Not Peace, but a Sword

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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"Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword."

Matthew 10:34

At first glance, we might recoil from this statement of Jesus. Isn't he the Prince of Peace? Hasn't he come to bring peace on earth? Didn't Jesus instruct his followers to eschew violence? How can he say that he has come to bring not peace, but a sword?

These concerns are helpful, because they motivate us to dig more deeply into the meaning of Matthew 10:34. We must remember that Jews in the time of Jesus anticipated that the Messiah would usher in a time of peace for Israel. No doubt many of Jesus' own followers expected the same of him. Indeed, the coming of Jesus as Messiah would ultimately lead to peace (see Isa. 52:7; Luke 1:79, 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:11-22). But before the peace of God's kingdom enveloped the world, there would be inevitable conflict. Indeed, Jesus explains that families would experience the "sword," that is, division, because of him (vv. 35-37).

Jesus does not intend for his disciples to pick up the sword, literally, in order to advance the cause of God's kingdom (see Matt. 5:9, 5:38-48, 26:52). But he wants us to know that living for him will sometimes lead to negative responses, even to division in our most valued relationships. It will be hard to remain faithful to Jesus in these times, yet that is our calling and privilege.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced the "sword" of division because of your faith in Christ? Or have you seen this in the lives of close friends? What should we do as peacemakers when we're faced with division and tension because of our faith?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess that I don't especially like this verse from Matthew. I'm much happier with "peace on earth" than "not peace, but a sword." And, to be honest, there have been times when I backed away from bearing witness to you because I didn't want to stir up trouble. I want people to like me, not to think I'm some sort of a religious nut. Forgive me, Lord, when I have blunted your message and masked my faith so as to avoid the inevitable "sword" of division and conflict.

Your calling is not an easy one, Lord. We are to be peacemakers, but not "nicemakers." As we seek genuine peace by proclaiming and living out the good news of the kingdom, there will be times of conflict and division. True disciples don't always win popularity contests. So help us, Lord, to seek real peace, not superficial calm. May we be faithful to you and your message, no matter what the results. By your grace, may we be people of truth who speak and live with boldness and humility. Amen.

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