The cross is folly to those who are perishing, and the power of God to those who are being saved (1 Cor.1:18); it is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, but to Jewish and Greek believers in Christ it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:23-24). In the Gentile world of Athens, the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ led to some mocking, some inquiring, and some believing (Acts 17:32-34). The gospel as a whole is a matter of death to death for those who are perishing, and life to life for those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.2:15-16).
It is a startling and counter-intuitive thought that Christ Jesus came into the world to usher in hostility and trouble and controversy. Surely we have enough of that already. Yet He tells us clearly that we are not to think that He came to bring peace on earth, but, no, He came to bring division (Luke 12:51). Within the one family there will be divisions – father against son; mother against daughter; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law (Luke 12:52-53). The household will not always be the refuge of peace and harmony that we all desire.
What, then, about all those ‘peace’ verses? ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him’ (Prov.16:7). We are not to aim to be cantankerous and hard to get on with: ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ (Rom.12:18). Even where a Christian has an unbelieving spouse, God has called us to peace (1 Cor.7:15). In the civil sphere we are to pray for those in authority over us that we might lead a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim.2:2).
Yet the proclamation of the true gospel is invariably divisive. At the birth of the Messiah, old Simeon foresaw that this child was appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). As people began to understand something more of His claims, there was a division among the people over Him (John 7:43). He was not just a talking point in the pub; there were those who wanted to arrest Him (John 7:44).
After Jesus had healed a man born blind (John 9), and claimed to be the good Shepherd who would give His life for the sheep, and then rise again (John 10:11, 17-18), there was a similar response.