you are for or against expanded gambling in the state of Nebraska. Jesus died to save each and every person from their sins, so that by believing in him, each soul may have life in his name.
Jesus says in our text for today, “Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Let’s take a quick look at some other areas where we might see this division happening.
I said earlier that the primary division is between the believer and the unbeliever. That’s a given. 2 Corinthians 6 verse 14 states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers…” and continuing on in verse 17, “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.” The Christian has no basis for fellowship with a non-Christian, and they can’t pretend that there is one either. The Christian can’t share in a generic prayer or joint worship with Muslims, or Jews, or Buddhists, or Unitarians, or any other unbelievers. We aren’t all “worshipping and praying to the same God.”
There are also doctrinal issues which divide. The infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible is another key issue. Was the world created like God said it was, or did it happen in another way, and the people back then were just too dumb to understand the truth? Did God really mean what he said in other parts of the Bible, or do people change the words and meaning of Scripture into saying what they THINK God said or meant? Is faith in Jesus Christ the ONLY way to be saved as the Bible says, or is it only ONE way like some would have us think? Those are doctrinal divisions.
And then, some people will take the words of Jesus in John 17:21 which read: “That all of them may be one” and use it as a license to try to water down sound doctrine so that some sort of superficial unity may be found. If we read some of the joint Lutheran/Reformed and Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogues regarding various doctrinal issues, we find language that’s so ambiguous you would find it difficult to come to any theological conclusion. Unity for the sake of unity is NOT the answer to Christ’s prayer “That all of them may be one.” People say we should regard doctrinal differences as respecting each other’s “worship traditions.” Respecting a particular tradition is one thing; accepting false doctrine is quite another.
As a group of believers, we stand squarely on the inerrancy of the Bible. We stand squarely on the Gospel which tells us that we are saved, not because of anything we’ve done, but only through faith in Jesus our Saviour.
These are fundamental statements of faith which will, unfortunately divide us from others. In our text for today, Jesus warns us that there will be division. He doesn’t necessarily want division, but yet he knows it will exist. That’s a simple statement of fact.
Division is difficult sometimes, especially if it exists in one family. But when we stand on the truth of Scripture and on the Gospel of Christ, we know we are on solid ground. And we can be sure that we have a faith which will endure anything that Satan, or the world, or even a family member can throw at us. Our faith in Christ our Saviour is a well-placed faith, which will preserve us until the day we meet him face-to-face.
May God keep us faithful to him and his word as we continue to preach the good news of the Gospel to all creation.