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Good Question: Prince of Peace or the Sword?

Peace, Family, Missions

May 2, 2019

By Jordan Burgen

Question:

"Hi, I am unsure where to send my questions regarding specific passages of the Bible. Is this the correct form? I'll keep it as short as possible.
I've been a Flatirons attendee/listener at the Lafayette campus for a number of years and this past weekend I got to hear the amazing Sermon on the Mount recited by Pastor Jim. This encouraged me to read more in the book of Matthew. Each time I read Matthew, I get hung up on Matthew 10:34 which reads:
"33But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. 34Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.…"
I am unsure what to make of this passage. It almost seems 'out of character' for something Jesus would say. This also seems contrary to what is written in Isaiah 9:6 (Prince of Peace passage)
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”
I just want to try and understand what Jesus meant in Matthew and what was prophesied in Isaiah. Is Jesus the Prince of Peace or a sword? Is it a sin to love our family members?
Thank you!"

Thanks for reaching out with your question! I will do my best to help you out.

When reading Matthew, a couple of things are important. First, is to recognize to whom Jesus is speaking and the second is to not take any of it out of the context to which He was speaking.

Matthew 10:16-42 is a sermon Jesus is speaking directly to just his 12 apostles before he sends them on an evangelical mission, specifically to the Jewish people. This was not a sermon to a bunch of unbelievers or even general followers of Christ, but those who had been called into ministry. (However, parts of it do still apply to the lives of the average Christian). The entire chapter is warning them of the persecutions they will receive while proclaiming Christ and evangelizing on His behalf to the nation of Israel. When we get to the part of His sermon in question now, He is continuing His train of thought from before. He is speaking of having no fear of the physical threats of persecutors, but only having fear of God, who is holds power over everything. Those apostles that are doing their job in ministry as Jesus lays it out have nothing to fear about death and the afterlife, as He will proclaim their righteousness. However, an apostle (or as we may call them today, a minster, missionary, pastor, evangelist, etc.) who has been called to evangelize but is instead denying Christ, is essentially turning on the faith and leading people astray, and Jesus does not allow for that. The Bible is always very stern with people who are specifically supposed to be leading people toward God but are doing the opposite instead. Next, He goes on to talk about bringing a sword instead of peace. The sword He is referring to is His Word (as He mentions in Revelation 2:16). His Word is very divisive. Some people believe it, and some don’t, and there is usually conflict when these two groups come together. People who don’t believe in the truth Jesus proclaims (namely that He is the only true way to the Father) are therefore at odds with the people who do believe it. Jesus is simply acknowledging this reality. Next, He identifies a place that this will undoubtedly come up for these apostles. He is actually quoting from another OT prophet, Micah (Micah 7:6). Remember that there were no other believers in Christ at this time. All of his apostles were Jewish and came from Jewish families. Undoubtedly, their families would think of them very poorly for proclaiming the truth of Christ. They would essentially see their sons as “leaving the Jewish faith” to follow something else. Some of these families may even fight back, rejecting the apostles as no longer being a part of their families. All Jesus is doing is calling this out as a possibility, perhaps even a probability. He then charges them to keep the faith anyways by loving Christ more than their own families and family traditions. Anyone who is not willing to leave their family for the truth of Christ, if necessary, is not worthy of following Christ. This is what He means when He says, “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me…” He is acknowledging the difficulty of what He is asking, but not shying away from asking anyways, because following Him is the only way to true life, and He wants that for his apostles and the people they will be ministering to.

So, no, it is absolutely NOT a sin to love your family members. In fact, it is a sin to NOT love them (1 Timothy 5:8). However, if it comes down to it, and you have to choose between Christ or not being rejected by your family, He is commanding that you choose Him. I hope that it does not come to that for you, but, unfortunately, it has for many people.

As for how this relates to the passage from Isaiah, we need to look to the definition of peace. When it declares that the Messiah will be the Prince of Peace, it is referring to peace with God. And Christ provided a way, through His death, for us to have true peace with God. He will also, in the end times, provide peace for all eternity. However, what He is referring to in Matthew 10 is a “lack of conflict.” He, by no means, promises that if you follow Him, and especially if you go into ministry and proclaim His truth publicly, that you will have no conflict. He promises the opposite, actually (John 16:33).

Ministry is not an easy path in life. It is full of conflict and persecution. His Word is offensive to many, even though it invites everybody in. Some people just don’t want to believe it. And sometimes those people are those that are closest to you, and they may even reject you because of it. He does promise peace (John 14:27), but it is only through faith in Him and what He accomplished on the Cross. Anything apart from Him is not true peace. He says in John 14 that He gives peace but not as the world does. His is a true inner peace of reconciliation with God. This peace is open to all, if they will believe. As I said before, this truth is hard for some people to hear, and conflict because of it is bound to happen.

Sorry if I rambled and repeated myself a bunch haha, but I hope this helps with understanding this particular piece of scripture! Please, don’t hesitate to ask any more questions you may have. Thank you again so much for reaching out!


The "Good Questions" blog is a place where some of the really good questions people email into the church can be shared with everyone, along with Jordan Burgen's response. Jordan Burgen is the Content & Theology Pastor here at Flatirons, so he answers a lot of the emails sent in to us. To ask a question (about anything, really), please fill out a contact form here or email Jordan directly at 

 

He is acknowledging the difficulty of what He is asking, but not shying away from asking anyways, because following Him is the only way to true life, and He wants that for his apostles and the people they will be ministering to.

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