This week we hear Jesus tell his disciples that he has not come to "bring peace to the earth . . . but rather division." And the interesting thing is that the divisions he describes are very specific:
From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
The divisions he highlights are not between people from different countries, or people from different Jewish sects, or people with opposing ideologies, but people within the same household. People in the same family. And not only that, but some of the most intimate and vulnerable relationships within those families: parents and children, children-in-law and parents-in-law.
Why is it so important that Jesus chose these relationships to highlight the need for fire and division among us? Because these relationships are the strongest bonds that existed in his culture. These were relationships between people who loved each other, who shared a common history, and who had committed their lives to one another. Jesus seemed to know that at the heart of conflict is not hate, but love. He also knew that every conflict has the potential to bring us into ever deeper relationship with one another. And that conflict is hard, so it is best to learn how to be in conflict with people we love most dearly.
This week, pay attention to where conflict is arising in your life. Is there a conflict that you have been avoiding? What would it be like to address this conflict with love, knowing that on the other side is deeper relationship? What are the practices that might help you return to the person with whom you are struggling?