Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Luke 12:51
Theme: Peace or Division?

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God is patient with our misunderstandings. His grace bears with our impiety. But He never indulges our ignorance or obstinacy. Salvation involves being transformed from old to new. To hear Jesus speak of division and not peace is counterintuitive to the common understanding of Christianity. Jesus is heralded at every stage as the bringer of peace. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests,”1 so sang the angels at His birth. The prophet Isaiah named Him as the “Prince of Peace.”2 and so He was and is for all eternity.

But the meaning and attainment of Christ’s peace should not be misrepresented. Jesus Christ is not a consensus- builder. He is the icon of absolute truth. In all His gentleness, tenderness, love and compassion He did not once compromise the truth. He stooped down, reached out, and humbled Himself to help people of every status, class, and condition. He touched lepers, commended prostitutes, and welcomed tax-collectors. Yet He never ignored sin or overlooked falsehood. The compassion of Christ was truly pure because it was never tainted by impure motives or mingled with deception. He is the very incarnation of divine love.

Human beings will never willingly relinquish their freedom to sin. They will not happily suffer the condemnation of their best laid plans. Christianity that is presented as the means to attain harmony among people, institutions, and religions in spite of adherence to error is gravely misrepresented. Christ died that we might be freed from sin’s servitude and falsehood’s enslavement, not so that we could find more common ground. Division will always exist because the gospel will not everywhere be tolerated or cherished. Some will ignore it while others will militate against it. Peace is never a given. Satan won’t allow it. Sin won’t stand for it. Peace comes at a price.

In our fallen world democratic societies operate to a large degree on the basis of consensus. As such we seek to establish stability based on law and maintain it through constant appraisal of its effectiveness. Individuals are granted opportunity for participation. But the idea that all would be in complete agreement is not a misconception under which we labour. It is the peace that comes from a certain degree of compromise that allows us to co-exist with believers and unbelievers alike. It is in this context that Paul advises “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”3

As Western society continues to decline in its consensus of even a basic morality- abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia being some high-profile examples- let alone in its agreement of the person and work of Christ, we must expect more dissension. Christians are in the world but not of the world. Our example of humility and integrity is our witness to the world. The creeds of Christ supersede the counsels of men. The foolishness of the cross takes precedence over human philosophy. Truth allows no place for error. The Bible says, “What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?”4

Of course, Satan always seeks to undermine our love by founding it on falsehood. Even acts done from the best intentions become damaging when not underpinned by the truth. But truth is a hard sell. It’s much better, we often think, to concede some integrity for the sake of keeping the peace. Decisions can become intense and complex. We often fight for the wrong things based on the wrong motives. We defend our personal interests at the expense of other’s well-being and especially the integrity of God’s Word. For these sins we are called to repentance.

The Bible teaches us that when it comes to peoples’ weaknesses, frailties, and vulnerabilities in giving in to temptation, we should be as patient as the day is long. For we too are subject to the very same inclinations and feebleness. We are to be slow to judge, eager to listen, and keen to understand. But never do we affirm people in their false beliefs, for that is not love but lack of concern for their soul.

Dear friends, peace is not the result of overlooking sin or ignoring falsehood. Peace is not attained by giving up the fight or conceding to the enemy. Peace is the consequence of reconciliation with God through Christ. Christ didn’t make peace through negotiation, but through sacrifice. He didn’t bargain with demonic forces, He disarmed them. The cross was the instrument of peace because it was precisely there that the offence of disobedience was borne and forgiven. The Scripture says, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”5

We participate in His triumph. Just as Christ rose from the grave the Holy Spirit raises our souls to new life. Today Jesus says He would undergo a baptism (of fire)- His suffering and death on the cross- so that our baptism might result in inclusion in His kingdom. We have already a taste of Christ’s divine peace. Our mouths taste it when we eat His body and drink His blood. Our ears receive it when we hear His word of forgiveness. Our Scripture from Hebrews summarizes well, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”6

There is no consensus-building or democratic participation in heaven. There will be no need because discord will not exist. And this will be true not because in the next life people will be more restrained in voicing their differences, but because with single-minded purpose the saints in heaven will be absorbed in the gifts of the eternal God. There will be no contest of wills. Everyone will be in harmony with the will of God not by force but as a consequence of the shedding of sin and the resurrection to glory. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
15 August 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 2:14
2 Isaiah 9:6
3 Romans 12:17-18
4 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
5 Colossians 2:15
6 Hebrews 12:2