Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)
What could Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” mean by this?
Just maybe Jesus doesn’t come as a peacemaker for “the world,” for the world’s system, but to set up a kingdom (a peaceable kingdom) opposed to the world’s system. His attempt to set up such a kingdom got him killed, of course, as he accepted a death on the cross so that we might have peace with God and peace with one another within that kingdom. The world split off, divided from God; the world chose violence, and Jesus chose the death of a sacrifice.
Just maybe this means we need to spread this gospel of peace as an invitation to join in a community a peace. We arrive not as negotiators, but as welcomers; as land agents for the land of peace. At times, we will fail (miserably) to keep Jesus’s peace within our communities. At times, the world systems will hate us, and bring a sword; which, in some sense, is Jesus’s sword, “for it has been granted to [us] on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29),” as our passage from yesterday said.
So perhaps it is a good thing (like a good painting, or a well-written computer program, or a good diagnosis, or a well-tilled field) to be peacemakers in the world; perhaps our peaceful practices (when done well) can give us the training and experience we need. But if it is this (and this is truly a good thing), perhaps it is no more than this. And these efforts, as temporary as a painting or computer program or health or a season’s crops, will, at the end, fail–although peace is itself a good thing.
But I am unwise, and desire to understand better. Dear wiser Anabaptist brothers and sisters: What do you know? If Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword, what does that look like? How do we experience it? How do we understand it?