Luke 12:49-56 Did Jesus Come for Peace?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Luke 12:49-56 Did Jesus Come for Peace?
(August 15, 2010)

This reading includes Jesus declaring, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will five 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 her mother…”
Jesus frequently talked about peace and peacemaking, and indeed Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are peacemakers.” How do we reconcile those teachings with this week’s passage? I think in Luke 12:49-56 Jesus was making a statement of fact, not a statement of preference. He recognized that his ministry would divide people, but that did not stop him from spreading his radical message.
The specifics of the passage lend insight. In the scapegoating process, which I have discussed extensively in previous essays, it is all-against-one. With Jesus undermining scapegoating by demonstrating that it is illicit and immoral, people could no longer come together by their common contempt and hatred for scapegoating victims. This would lead to divisions of three against two rather than four against one.
Most remarkably, it would divide father and son, mother and daughter. All hierarchies are grounded in the scapegoating process, including the hierarchy that places parents over children. Young children must respect and obey their parents for their own welfare. However, once children are grown, they are adults who should not be compelled to obey their parents. Forced obeisance always reflects a hierarchy, and structural hierarchies always contain injustices grounded in the scapegoating process. Jesus’ undermining the scapegoating process would invariably lead to conflicts between parents and their children, yet Jesus would not countenance the greater evil of unjust oppression.
When there is scapegoating, there is the appearance of peace, but there is no real peace. I think Jeremiah recognized this when he declared, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace” (8:11). Currently, scapegoating animals brings people together, and examples include the holiday meal with an animal corpse as the centerpiece and the camaraderie that often accompanies hunting. But, as I’ve argued in past essays, humanity’s war with animals is destroying human civilization. As people go about their daily lives and appear to live contented, peaceful lives, there is a thin veneer of peace that barely obscures the massive violence against animals. The threat to humanity, though somewhat less obvious, seems clear to me. Essential natural resources are rapidly declining and the environment and rapidly changing in ways that will destabilize human civilization. It seems to me that our only hope is divine intervention, and countless civilizations have hoped in vain for divine rescue. Would a just God spare a human civilization that, merely to please the senses, systematically tortures and murders tens of billions of God’s animals each year? I’ll explore some biblical perspectives on this question next week.

Go on to: Reflections on Genesis 18
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion