JESUS, THE ULTIMATE REVELATION OF CONFLICT
Jesus Christ came "from above" -- from another world (John 8:23). His coming was an intrusion into a conflicting order. Even in a humbled state, the prerogatives of His Godhood laid aside, there remained a sharp contrast between Himself and "this present evil world" (Phil 2:5-8; Gal 1:4). In Him we find the ultimate revelation of spiritual conflict.
From His birth, the world opposed Christ. Herod diabolically attempted to rid his empire of this heavenly Competitor. So violent was his opposition that he proceeded to slaughter "all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under" (Matt. 2:16).
A conflict of worlds was seen during Jesus youthful life. On one occasion, when He was twelve years old, He articulated the conflict to His mother. After a laborious search of three days, His "parents" (Luke 2:27) found Him in the temple. Concerned that He had not been more thoughtful of them, Mary said, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." The "holy Child's" answer proclaimed the conflict. "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business"? (Luke 2:48-49).
During His earthly ministry, our Lord was found to be in conflict with traditional religion. This conflict was the result of His insightful declaration of truth. Following His "sermon on the mount," this observation is recorded. "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt 7:29). His was not a learned historical disquisition or linguistic study. He unveiled to the people what He had "seen and heard."
The frequent skirmishes He had with the Scribes, Pharisees, and Lawyers were evidence of a conflict between spiritual perception and devotion to dead tradition. The conflict between these two perspectives still exists.
Christ's summons amidst conflict
Christ calls men to Himself in the crucible of conflict and contradiction. To a decadent world and a lethargic church the clarion call still rings out. "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). The requirement of self denial postulates conflict. The taking up of ones own cross presumes that there are competing influences that must be violently opposed and subdued. Were there no conflict, there would be no such summons.
Addressing those that were "at ease in Zion," our Lord spoke clearly of His mission. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt 10:34-36).
We have examples of other household conflicts. Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Our Lord's language should not surprise us. The discord generated by the Lord's presence is more revelatory than disruptive. It is the unavoidable result of embracing Him that is "separate from sinners" (Heb 7:26).
Deliverance from this present evil world
Because of its basic contradiction to God, Jesus came to "deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God" (Gal. 1:4). Presently, we are delivered from its power and influence. Ultimately, we shall be delivered from it completely, "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess. 5:23).
Salvation, from this perspective, is the translation of men from the inferior realm to the superior one--from the corrupted world to the eternal one. These are opposing orders between which dissonance is unavoidable. Our transition to the everlasting realm is described in these words; "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col 1:13).