Jesus said: “I am come to send fire on the earth” (Luke 12:49). He was not planning to set a literal fire, but was referencing the effect of His teaching. Specifically, He referenced the doctrine of baptism, and the effect the new covenant would have, ultimately dividing some families. Yes, the Lord prophesied division to come as a result of His teaching. Not everyone was a happy recipient of His teaching, and those who follow may expect the very same response. In essence what is being described is a social/political response provoked by teaching the Truth.

In the chief priests and elders (Matt. 21:23), the politics of popularity can be seen. They desired to destroy Jesus, but when the Lord put them on the spot to answer John’s baptism, they would not because of the popularity of John the baptizer (Matt. 21:25-27). Many had believed his powerful preaching; therefore, though they despised the Lord they held their peace. Why? Because of the politics of popularity, they feared losing the support of the people. Luke records that the way of the Lord was “everywhere spoken against” (Acts 28:22). The politics of popularity still affects many. It is not a spiritual matter, but a social desire to be popular and have political standing.

This powerful deception of the devil is clearly seen in the shaming of Peter (Luke 22:54-61). Peter had followed Jesus and committed to follow even to death (Luke 22:33), but when Peter was surrounded by the enemy who shamed him for following Christ, political pressure caused him to deny the Lord Jesus. Pharisees tried this same ploy on the man born blind (John 9). In envy, jealousy, and hate they could not allow Jesus to be recognized for a great miracle worked.

The politics of fear were often used against followers of Christ. It affected the parents of the aforementioned man born blind. When asked about Jesus’ involvement in the great miracle, they refused to answer “because they feared the Jews” (John 9:22). In Acts 9:1 Saul of Tarsus used this same tact “breathing out threatenings and slaughter.” It worked well for him, until he finally met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The politics of fear still work today. Fear of being made fun of, losing friends, and “being cancelled” causes some to deny the faith and leave the Lord.

Politics of personality (I Cor. 1:11-16) have likely never been worse than today, but it was a very powerful force in the first century. It was powerful enough to bring division in the body of Christ (Gal. 2:11-12) and challenges to apostles and Christians like Paul (Phil. 1:15-17).

The politics around Christ and His teaching were and still are real. One would be foolish to deny the obvious! The fire Christ Jesus brought into the world burns off the impurity, revealing that which is pure. Politics will reveal you for who you are. Are you true to the Lord of glory, or a hypocrite? Will you stand for Him with popularity on the line or will you the Lord deny? Will you hide or stand in the hour of challenge? What motivates you?

-David Hill, President of Tennessee Bible College