“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
This is a highly volatile verse seemingly full of contradiction and controversy. Used out of context, it is even very dangerous. Why would the Prince of Peace preach such a seemingly contrary message to His peace and reconciliation, and love gospel? Like my title, such shocking language in scripture isn’t contradictory at all but a sharp contrast to grab our attention and drive home the severity of a pointed message. In this case, the topic is less adversarial then His chosen imagery suggests but of the utmost importance and that is, where does our supreme loyalty lie?
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
In this passage Jesus quotes the prophet Micah who is speaking about rampant corruption where even though the most intimate of relationships were corrupt and loyalty was an absent virtue God was still faithful and trustworthy.
Do not trust in a friend;
Do not put your confidence in a companion;
Guard the doors of your mouth
From her who lies in your bosom.
For son dishonors father,
Daughter rises against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.
Therefore I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
My God will hear me.
Again in Luke, the doctor writes about Jesus laying down the same imagery but calling it division instead of a sword but the point remains the same.
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
In Luke 14 Jesus uses more extreme language with the word hate for His contrast.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple… So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
The topic is made very plain in that last verse, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” The point Jesus is so thoroughly driving home, isn’t that He isn’t an ambassador of peace and love, but that a relationship with God is so vital that it takes precedence over every other one that we have. He is hammering home the first commandment given in Exodus.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods [loyalties] before [ahead of] Me.
This unswerving loyalty to God will inevitably divide households because so many people will cling to someone or something else as more valuable than their creator and savior and they will be offended and even feel betrayed by your commitment to the Lord. It will actually be men’s hearts that will cause this division, not Jesus Himself. But Jesus claimed responsibility that His call of unwavering loyalty to God alone would sharply divide people. He still is the Prince of Peace between God and men. He still is love personified but if you truly take up your cross and follow Him, many will not be willing to walk such a narrow path with you and will fall away and some will even mock and attack you. Following Jesus requires resolute commitment and boldness and perseverance and faith. And being the Light of Truth He pulled no punches when explaining how extreme what He was calling us to was. Christ didn’t actually bring division but faithfully following Him inevitably will.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to pursue peace with one other. Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called the children of God. We seek peace in all our dealings with family and others, we just don’t compromise the supreme priority of our relationship with the Father in the process.
Father in heaven, may you always have preeminence, first place, in my heart and life. You have rescued me out of “Egypt” and made me Your child. Grant me wisdom in my relationships that I may pursue peace without compromising our relationship. All that I am and have belongs to You. Thank you, Abba, for Your strength to persevere in the face of opposition and to love in the midst of hate. May I honor You and Your great Name all of my days as I continue to walk in Your ways. Amen.