We usually think of Jesus as the peace-maker, the reconciler, but as we read the Gospel from Sunday, we get a glance at Jesus the warrior for righteousness: "I came to cast fire on the earth and I only wish it was already kindled. Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, I've come to bring conflict..." There is a sense of righteous anger here, a sense of urgency, impatience, of great passion. Jesus does not come to smooth everything over and have things look nice on the surface. No, he's here to cause disruption and conflict. How different this is from the "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" we were taught in our youth. This is not the same Jesus we learned about in our Sunday School days, the one who was always ready to take us in his arms and bless us no matter what our behavior.
We tend to have a mistaken notion about God's peacefulness and tolerance of us. We like to think that God is everlastingly tolerant; that He is unconditionally accepting of us no matter what we do; that He does not ask anything of us. Now that may sound like we are saying that God loves us no matter who we are or what we do, but we are saying something quite different. To say that God is absolutely tolerant of our behavior no matter what the circumstance or situation is to say that God really doesn't care - that He doesn't care about holiness, or righteousness, or justice, or fairness or integrity. God is tolerant, and he does not turn His back on evil. God does love us, and He does not love all of our behavior. It is sometimes very difficult to align ourselves with God and say "no" to certain values which are very much a part of our world. We don't want to become self-righteous nay-sayers, small minded moral police condemning each other for every little foible, but there are times when we need the backbone to say "No, I won't go down that road and you shouldn't go down it either."
God is righteous. He is the Holy One. That means He stands unalterably opposed to evil and injustice in this world - especially the evil that colors our own hearts. His anger erupts when we turn our backs on our neighbors. He abhors the moral indifference, corruption, and deceit which warp our souls and which crate barriers impeding our relationships with Him and with each other. He has called us to take a stand against those who would live lives without any sense of morality, dignity, or integrity. There is an urgency to this Gospel which we must not dismiss, because we cannot be neutral to this good news. We cannot "take it or leave it". We can do nothing less than allow it to transform our lives and create in us new hearts. And then, we must join the Christ who comes to cast fire on the earth that all may know the love of God.