Missional work can be divisive. It doesn’t have to be, often it is not, but sometimes it is. One of Jesus’ harder and harsher words is this: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth — I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). And often misunderstood, too.
Because Jesus blesses the Peacemakers and tells us that he offered Israel peace and because he tells the missioners to offer homes peace, we need to tone down what Matthew 10:34 says: Jesus does not want division, but division is sometimes the inevitable result of the presence of Jesus’ Kingdom work. Jesus wants peace, but knows that peace comes as a result of responding to Kingdom work.
What is most notable, in my judgment, about this “divisional” missional work is sometimes unobserved. In fact, some folks like the divisional and the sectarian and think being in the minority is the point.
We need to pause to look a little more closely and ask, “Where are the divisions Jesus is talking about?” The answer is simple: one’s own household. What Jesus is speaking of here is family opposition to the missioners, and probably for joining in the Jesus Kingdom work and probably for being missioners for Jesus. It does not appear to me that the divisions are in the communities into which they are sent, but instead come from those in one’s own family when they oppose the missional work itself.
Jesus has already shown that response causes divisions (10:11-15), now he shows that the calling to the task can cause divisions in one’s own household.
Two more parts to this series, and then I will be doing a shorter series on some things Paul says about pastoring and preaching.