Not Peace, but a Sword
There’s a verse in the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34) Many of us can look at this verse and get confused. Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? I thought Jesus was loving and compassionate!
Yes, Jesus is the Prince of Peace and He’s both loving and compassionate. God’s throne is on a foundation of righteousness and justice – everything He does is good (Psalm 89:14). In His coming to earth, He introduced the kingdom of God; and in love, He died for the sins of mankind so that we could be freed from death and alive in Him. He is surely good.
But what about this “sword”? When we look at this verse (and the three verses that follow), we soon come to find that it’s not confusing, and what Jesus says about discipleship is actually quite profound.
Fighting for Peace
First, let’s look at verse 34 where Jesus says, “I have come…” You see, Jesus came into a fallen world, corrupted by sin. He’s coming not with peace but a sword. What does this mean? It means that He’s coming to “fight” the sin for our salvation. How does He do this? By bringing the truth of the gospel. Truth will always oppose sin and vice versa. One commentator, Leon Morris, writes, “the peace [Jesus] came to bring is not simply the absence of strife; it is a peace that means the overcoming of sin and the bringing in of the salvation of God. And that means war with evil and accordingly hostility against those who support the ways of wrong.”
Bringing peace, then, means Jesus has to fight for us first.
A Natural Division
In reading the next few verses, we understand that Jesus has two people in mind: those that know Him, and those who refuse to know Him. Since the former is affiliated with righteousness and the latter with unrighteousness, a natural division appears. The “sword” is a natural separation that occurs when what’s true and what’s false oppose each other.
Surely as a disciple we know and believe that we are of the truth – we are committed to loving Christ as our Saviour above all else. So Jesus tests that love by setting it next to the family – one of our closest loves. We read Jesus’ difficult words in verse 37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
A disciple is one who loves Christ over family [and friends].
Loving Others by Loving Christ More
For those who know the love of Christ deeply, this is an easy task – for they understand that in loving Christ over family, they’re actually loving their family more deeply than before. How does that work? Let’s say, for instance, that your own father wasn’t committed to Christ and lived a life of unrighteousness. There would naturally be a separation between you and him. If you decided, based on the fact that he was your father and you loved him, that you were going to invest more time and more energy with him than Christ, your father would see that you believe more in caring for him than you do in believing in Christ. But if, on the other hand, you continued in your fervent love for Christ over your father, then not only would you be more attentive to the Spirit leading you, but your father would see the light of Christ more brightly in you – and hopefully come to glorify God in heaven.
So, when it comes to family and friends who don’t know Jesus, and you choose to love them more than Christ, you’re actually putting your lamp under the basket; but if you choose to love Christ more than them, your light will be on a stand for all to see.
Jesus came with truth – the truth to fight sin. And He won that battle on the cross. His disciples are the ones that believe in His victory, and are more in love with Him than anything or anyone.
True discipleship is therefore proved by love.
So, who do you love more?
 Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992.