Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace or Division?
"Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?" was a rhetorical question asked by Jesus (Luke 12:51) , However, were He to ask a modern gathering the same question it is very likely that all but a very few would answer in the affirmative. Because the Bible makes undeniable connections between Jesus and peace most assume that bringing peace to the world was something Christ was supposed to do. For instance, in the Scriptures...
The Gospel is called "the gospel of peace", (Ephesians 6:15).
Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace" - an appellation that originated with Isaiah who, in foretelling His birth, said "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
When the angels announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds they praised God and said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14).
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9).
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
However, from the very beginning the world has only experienced very brief periods of peace
International: - tribes, nations and groups of nations are constantly at each other's throats. Although very welcome, the brief periods of quiet only seem like time taken to rearm for the next round. And, the situation has become considerably worse in the last two centuries.
Regional: Open a newspaper or turn on an international news channel on any given day and you will be greeted by any number of localized conflicts raging in various parts of the globe.
Individuals: And individuals don't do any better. Crime and violence are common place in the modern world as are individual acts of terrorism including mass shootings. Modern man seems to increasingly lean towards the idea that the best way to deal with problems (even domestic ones) are best dealt with by murdering the other party. Vicious conflicts have arisen over matters as petty as parking spaces and 'Black Friday' deals.
The violence never seems to stop.
Peace or Conflict?
However, although He is well known as the 'Prince of Peace', Jesus' reply to His own rhetorical question in Luke 12 seems to flatly contradict everything the Bible says about Him and peace. As recorded in two of the Gospels Jesus himself unequivocally stated that his earthly ministry was not to bring peace to the earth,
"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke 12:51-53 NASB)
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came 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 enemies will be the members of his household. (Matthew 10:34-36 NASB)
These statements have not only perplexed many believers but have been pointed out by the already skeptical as an example of a clear contradiction in the Scriptures. So the question is how we are to make any sense of the seemingly opposing declarations - did Jesus' come to Earth to bring peace or conflict?
The answer is actually both
What we have to understand is that Jesus was not making a broad statement of intent in Luke 12 or Matthew 10.
The Savior's primary message was to announce God's kingdom that would ultimately establish God's peace on earth. See What Was Jesus' Message? However, He also made it clear that aspiring to be part of His Kingdom meant one's allegiance and devotion to Him has to supersede loyalty to anything or anyone else in this world. This He made clear just a couple of verse later,
"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. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37-38 NASB)
See some thoughts on why it is so important to have a single minded devotion to Christ and the Father Footnote I
This can and does sometimes create discord and disunity as some choose to follow Him and others do not. This is especially true if the spouse or other members of the family are dedicated followers of some other religion. Additionally, for a very long time now Christians in the Western hemisphere have largely had the freedom to pursue their own beliefs however, believers in many other parts of the world have faced considerable hostility and even persecution of varying degrees. Note: as shown in the first article linked below, this situation will change as the antichrist comes into power and seeks to do as much damage to believers as possible
See The Seven Seals
Considering that the whole point of salvation is being saved from the wrath of God, Christians rightly believe that Christ's followers will not suffer in the terrible time when God brings retributive justice to the earth. The Bible agrees. The problem is that all too many Christians interpret these verses to mean that God will 'rapture' us out of here before the trouble really starts. But how can this be entirely accurate when both Jesus and John spoke of a lot of trouble for Christians. The seeming inconsistency between Jesus rescuing believers from God's wrath and believers being killed is explained by the fact that the tremendous persecution Christians undergo has absolutely nothing to do with God's judgment.
Sadly almost every Christian that I have had any contact with thinks the end is coming, but sometime in the vague and distant future. Much to the contrary, events are set to take a very nasty turn. In the past few years, there has been an explosion of individuals and organizations who are actively working towards creating the conditions necessary for a coming World Teacher or as occult literature terms it ... the "Reappearance of the Christ". Except that this "Christ" has nothing to do with Jesus Christ of the Bible.
In other words, the preaching of and belief in the Gospel will bring division and even bloodshed. However, believers themselves are not seek conflict but to actively avoid it. In fact, the New Testament repeatedly says we are to be peacemakers, live in peace with each other and do as much good as possible -
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NASB)
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18 NASB)
"... Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." (Mark 9:50 NASB)
"... Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. (1 Thessalonians 5:13-15 NASB)
In view of which when Jesus said that he had come to bring 'not peace but a sword,' the metaphor was not intended to depict any form of violence or how we are to communicate His message, but to emphasize the division His message would bring.
