Usually when we think of Jesus Christ and His mission we think of unity and Jesus pulling people together from all kinds of backgrounds. It isn’t a bad thought at all. It is phenominal that Jesus in choosing twelve men to be his ambassadors to the world would choose people so different from each other. Who would have ever even considered putting a Matthew the tax collector who was regarded by Jews as a traitor to the nation, onto the same team with Simon the Zealot. A Zealot was a Jewish radical. They hated the Romans and supported violence against both the Romans and any Jew that supported them. If you think about choosing a group of people to work together on a mission team, you look for people that are compatible and are able to support one another in the mission. Simon and Matthew just wouldn’t be two you would think of putting together.
Besides them, James and John had such hot tempers they were known as “The sons of thunder.” Those with such firey tempers don’t usually make great team members. Thinking of some of the other apostles, Peter was outspoken, a natural leader but constantly allowing his mouth to get him into problems. Andrew was a steady personality always there and ready to do what the Lord asked of him. Philip was detail oriented, aware of how much it would cost to buy enough bread to feed 5,000 people. Thomas seemed at times to be fatalistic. When Jesus determined to go to Mary and Martha when Lazarus their brother had died, he said, “Let’s go up and die with him” to the others. In truth they were very different people, but they were drawn together by committment to Jesus and he helped them become a team.
It was after sending the twelve out on the limited commission to the lost sheep of the House of Israel that Jesus explained to them what his mission was all about. Look especially in Matthew 10:34-39. “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it and any one losing his life because of Me will find it.”
This Scripture isn’t one of the ones that we often hear quoted. It doesn’t make the devotional books. It doesn’t fit the image our world has of Jesus. In our day we tend to picture Jesus more like Rodney King who pleaded, “Can’t we just get along?” The inability of Muslims and Christians to get along is seen as a slam against religious fervor. Why should people become so excited about religion? It seems altogether wrong that any person would be ready to die for what they believe spiritually.
But, is that really an accurate picture of Jesus, His teaching or what He calls on HIs followers to do? He is called the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6. The angels who announced his arrival said, “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” The kingdom of the Lord isn’t about food and drink but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit according to Paul in Romans 14. But our peace isn’t with the world, with the devil or with those who reject Jesus. It is peace with God through His grace, inner peace because our sins have been forgiven and peace with those in Christ as we refuse to judge one another and leave the judgment to the Lord.
Following Christ in the way that puts Him first before everyone and everything in this world won’t ever bring peace in the world as a whole. It will divide families since some won’t accept Christ or will only accept Him by their own definition and then only for a small place in their life. It will divide us from parents and in-laws who can’t understand the fervor for God. It will divide us on the job from one’s who either don’t have faith or they have a faith that doesn’t affect their morals or their character. It will divide us as a nation from those who follow some other faith or who only believe in themselves. Since Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) there is no way we can sign a peace treaty with those who say, there is another way and you can get to the Father without going through Jesus.
Peace is a wonderful thing when it has a right basis. But when we cry “Peace, peace when there is no peace” we represent the devil rather than God.
Unless one is ready to turn from family, friends, job, or whatever may stand between them and faithful service to the Lord to be real disciples of His then they don’t have the commitment needed to serve Him. Unity, peace and acceptance are noble goals when based on the truth of God’s word and the faithful service to the Lord. Unity in error, in false worship and self centered living only presents a united front headed in the wrong direction away from God.