Did Jesus encourage strife and armed conflicts?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 10:34-39 NASB “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.  

Jesus instructs his apostles in Matthew 10:34-39 as they head out on a mission. He tells them, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I think this is a good example of scripture that needs context. If read without context it sounds like Jesus wants strife and conflict. Is that really what Jesus says? Let’s look at the text and why it needs context to prevent misunderstanding.

The 10th Chapter of Matthew is Jesus’ instructions to his Apostles as they prepare to go on a mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus gave them instructions and told them what to expect on this mission. Verses 34-39 take place within the context of Jesus reminding his disciples just what it means to be an apostle.

When Jesus tells them in verse thirty-four, “… I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…” is he not warning them that people may not act peacefully when they hear the Gospel the apostles preach? I don’t think Jesus is telling them to pick up a literal sword. If this were the case, why did Jesus tell Peter in  Matthew 25:52, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword…”  Jesus here says he is not bringing peace, but a sward. Is it not clear he is using the same metaphor we find in Ephesians 6:17, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

There is no compromise when it comes to preaching the Gospel. God’s message supersedes even family members who may get upset. Being an apostle means nothing is more important than the Gospel, and in verse 39 Jesus tells his apostles, “…the one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on my account will find it”

I think it’s clear that Jesus is not saying he want’s strife, but that the apostles should expect it if they preach the Gospel without compromise. Memorizing verses from the Bible is good.  But without context, verses like these could sound as if they are advocating something vastly different from what the author intended.

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