This weeks text from Luke 12 brings up all kinds of questions for me. It should bring up questions for any peace-loving follower of Christ. Some people will tell you that it is very wrong to question what is in the Bible. In fact, some of you probably have been raised to believe that it was wrong to change the Bible in any way from the King James Version— which as any true believer knows, was surely the one Jesus read.
But like many others I cannot read this in any translation, and not want to ask Jesus more about it. So my questions would sound something like this: Dear Jesus, when you were born you were referred to as the Prince of Peace. In fact, we sing that every year at Christmas time. Yet, as a grown up, about to die, you claim that you did not in fact come to bring peace. Which is it, Jesus? Dear Jesus, why do you condone family fighting? And Jesus, with all of the other things in the world to break families apart— drugs, alcohol, gambling, infidelity, money troubles, why should we willingly break families apart because of you?
You know it seems to me that I would want to say to Jesus something like; wouldn’t it be better, for the sake of family values, to keep a family together and happy at all costs, even if it means we have no real commitment to you? This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I have actually gone through the original text, word for word, in Greek, and that I have found that the use of metaphorical language and hyperbole has rendered the harshness of these words null and void.
I’m supposed to tell you that Jesus didn’t really mean it, or that we shouldn’t take it at face value, or that it doesn’t really apply to us. I’m sorry. I can’t tell you that.
Every parent relates and sympathises with this message from Jesus. There is no anger or animosity, no malicious intent in what Jesus says. He simply speaks the truth and explains what happens any time people are faced with making a mandatory choice.
Think about the dilemma that has been played in the Northern Territory and how pulled people have been by the appalling treatment of children and then others saying we have to have law and order. Think about how we allow refugees to be abused especially children while others say we must keep our borders safe from desperate people. Well, Jesus offers a different way to live in the world and approach such issues. Jesus calls people to mercy and compassion, forgiveness and justice, kindness and respect. He challenges people to make a choice— to continue to follow a religious path corrupted by culture and a misguided hierarchy or to break from tradition and create a radically different kind of community and practice.
In the case of the children in detention we are called to treat them from a position of love because Jesus speaks to us about this. But in all situations Jesus speaks truth to power— political and religious— and invites others to do the same. There is no neutral ground. Every person must make a choice— acceptance of the gospel of spiritual awakening, the gospel of love and new life or rejection of the good news and the preservation of the old ways. Well still face the same choice today.