When fidelity to Christ causes division

Published August 14, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP


Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, O.P.

My friend Erick once enjoyed a big number of “friends” and “followers” on social media. But when he started posting religious messages taken from the Bible, many unfriended, unfollowed or ghosted him. One person even sent him this message: “Reading your daily posts about Jesus makes me guilty and uncomfortable. I think you’re an insufferable hypocrite with a holier-than-thou attitude.”

Another friend, Ethel, a member of a parish-based charismatic community, noticed that after their weekly prayer meetings, many engaged in gossip and useless chatter. One day she just blurted out: “Let us focus our conversations on deepening our knowledge of the Word of God and its impact on our lives.” She was accused of being judgmental. One said: “You don’t make us feel good about ourselves. You’re free to look for another group if you can’t stand our conversation,.”

Erick and Ethel faced rejection because of their honest desire to live as faithful followers of Jesus. They will find consolation in the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading:

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, I did not come to bring peace but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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 daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53).

Standing up for what you believe in can stir up division and rob you of the peace you enjoy. We are centers of differing beliefs and convictions. We have varied frameworks of interpretation. When a person, like Erick and Ethel, makes decisions based on their moral conviction, it is easy for them to be misunderstood, even rejected by people who do not share their beliefs. Erick and Ethel create a gnawing sense of guilt on those who appear pious but are actually afflicted by religious indifference.

Certainly, Jesus came to bring peace, but not one that is a product of compromise. You cannot keep silent when people close to you blatantly violate the commandments of God. Many people, in the name of reconciliation, try to make peace with those whose behavior is consistently against the moral law. They must remember that Jesus did not come to reconcile good and evil. He came to destroy evil and foster goodness.

Being a faithful Christian can, indeed, cause us to strain our relation with others, but this does not mean that that we intentionally create conflict or tear down our families. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that we are to be peacemakers and “to live in peace with each other” (Matthew 5:9; Mark 9:50). St. Paul adds: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

It is difficult to be peacemakers in situations where standing up for the truth stirs up conflict. But living in peace with others does not entail making them feel good. Christianity is not a feel-good religion. It’s our job to be faithful, even if it causes other people to hate us.

Let us pray for those who are ostracized and persecuted even by their own families because of their faith in God. May God sustain and encourage them. And may God help us to be faithful to Him in all things, even if everyone is intent on marginalizing us. After all, one faithful Christian plus God will always constitute the majority.