“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, a household will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother.” – Luke 12:51-53 abridged (NRSV)
Two years ago, I sat with an elderly member of my church who consumed a steady diet of televised news shows from both sides of the divide. She wondered, “How do I know who is right and who is wrong?”
“Sometimes it’s hard to know who is right,” I said, “but it’s not hard to know who is dead wrong: those who draw applause from neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.”
It’s jarring to hear Jesus talk about dividing families. We prefer to think of him as inclusive and embracing, which was exactly the problem. Not everyone was into it.
If you are invested in, and benefiting from, a system controlled by a few people who are above the law, you might be threatened by an egalitarian vision where everyone’s worth and voice are equal.
Conversely, if you resist systems of dominance and draw attention to the marginalized and unheard, you will likely be labeled “divisive” and probably “socialist” too. Members of your own family might see you and your ideas as repugnant and dangerous.
How do we know what is right and what is wrong today? We can look at where the Nazis gather. We can also ask ourselves, “Would I rather be included for who I exclude or excluded for who I include?”
As in Jesus’ time, if God’s expansive love feels threatening, we are not only on the wrong side of history, we are on the wrong side of the gospel.
God, cure me from the need to be right. Grant me instead the humility to know when I am wrong.