Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. What kind of fire did Jesus have in mind? Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses. The image of fire was also used to symbolize God's glory, his protective presence, his holiness, righteous judgment, and his wrath against sin. It is also used of the Holy Spirit. God's fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a fear of God and of his word in us. Jesus regarded the coming of the kingdom of God as a time of judgment. His word of judgment was meant to help people take seriously the consequences of their choices either for or against God. Our response to the judgments of God has serious impact, both for the present and the future. Jesus states that even family loyalties would be challenged on the basis of whether people accepted the kingdom of God or not. The heart of Christianity is loyalty to Jesus Christ, a loyalty that takes priority over every other relationship. When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man's enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or anything else above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or family. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do?