Vision and division in leadership and the church


This morning I spent unhurried time meditating on some controversial words of Jesus:
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. (Luke 12:51-52)
In Jesus' time, it was expected that the Messiah would bring peace, and that hasn't changed. People today expect that if they go to a Christian church, they should expect an environment where people get along with one another. But the let's-all-get-along church may be the furthest from Jesus' actual presence. It's one thing to like the idea of Jesus and another to live under his table-overturning reign.

Jesus is saying something about the nature of his leadership and about leadership in general. A leader with a strong picture of where to go will not attempt to make everyone happy. In fact, we could say:
Vision brings division.
Vision is "where we can go if we really want to." Vision that is strong and vivid separates people. Those who buy in to the vision and sign up for the journey step out from the crowd. They become separate from those who will not, or have not yet, bought in.

Is not the church called the ekklesia -- the Greek word that literally means "called out?"

The church has never been intended to separate from the world just for the sake of doing something different or creating a culture of religious superiority. The church becomes separate when we see the vivid, sharp outlines of Jesus' vision, and we buy in, sign up, and step out. When we do this, we cannot help but be divided from those who will not, or have not yet, bought in. We are living by a different agenda. An unimaginably better one, I might add. As I preach slowly through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, I am deeply moved by the clarity and distinctness of Jesus' vision. And I become more and more convinced that you can't take Jesus seriously and make everyone happy at the same time.

Leadership is fueled by vision. The stronger the vision, the more division it will create. Jesus is a leader whose vision, if taken seriously, calls us out and sets us apart.

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