Once Jesus preached an astonishing message in which he said the following:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36
What? Did I hear that right? Did you hear that right? Did Jesus just say that he has come to bring a sword? Did the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) just say that He has not come to bring peace? What gives? Has Jesus come to bring us peace or conflict?
The answer to that question is, “Yes.” Allow an explanation.
Jesus Brings Us Into Peace With God
Jesus has come to bring us peace. In the except above, it is helpful to distinguish between the ultimate reason for Jesus’ coming and consequential effects of that coming. First, Jesus is not saying the ultimate reason for His coming is to bring division and conflict into our lives. His primary mission wasn’t to break up families and friends. Jesus’ ultimate reason for coming to earth was to make peace between sinners and the God against whom they’ve rebelled. As Peter taught, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we now have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1-2). Jesus is indeed the Peacemaker, the Prince of Peace in that He has established perfect peace between God and those who would trust in Him. Jesus brings peace between God and Man.
So where does all this division language come in? In what way did Jesus bring division? Well, Jesus has brought His people into conflict with those who refuse to be at peace with Him. In giving us peace with God, He has given us enmity with Unbelieving Man.
Jesus Brings Us Into Division With Man
In the very work of giving us peace with God (Romans 5:1) Jesus brings us into discord with others; even those who were once closest to us. The Scriptures plainly teach that the unbelieving world is in a state of hate-filled rebellion against God (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:9-18). They hate His Name, they detest His Law, and they reject His grace. However, the world does not only hate God, but they also hate whomever calls upon the Name of His Son (Matthew 10:22). The world hates Jesus and those who love Him. Therefore, to have peace with God is to be in conflict with the unbelieving world. To have the affection of God is to have the hatred of the world. Jesus has come to bring us into peace with God which then makes us hated by men.
This truth is powerfully illustrated in John Bunyan’s classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress. In this classic allegory of the Christian life, Bunyan writes about the moment where the main character, aptly named Christian, realizes that He lives in the City of Destruction and decides to make His journey toward the Heavenly City. In choosing to obey God’s message, he incurs the anger of his friends and family.
So I saw that the Man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return. But the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on crying, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” So he looked not behind him, but fled (onward).
The Neighbors also came out to see him run. As he ran some mocked, others threatened, and some cried out for him to return.
Now among those that did so, there were two that were resolved to fetch him back by force…
In listening to God’s message of salvation and beginning his journey toward the Heavenly City, Christian finds himself at odds with his community, friends, and even his own family. In seeking Christ, he gains new enemies. However, this is not only something illustrated in Bunyan’s book, but it is also shown in the countless lives of those who call on Christ today.
In coming to Jesus, a wife finds her husband obstinately opposed to her going to church or meeting up with other women from church.
In coming to Jesus, a young high school student finds her parents sitting her down telling her how they think she is becoming to fanatical in her new found faith and they don’t want her going to church any longer.
In coming to Jesus, a young man from a Muslim family is kicked out of the home and told to never come back as long as he is a Christian.
In coming to Jesus, a college student becomes a disappointment to his family for buying such nonsensical garbage and funds himself as the brunt of all their jokes.
In coming to Jesus, a man witnesses his wife and children murdered before his very eyes.
To be at peace with God is to be in conflict with the world. To be reconciled with God is to be estranged from the world. To receive God’s smile through Jesus is to receive the world’s frown because of Jesus. To have the acceptance of Christ is to have the rejection of the world. Our world is in rebellion against Jesus and whomever calls on His Name. In choosing to follow Jesus, we are also choosing to be despised by the world.
Jesus has come to bring peace and that peace will bring us the sword.