Jesus made a number of statements that promised peace to His followers - not to the unbelieving world.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27 NASB)
Also considering He was about to be arrested, mocked, tortured and executed, to say nothing of being rejected by the vast majority of His own people, He made the amazing statement that not even death and the grave would be able to overcome Him. Instead, He overcame it all - He overcame the world.
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NASB)
And He warned, that if the world hated His followers, they were to keep in mind that it hated Him first (John 15:18). He went on to say
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (V. 19)
Peace With God
However, most importantly, there is another kind of peace that Jesus bought for us at great personal expense - and that is peace with God the Father.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10 NASB)
If Jesus hadn't paid the penalty for our sins none of us would ever have had peace with the Father. But by doing so Jesus earned the Father's forgiveness for our sins and turned away the arrow of God's justice that was aimed at every single person on earth. This enormous gift is available to anyone who trusts Jesus for salvation.
However, it is well worth remembering that salvation involves more than simply affirming in one's mind that Jesus is Lord and Savior - Repentance and Faith are both absolute requirements for forgiveness. Also note that in the church today one often hears that salvation is a 'free' gift from God. But does the Bible actually say it is free or have we managed to latch on to (and spread) a completely erroneous idea? I am sure it will surprise many to hear that the word 'free' isn’t in the original Greek and that the word 'gift' may not mean exactly what we have been led to believe. See Sin, Repentance and Salvation on THIS page.
Peace on Earth?
The "peace on earth" that the angels proclaimed at Jesus' birth will come, but not until God's kingdom finds it final fulfillment here on earth. What do I mean by 'final fulfillment'? This is much too long a topic to cover here, so for details see the three stage emergence of the Kingdom
Jesus' Message - Part 7: When is the Kingdom of God Coming?
Much of what Jesus said made it sound like the kingdom of God was something that would come about only at some future date... However, what complicates the issue is that Jesus also spoke of the presence of the kingdom being already present. And if that wasn't confusing enough, Jesus also indicated that the kingdom has both present and future dimensions. Could it be that Jesus simply contradicted Himself or is there some things about Hebrew prophecy that we do not understand?
The Message of The Bible ...The Kingdom Is at Hand - Part 13 of Choose Life That You Might Live
Christianity, which appears to millions to be outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, not only has the answers to man's deepest questions but promises exactly the utopian world that mankind dreams of (a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, greed, hunger and disease, war and, above all, no death). This world that most men and women would choose to live in is precisely what the Bible describes, except the Bible calls it heaven, the kingdom of Heaven, or the kingdom of God. In fact the kingdom of God, not love, was at the heart of Jesus' ministry.
And What and Where is Heaven?
Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do there. Either they have vague, half formed ideas about some ethereal place 'out there' or resort to pious phrases that amount to little more than spiritual gobbledy gook. If this is the best we can do then it is little wonder that non Christians are not in the slightest bit interested in our "heaven", and Christians themselves so rarely seem to look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God. Luckily the Bible isn't at all silent on where "heaven" is and, even more importantly, what it will be like. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far, far, more practical than that of our theologians.
In his series Marks of Maturity, the late J. Hampton Keathley, points out that
Ultimately, all the commands and principles and promises are summed up in this one great truth, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment" (Matthew 22:37)....
Luke 14:26-27 show us, a lack of commitment disables and leaves one enslaved to wrong values which in turn create wrong loves, wrong priorities, and wrong pursuits. The result is that when faced with difficult, costly choices, the partially - devoted or double-minded believer can never make the right choices whereas a single-minded devotion of commitment gives one the freedom to make the right choices through a new set of heavenly and eternal values, priorities, and pursuits....
He or she is one who is committed to walking through this life as a pilgrim, as a mere temporary resident, as one who is willing to travel light with a light grip on things. And as the Savior leads or guides, he or she is one who is willing to do what the double-minded person refuses to do — give up material wealth and the security it often provides along with possessions, prestige, comfort, and other things the world treasures and pursues. With his treasure in heaven and his eyes on the Savior, the devoted disciple does not labor for treasure on earth, or for a high standard of living, but may, as the Lord may call on him do, live without position or power or possessions or popularity....
Our capacity to serve the Lord is directly related to our trust and commitment to Him and God's values and priorities. But single-minded devotion is also an evidence of maturity and insight to what is truly meaningful and has eternal ramifications in life. Commitment, then, or total devotion to the Savior is also an evidence of a maturing faith that has come to grips with the reality of eternal treasures (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Matthew 6:19-21, 30-34; 1 Peter 1:17-18). [J. Hampton Keathley, Marks of Maturity - Mark #5, https://bible.org/seriespage/mark-5-single-minded-devotion-god] [PLACE IN TEXT]