“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
There you have it – Jesus is a revolutionary. He didn’t come to be the Prince of Peace but to upset the apple cart. Or did he? If you take these words on the surface you might come to that conclusion. That’s why sometimes you have to look beneath the surface. What did Jesus mean by this and what is the sword that Jesus came to bring?
To understand this verse completely I think it is necessary to look at the verses following it, specifically verses 35-36:
“For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
What Is the Gospel?
Jesus in these verses brings to light a truth about the gospel and Christianity that sometimes gets overlooked, especially when you live in a country like America. The gospel is confrontational. The gospel is polarizing. The gospel can bring division. If we are being totally honest, the gospel is offensive.
For clarity sake I want to define what I mean by the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to die for our sins, that we must admit we are sinners and that we need a savior, and that Jesus is our only hope for salvation. There is no other name in heaven and earth by which a man may be saved except the name of Jesus. The gospel means that you must put your faith in Jesus and him alone to find forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the hope of eternal life.
This is the message of the gospel, and when you truly preach this message, let’s be honest, everyone is not going to like it. Many will reject the idea that Jesus is the only way. This rejection does not bring peace, but it brings a sword. Yet knowing this is the reality, Jesus tells us later in Matthew to go into all the world and preach this gospel. He says this knowing it’s divisive, knowing people will reject it, knowing it will not always create a peaceful environment. Yet he says preach it anyway.
Let’s look at these three “swords” of the gospel that I just mentioned.
The Confrontational Gospel
Let’s face it, the gospel gets right in your face. The first thing you must do when you are confronted with the gospel is admit you are wrong. You have made wrong choices. You have had wrong attitudes. You have done wrong things. All of these things are sin and the first thing you have to do when you come to Christ is admit you are a sinner.
Many people stumble over this point and even struggle to recognize their need for Christ because they don’t see themselves as a “bad” person. I may have told a little “white lie” every now and then but don’t call me a sinner. The truth of the gospel confronts you with your sin, for all have sinned.
The good news is that it doesn’t just confront your sin – it also gives you a remedy. Sadly, many never get to the remedy because this initial confrontation pushes them away.
The Polarizing Gospel
The gospel quickly moves people into camps or positions. One of the major polarizing features of the gospel is that we declare that Jesus is the only way and there is no other. Actually, we are just declaring what Jesus said himself:
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
This is a polarizing statement. Are you trying to tell me that Jesus is the only way? Yes. Are you saying there is no way to the Father except through Christ? Yes. I hope as you are reading this you begin to feel how polarizing that is. Many people don’t like the fact that we would tell them that Jesus is the only way. That offends many people, yet it is the truth.
I am not saying be rude or arrogant in how you present the gospel, that is wrong. However, when you present the truth of the gospel as beautiful as it is, it will still drive many people away. After all, how dare you tell me that Jesus is the only way. Yet this is what we have to proclaim.
We have to come to the reality that when you share the gospel, people are not always going to like you. I wish I could tell you differently, but if they didn’t always like and accept Jesus, they are not always going to like and accept you.
The Dividing Gospel
There are many family situations where the message of the gospel doesn’t bring peace into the household, but division. Consider a household where one spouse is saved but the other is not. Or a house where a child get saved but the parents aren’t. You can even reverse the role where the parents are saved but the children aren’t.
These may be dynamic situations that you are familiar with. Because one family member has chosen to follow Christ, a wall can be formed within that family unit. However, this doesn’t just happen within families. It can happen with friends, co-workers, and any relational situation. The message of the gospel and the reality of following Jesus can bring separation. It can bring strife and lead people to turn against you.
I must admit, I am thankful that Jesus told us this because he was telling us the truth. He didn’t hide the reality of following him. He included it, letting us know this could be part of the price to pay for being his disciple. I must say it is not pleasant, but it is a part of the journey.
The Command Remains
In spite of the truth of the nature of the gospel, the command for us has not changed.
Mark 16:15 – “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”
We go because it is man’s only hope. We go because it’s God’s desire that none would perish and that all be saved. We go because God’s love in our hearts for the lost compels us to, despite the challenges. Lastly, we go because we know that Jesus goes with us. It’s his promise to the disciples that encourages us today.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
The truth of the gospel is a sword and many will find peace because of its message. Yet the same message that will bring peace to some will also be a sword for other. Go and preach the gospel anyway.