Jesus goes on to say, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." He has come to pit two against three, and a son against his father, and mother against daughter. Truth often leads to conflict.
In my first few years of ministry, I experienced a powerful conversion. The power of the Holy Name of Jesus took root in my life and surfaced a soul-rending tension between who I was, and who I was called to be. Jesus is always at work in the tension of my life: the frustration and annoyance of never ending dishes and laundry, misunderstandings at work, the discomfort I feel when avoiding the gaze of the homeless in my community, and the immediacy of anger on the road.
For the Christian, there are no small choices in life. Will I be angrier than the driver next to me? Will I resent the coworker that yells at me? Will I leave my spouse’s clothes inside out when I fold them to see if they even noticed my previous efforts?
These moments sit in life like white hot embers, waiting to burst into flame. A hot ember needs only to be prodded to become a flame. In these tensions is revealed the war that is waged for souls. In it both Jesus and Satan fight to inflame the heart. When we allow Jesus to set us ablaze, the result is a purifying fire. White hot. Clarifying. Cleansing. The devil, the great deceiver, always tries to mimick Jesus, but when the devil sets us on fire, it is destruction. Choking, poisonous smoke leading to a blackened, crumbling shell.
To be Christian is to enter a battle. Decisions, laced with eternity, give rise to fire. Jesus uses fire to purify. The devil, to destroy. Both require death. Only one leads to life.