Friday, July 15, 2011

Prince of Division

As Jesus was sending the Twelve Apostles out on their first mission, He provided with them with some instructions and teaching in preparation. We are at the part of the preparatory speech where Jesus has just reminded them that they should fear God, and that God controls the death of everything.

Prince of Division
Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace, among other illustrious titles. Have you wondered why? It comes from a prophesy in Isaiah 9:1-7, where Isaiah tells us that there will be no more gloom for the distressed. God will honor the Gentiles (according to one interpretation). People in darkness have seen a great light. God has made the nation bigger, increased joy, and lifted peoples burdens. War-bloodied clothing will be burnt. A son is born who will rule and be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). His peace and government will know no end, and he will rule from David's throne in justice and righteousness forever.

If you are a Christian, you probably thought that this prophesy matched Jesus pretty well, but did you notice the verb tense? It speaks of a hope which had already dawned at the time of Isaiah's writing, and will come to fruition with a ruler on David's throne, the throne of the nation of Israel. Not exactly a match with Jesus. The last part, about the ruler's peace, government, and ruling lasting forever, that does sound like Jesus, but we should keep in mind that eternal kingship was promised to David as well, and only meant that David's descendants would rule on the throne of the nation (2 Samuel 7:8-16).

So what about the actual synonym? Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Is that a match? Well, how about we let Jesus explain it Himself in Matthew 10:34-36:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'” NIV
So Jesus tells us that He did not come here to bring peace, but rather to turn members of your own family into your enemies. Luke 12:51-53 essentially says the same thing. That is just about the opposite of what I would expect a “Prince of Peace” to do. While Isaiah paints a picture of a lineage of rulers whose peace would be ever expanding, Matthew and Luke show Jesus to create turmoil in our very homes.

Some may say that the peace which Jesus brings is a spiritual peace; a calm despite all of the afflictions and uncertainty of the world around us. To that sentiment, I ask who is at spiritual peace when his or her enemies are his or her own parents?

Others may say that this peace refers to when Jesus will come back and rule the earth for 1000 years, but that is time-limited and so it cannot be forever in agreement with the prophesy.

Still others claim that this peaceful kingship is only referring to the kingdom of the afterlife and the great peace Jesus will bring there, but this would seem to be inaccurate because Isaiah says that war-bloodied clothing will be burnt. What would war-bloodied clothing be doing in the afterlife?

Christianity has yielded a lack of peace, both on the macro-scale, with events like the Crusades, and on the micro-scale, with division lines among families drawn on dogmatic beliefs. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, I would prefer a different kind of peace, thank you. No, Jesus, based on His own words, is the Prince of Division.


  1. "Sharper than any two edged sword...".

    There is of course the distinction between the inner peace and external peace you, well you brush past it.

    Even with division in my family I can have inner peace born of my faith and trust in God. This is not a difficult concept, Buddhists teach it too (with perhaps a different driving force).

    Christ must also divide, just as any meaningful statement on anything must. We know things by what they are not, another fundamental concept of the both logic and the Tau.

    You may argue the inference of the words of Isaiah, but there is no real conflict with Christ's position as the Prince of Peace and the Word of God.

  2. Yes, I apologize for brushing quickly through the concept of inner peace versus external peace. I try to balance between keeping posts casually readable, i.e. short, yet while covering weighty topics. There are some unfortunate casualties. ;-)

    Inner peace is obviously the best possible defense. We do not have external peace, even in primarily Christian nations. So for this Kingdom to exist right now and for the scripture about Jesus bringing peace in His
    Kingdom to be accurate, an internalized interpretation seems the only way.

    The trouble is that when you read the scriptural prophesies like Isaiah, they seem to be speaking of peace on an external basis. In the referenced prophesy here, Isaiah 9:1-7, there is the line about burning the boots used in war, which seems to carry grosser symbolic meaning of having external peace; that is that the burning of the boots of war because they will never again be needed. There are more explicit prophesies too, like Isaiah 2:1-5, where Isaiah tells us that people will beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks because there will never again be wars between nations.

    However, there are other passages (I think primarily in Proverbs and Psalms which I have not studied in detail) which do reference God as being a kind of shelter despite the conditions around; a representation of this inner peace.

    So perhaps it is not an either/or arrangement between internal and external peace, but rather both.

    Now, having been what I would consider to be a Christian at one time, and know other Christians quite well, I never really observed any special endowment of inner peace, but your experience may vary. ;-)