Raised in an observant Jewish home, I had no clue Who Jesus was or what He taught.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I ventured into a Catholic Church on a field trip for the very first time. I remember my senses and sensibilities being assailed by the sights and smells within that old church, but deeper questions and answers about the image of a battered, naked man hanging on a cross would not emerge until a year later in college.
Late one night I sat in my dorm room and warily opened a Christian bible for the first time. That man on the cross was a Jew, the main character in a drama filled with intrigue, treachery, heroism, love, and messianic hope. Over the course of the next nine months, the Gospels became my daily reading and the words of Jesus stirred in me both excitement and tremendous fear.
I understood, perhaps like the Jewish people of His day, that wholehearted belief and adherence to the Good News of Jesus would radically change my life and be a source of conflict, pain, and division within my own family.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53) Jesus reminds us of His true purpose: “to set the earth on fire.” He came to confront and conquer sin in every human heart. This cosmic clash of spiritual powers resulted in upheaval. The earth shook, the sanctuary curtain tore in two, households were divided, and believers were persecuted and killed, just like their Master.
God did not send His Son to help us settle into the status quo, win popularity, or feel better about ourselves.
The Refiner came to set our hearts aflame with love for Him, and to burn away everything within us that opposes our total allegiance to the King. His words should unsettle us, and give us the courage to resist a Christianity that is comfortable, convenient, and compromised.
There is no middle ground with Christ. He never gives His disciples that option.