daily biblical sermons


IS IT TRUE THAT JESUS CAME NOT TO BRING PEACE ON EARTH BUT A SWORD?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 15th Week of the Year, July 15, 2019
Exodus 1:8-14, 22, Psalm 123, Matthew 10:34-11:1


 

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on 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 man’s foes will be those of his own household”

 

 

The prophets promised a future golden age of peace on earth, and Jesus Christ has come to fulfill these prophecies, yet peace does not usually come right away, but rather conflict and discord because of the wickedness of man’s heart. Those who want to live for worldly and bodily pleasures in a life of objective constant mortal sin, when they hear the gospel will usually angrily reject it as well as the one who preaches it. Those that repent and believe in Christ, who atoned for their sins by making full satisfaction and reparation for them on the cross and are made “new men,” a new creation, new creatures in Christ with a new life in God will often find themselves locked in bitter conflict with those who refuse to repent and our intent on living a life of sin.

 

 

We see this now in our own country (USA) where two forces are mutually opposed to each other. Those who want to live a life of free sex with anyone at any time need and want legal abortion to eliminate the babies that would interfere with their immoral lifestyle, and so they are vehemently opposed to those who cherish every innocent human life and commit themselves to God’s normative biblically revealed moral law. Here we see that the gospel itself causes this conflict, for Christ came “not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

 

 

Those who believe in the immoral LGBT ideology that homosexual acts are good and acceptable as an authentic expression of human love and who believe that people can choose and change their gender, thus insulting God who made us male and female (Genesis 1:27) will hardly live in peace and harmony with those who are committed to Christ and God’s normative biblically revealed moral law, which those who are justified by their faith in Christ now have the ability to keep.

 

 

Similarly those who believe that Catholics who divorce from a valid marriage and civilly “remarry” are Catholics and Christians in good standing and may in some cases even receive the Eucharist, without living in continence, will hardly live in peace and harmony with orthodox Christians and Catholics who believe in the biblical teaching that marriage is indissoluble (Mark 10:11-12) and that the Eucharist is sacred, and that one defiles the body and blood of the Lord if he partakes of the Eucharist in a state of objective constant mortal sin. For St. Paul says, “Whoever … eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

 

 

Those who overly exaggerate the importance of peace and harmony within the Church or within a religious order and are willing to sacrifice all things, including the truth itself, in order to maintain a merely worldly and false type of peace have chosen the path of the world, and the merely horizontal human peace that they attain will deprive them of the peace of God and the reward of eternal life. Christ’s peace is based on the truth of the gospel and on the observance of God’s normative biblically revealed moral law, which is universally applicable in all circumstances, without exception. So those that want harmony at any cost will be bitterly opposed to those that are committed to the truth of the gospel.

 

 

Peace for a Christian is more of an eschatological reality that we hope for at the end of days, when Jesus Christ returns again, because the way to peace is conflict and the cross, that is, we will be opposed for the sake of the truth of the gospel, which many, because of the evilness of their heart and the rebellion of their wills, have rejected for the sake of a gravely sinful life of sexual immorality. So those who reject the gospel will be in conflict with those who accept it.

 

 

A realistic missionary disciple of Jesus Christ knows that he came to bring peace on earth, but the way to that peace is the cross and conflict with those who angrily and vehemently reject and attack the gospel and those that preach it. That Jesus did come to bring peace on earth is clear, for he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27), and indeed the Christian will have peace in his heart, even though in the world his preaching of the gospel will bring him tribulation and affliction. “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

 

If we stand for the gospel, we may have conflict in the world and in our families, but we will have the deepest peace in our heart, the peace of Christ that Isaiah prophesied about Messiah, who shall be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). And this peace will be without limit and have no end, as Isaiah prophesied: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9:7).

 

 

The Bible has beautiful images of the peace that the Messiah will bring, for “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them … For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6, 9).

 

 

But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, tells us, “A man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). What does this mean? Imagine the example of a father who converts to Christ who is opposed by his son who rejects Christ. So in order to gain harmony and peace within the family, should we renounce our faith in Christ so that we can all live together in a horizontal, this-worldly, merely human peace and lose the Savior of the world and eternal life? Of course not! If is such a conflict should arise that threatens merely human peace and harmony, it should be clear to us which side we should choose, for nothing should take precedence over Jesus Christ and the life of faith and service to him. Hence Jesus tells us today, “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” (Matthew 10:37).

 

 

“A choice must often be made between Christ and family. No ties of nature can be allowed to deflect a disciple from utter allegiance to the Lord. The Savior must take precedence over father, mother, son or daughter. One of the costs of discipleship is to experience tension, strife, and alienation from one’s own family” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1241).

 

 

So it may seem that we are losing our life in this world by coming into conflicts with so many people over our faith in Christ and our desire to serve him with all our heart and soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). That is why Jesus warns us ahead of time in today’s gospel, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). We must lose our life in this world in order to find it truly in the Lord. But he who finds his life in this world by renouncing the truth of the gospel for the sake of a merely horizontal human peace and harmony will lose his life with God. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

 

 

Indeed “he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Many servants of Christ who expected a peaceful life in their service of the Lord and have forgotten his warnings in today’s gospel may be shocked at the vehement reaction against them that worldly people raise.

 

 

We should, therefore, be willing to lose our life in this world to keep it for eternal life. We should hate our life in this world, that is, hate to live a worldly life if we want to inherit eternal life. “He who loves his life [in a worldly way] loses it, and he who hates his life in this world [hates to live a worldly life] will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

 

 

We all want peace, “but the way to peace is not the way of avoidance of conflict, and Jesus will be continuously engaged in robust controversy … His whole experience will be the opposite of a ‘peaceful’ way of life. His followers can expect no less, and their mission to establish God’s peaceful rule can be accomplished only by sharing his experience of conflict” (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 2007), page 408).

 

 

Loyalty to Christ must take precedence over family ties. “Loyalty to Jesus and his mission comes first, and the result of that may be that family ties are strained to the breaking point. But there is a new family relationship for disciples of Jesus which more than compensates for what might be lost by loyalty to him” (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew, page 409). To the man that wanted to bury his father before following Jesus, he said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). Proclaiming the kingdom takes precedence over this man’s family obligations.

 

 

Christ must come first; family comes second. We see this when a would-be disciple wants to go home first to say goodbye to his family. Jesus says to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). “Discipleship should take priority over family responsibilities” (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew, page 410).

 

 

Jesus came to bring universal peace, but not immediately, for first he came “to bring in the Gospel, which would lead to strifes and divisions. We have no right to be surprised, if we see this continually fulfilled. We are not to think it strange, if the gospel rends asunder families, and causes estrangement between the nearest relations. It is sure to do so in many cases, because of the deep corruption of man’s heart. So long as one man believes, and another remains unbelieving – so long as one is resolved to keep his sins, and another desires to give them up, the result of the preaching of the Gospel must needs be division. For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the heart of man” (JC Ryle 1816-1900).

 

 

“Men will not lay aside their animosity, nor will they exercise a mutual friendship among themselves as soon as the gospel is preached to them. No; such is their wickedness, that they will make the gospel itself a location of such bitter dissensions that it will look as if I had not come to send peace, but a sword among men” (Joseph Benson 1749-1821).

 

 

St. Paul was a man that knew conflict for Christ’s sake, “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13).

 

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