Luke 12:51-53, "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
This morning, too often the world and society rubs off on God's people. When the winds of change blow through modern man's thinking, those things have a tendency to subtilly distort the mindset of the saints to be more accepting of things that they would not have at other times and seasons. Consider as an example the modern perception of homosexuality vs. 30-50 years ago. Little by little and bit by bit the general perception of society has been shifted in thought regarding this particular sin. People that would not have entertained nearly as accepting a mindset toward it 50 years ago promote tolerance and open-mindedness today. The problem with being too open-minded is that eventually your brains will spill out. The gears of the mind should be firmly rooted in the tenets of Scripture, for they do not shift and change like the doctrines of men and their cunning craftiness do.
One of the problems that modern-day Christianity faces (regardless of denominational affiliation) is that many professing Christians allow current thinking of openness and tolerance to blind them from appreciating real and absolute truth. The tenets of Scripture are non-negotiable. The way of Christ is changeless. Tolerance in the world’s modern sense basically equates to swallowing something that should rightly disgust us. Now, we should follow after liberty and not seek to bind people as slaves to our way of thinking, but in turn, we should not be bound by the fetters of tolerance to have to accept theirs whether we like it or not. The liberty must be bi-directional.
One of the great misconceptions about the way of Christ is that He simply promoted peace and goodwill. This is the same misconception about God in general when people only see the God of love. To see Christ properly, we have to indeed see Him as the Prince of Peace, but in order to appreciate the peace that He is for us, we have to be grounded in truth as the truth was vitally important to Him. To see and appreciate the God of love and mercy, we have to also understand the justice and judgment of God as well. One without the other makes for short-sighted and dangerous ground for God's people as they contemplate God and Jesus Christ. Christ in our study verses plainly says that His way will bring division, even down to the midst of families. This is not something we have to actively pursue (trying to make people mad), but the nature of following Christ will anger others.
Generally speaking, when people disagree about the right thing, correct thought, or proper course, argumentative techniques are employed. Many of these techniques add nothing to the conversation but rather dodge the real and main issue of the discussion. Have you ever talked with someone and been met with any of the following responses: 1. Can't we all just get along? 2. Don't make such a big fuss over this. 3. That just can't be right. 4. You must be foolish to think that. Each of these avenues that so often rear their heads during a conversation fail to seek the truth of the discussion but rather seek to win by way of ill-designed techniques (sometimes called logical fallacies).
When having a discussion with someone that uses #1, they make the plea that different mindsets should just be able to find some common ground to agree on. While there may be common ground between two people, that still does not change the fact that there is disagreement over the portion of ground currently under discussion. When Christ walked and talked here, He could have simply avoided the disagreement with the Pharisees and scribes by using the common ground that they had. They could have used Moses as their example, and Christ could have said that Moses was a good man and example. Then everyone would have gone home happy. They properly taught the tithing of various things, and Christ could have said that those were correct teachings. However, Christ showed them that there was something important missing and being neglected in not only their teachings but also in their perspective of Moses.
If someone uses argument technique #2, they are trying to say that the discussion point is not essential. We must take special care to ensure that we are earnestly contending for something essential (that cannot be compromised without damaging the teachings of the Bible)1, and if we are not, then we should follow their advice and leave it alone. If however, the point is essential to our view of God and our behaviour in return, then we should not yield the ground. Again, using Christ as an example, He could have yielded ground by simply saying it was not important enough to continue on. However, when the questioning came and He responded to the silencing of His interrogators, He showed that certain ground should be contended for.
When #3 raises its ugly head, the person is simply resorting to base opinion without grounds. The reason something is right or wrong is because God has said so. It matters not what some man's opinion might be. God's mind is what truly matters. Recently, I read a rather foolish article in which the writer asserted that the Bible was full of glaring contradictions and was based on confused 1st century Christians that scrambled to assemble a religious structure after discovering that Christ was not imminently coming back. Due to their foggy recollections of the Saviour's teachings, they could not assemble an error-free creed as their doctrine was made in their minds and hearts. Truly, if any group of disciples had less fuzziness than anyone else, I would stake the argument that those in those early days did. Not only did they have the Master, but they initially had His apostles and the very men that would be divinely inspired to pen His Book. What was written must be right, regardless of what any man (including myself) might think about it.
Technique #4 is perhaps the basest of the fallacious techniques. It seeks not to arrive at the truth but rather to make a personal assault on the other party. Resorting to personal attack rather than conceptual discussion not only detracts from the conversation but it quickly kills it. However, what I have always found interesting about those that employ this technique is that they always accuse the other side of doing what they do all too often. When arguing a principle, the other party will play like they are being martyred unnecessarily, though they are some of the first to launch personal assaults rather than raising valid points and logical reasoning.
Regardless of what technique(s) we are posed with in discussion, the point is clear from the Saviour. It happened to Him and because of Him, and we can expect that same kind of division today. People resorted to name-calling against Him, and we can expect the same against us. They dodged the issue(s) time and time again, and no less should be expected today. However, what should never rear its head among us is the slow but silent poison that affects our minds away from the Bible. Yes, the teachings contained therein are still just as relevant today as ever. Morality and immorality are still just as pointed and valid now as ever. Sins then are sins now. Righteousness then is righteousness now.
One final thought that will hopefully bring some of this together is how the world has affected many Christian's view of Biblical doctrine. They often today claim, "Doctrine divides, Christ unites." Their message is transparent – don't stand for doctrine as that will run people off; let's just all follow Christ together. However, the problem becomes manifest in our verses above. Christ Himself divided people. The doctrines of the Bible such as salvation, redemption, justification, glorification, the church, etc. will divide people. However, they are worth contending for, even if that means standing in opposition to our own natural families. Again, this is not something to necessarily go and seek out, but if we try to follow the way of Christ, rest assured dear friends that it will find us. We will have to deal with the heartaches that come with division as a result of it. However, all the heartaches we might experience when trying to follow the way of Christ all pale in comparison to one smile from the portals of glory. As the hymn writer wrote, "And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul."