Jesus Contradicts Himself?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” – Matthew 10:34
At the face of it this saying of Jesus certainly seems to undermine his other words which are the foundation of our ministry:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
So, what are we to make of this and how does it impact the way we here at 5:9 operate? Well let’s first start with the broader context of Matthew 10. Jesus was giving his disciples instructions on proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. They were to go to villages proclaiming this good news and performing signs to confirm their message such as healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons. But when they did this Jesus warned them that they would be persecuted, that the path ahead would not be easy, and that they would suffer. However, Jesus charged his disciples to fear God more than they feared man. In fact, in Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
So, on the heels of this charge, Jesus spoke plainly that the message and signs he had given to his disciples would be divisive. The remaining words of Jesus that he gave to his disciples during this charge speak of how “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” but then charges them that “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 (Matthew 10:36-37).” So no, Jesus is not commanding his followers to violence but is warning them that violence would be perpetrated against them, even from their own family and those who love them most.
Two Types of Peace
When we think about Matthew 5:9 we know we should be applying this to the broader community around us and that, as much as it is in our power and ability, we should be striving to live peaceful lives and making the places we live peaceful places. This is good and is a very important aspect of our ministry. We seek to promote peace through dialogue and gaining understanding. We also know the value of sharing a meal with one another so we do that too!
But there is another kind of peace which Jesus is concerned about in Matthew 10 and that is peace with God. Recall the words of Jesus where he said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).” While it is good to be at peace with our neighbors, it is best to be at peace with God. This is the higher and greater peace, the eternal peace which all who believe in Jesus possess. When sinful and rebellious people see this peace they recoil and attack. They hate the peace which God gives through Jesus and they seek to destroy those who proclaim it.
Why write all of this? Because we received news recently from a friend who is working in another country and the message he sent was, “Welcome the newest member of the body.” There in that picture was my friend, his friend, and a young man who had heard the truth about Jesus’ sacrificial death and responded by professing faith in Jesus to save him from eternal death and sin. And we celebrated this like crazy. This young man had just turned away from Islam. But we didn’t celebrate because a Muslim became a Christian. It doesn’t matter to us what a person believed before, so long as they believe the truth now. Our desire is the same for every person we meet – that he or she comes to know Jesus personally. Do we risk blow back from writing about this and celebrating the saving work of God in this man’s life? Maybe. But as much as we love Muslims here at home and want to promote peace with them and genuinely desire for them to live peaceful lives here without fear or hatred we want everyone everywhere to know the peace of God so much more. And so we cannot be ashamed when we hear of someone coming into the Kingdom of God but instead we celebrate, just as Jesus says the angels in heaven do when a sinner turns to Christ.
If you would like to know more about how Jesus forgives our sins and how you can have peace with God through Jesus, please check out our post on Sacrifice and reach out to us with any questions.