It’s easy to simplify the person of Jesus, emphasizing one part to the exclusion of another. The result is a caricature, a withered form of the true Jesus. In our culture, we tend to so over emphasize the gentleness and mercy of Jesus that we forget that He is the judge who will punish wrong-doing. A gentle, and merciful judge to be sure, but yet a judge.
Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” The incarnation of the Son of God into the world initiates Christ’s conquering of it. As God, Jesus will not tolerate evil to plague creation forever. From the beginning, He has had a plan to do away with it, to destroy all injustice. Jesus is clear that there are sides in this battle which will tear families apart.
Why must it be so? We become like that which we love. Consider Psalm 135,
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak; they have eyes but do not see; they have ears but do not hear; nor is there breath in their mouths.”
Those who love idols, become like their idols. And consider its opposite, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Those who love God and His Image become like God because they are His sons. Those who love their idols become part of the world while those who love God are taken up into His family. Jesus came to conquer the world and to take those who love Him to Himself. Necessarily, there must be a division between those who freely choose to follow Jesus (they are given life) and those who refuse (they are conquered).
Heaven is a place of life, of joy, of peace, truth, and love. Those who love these things will love heaven. Murders, cynics, war-mongers, liars, and haters have no place in Heaven. The darkness hates what is light. They do not know God and so do not want to be with Him. Rather, the evil doers eat up God’s people (cf Ps 14). Therefore, they are banished from God’s kingdom where they will be powerless to do harm.
Jesus, who from his infancy was known to be a sign to be contradicted, brings fire to the earth. Fire, which itself has a double meaning. It is both a tool of destruction and torment and a symbol of warmth and safety. Jesus is a burning brand, setting fire to the earth. The meaning of this fire rests on one’s disposition to Him. Is it one of love or is it one of hate? Love leads to life and glory. Loves will encounter the gentle and merciful Jesus. Hate leads to death and infamy. Haters will not encounter such a gentle Jesus, even if He does tempter his punishment with mercy. Jesus will divide the lovers and the haters. Simeon says, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.”