The Fires of Division

Luke 12: 49-53
Rom 6: 19-23 / Psa 1

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
(Luke 12:51)

We must be bold to face the fires
Of life’s trials and division,
This much from us our faith requires
For our own purification.

Jesus said: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is completed! Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three. A father will be divided against his son and a son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

Reflection

We find many accounts in the Bible when fire fell from heaven. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone in the book of Genesis, 19:24-25. Moses called down fire from heaven as one of the ten plagues brought against the obstinacy of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:3). The prophet Elijah also called down fire from heaven which destroyed the soldiers of King Ahaziah whom he sent to fetch Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-17). But Jesus was not talking about the Old Testament kind of destructive fire. Our Lord was simply conditioning His disciples about the baptism of fire that He would soon undergo, and which they too would experience. However, they would first be given the tongues of fire from the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so that they could persevere in their trials of fire in their mission to spread the faith. That fire of faith would spread to the 3,000 people who were converted on that day, and “throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Perhaps Jesus was also making a prophecy about the fires of division that His Church would undergo in future generations. In fact, early on the Church was almost divided between the camps of the apostles Peter and Paul, due to the question of applying Judaic laws to the gentile converts. Then came the breaking away of the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome. This was followed by the fire of Protestantism that split Christendom during the Middle Ages. And even in the present age, the Church continues to be rocked by the so-called liberation theology advocated by some members of the church hierarchy, and the disobedience of Catholic Masons.

Even Charismatic renewal communities are not spared of these fires of divisiveness. How could a brilliant and noble undertaking like Gawad Kalinga cause a leadership split in a loving community like Couples for Christ? This was clearly the handiwork of the enemy. If division can happen in a household of five, how much more in a community of hundreds who are not related to each other? Even a leader’s helping hand can be misinterpreted as “meddling” by members under his care. Or one who is serving his community to the best of his abilities can be accused of crass ambition. We must not let these trials of fire create division in our ranks; instead we must face them with humility as the fires for our cleansing and purification, “as gold is tested in fire”, because many have gained a stronger faith for it. In the end, God will reward our perseverance with His fire of zeal and passion in the mission to spread His Word.

Dear God, may the fire of the Holy Spirit transform us and fill us with boldness, that we may enkindle Your message of salvation in the hearts of other people. Amen.

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