Matthew 10:34-37 (NIV)
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn:
‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
Many anti-Christian debates have used this passage to expose Christianity and the teachings of Jesus as violent and destructive. Unfortunately, not much else is given attention as to what else Jesus is actually saying in this context.
Within this chapter alone, Jesus is sending out His disciples to spread the news of the kingdom of God and is preparing them for the reality that is to come with such a task. People will oppose them, people will rise up against them for they are preaching a message contrary to what society accepts. It will be hard-going and Jesus is giving it to them straight, even your own family may very well turn against you for the truth He sought to proclaim.
The sad truth is that families have been torn apart, fights and arguments and all the like have occurred because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sad truth is that the world is against the gospel of Jesus Christ and will do anything in order to remove it from their sights.
So, Jesus says that He has not come to bring peace, but a sword. Many people have centred on this verse and claimed that Christianity is violent. Unfortunately, history can recount many times where the Cross has been taken up in hand and sword in the other for the expansion of Christianity. For that, I can say nothing. However, for Jesus to speak such things and then for us to look at His life is quite contradicting. Let me explain:
Firstly, the life of Jesus is far from being violent and destructive. On no occasion did He ever promote violence or engaged in violent activity. What about the incident at the Temple? (Summary: Jesus made a whip from some cords and went through the Temple destroying all the market stalls.) In effect, Jesus had every right to do what He did. The place of worship and dedication to God had been turned into a place of money-making (and illegitimate business practice).
Secondly, on the one instance we have a reference to a sword/s in the betrayal and capture of Jesus, Jesus again contradicts what He says. Peter and another disciple were carrying swords upon which were drawn to attack the soldiers that were arresting Jesus. Peter manages to cut off the ear of one of the soldiers before Jesus stops the attack. Jesus, in fact, completely heals and restores the ear that was cut off. He went on to say:
"Do you think I cannot call on my Father [God], and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (approx. 72,000 angels) […] Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?" (Matthew 26:53,55)
Thirdly, why would a war-mongering person allow themselves to be crucified (as one of the most horrific means of death, even today) if they were out to destroy and conquer? It really makes no sense, yet Jesus Christ with the entire army of Heaven at His disposal, chooses to go through the crucifixion and die at the hands of His enemies.
It certainly doesn’t sound or look like a violent or destructive leader. Again, while there have been those who have abused the representation of the Cross for their own twisted beliefs and gains, Jesus–the figurehead of this faith–was by no means the violent and destructive conqueror that so many people attribute Him to be.
The simple truth is this: Christianity is not for the faint-hearted or those who are looking for an easy way out. Christianity makes a stand against this dark world and the world responds in kind. No other religion dares to challenge this world as Christianity does and for those who claim allegiance to the Cross and in reality, do so…don’t expect it easy. There will be persecution, sacrifice and suffering…yet the Cross goes before us and we submit in obedience.