Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” [Matthew 10:34–39].
The question has been asked, How can there be an agreement between the statement, “I came not to send peace, but a sword,” and the song sung by the angels when Christ was born in the manger at Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” [Luke 2:14]? The song of the angels is in harmony with the words of the prophet Isaiah, who, when he predicted the birth of Christ, declared Him to be the Prince of peace [Isaiah 9:6]. The gospel is a glorious message of peace and good will to men; the blessing that Christ came to bring was that of harmony and peace. He left His throne of glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might bring back from apostasy to loyalty to God the children of men, and bind their hearts together and to the heart of Infinite Love. He came to present to a fallen world the remedy for sin, so that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish, but by becoming one with Him and the Father should have everlasting life [John 3:16]. In this way He establishes the Christian brotherhood, and unites His followers in one faith—faith in Him as their personal Saviour.
The condition of the world at the time when Christ came into the walks of men, was no exceptional condition. At that time the Scriptures had been buried beneath the traditions of men, and Christ declared that those who professed to interpret the word of God were ignorant both of the Scriptures and of the power of God. By misapplication and misinterpretation of the sacred oracles, the religious teachers had shut away the light that was to illuminate the precious utterances from heaven. Jesus revealed the pure truth in contrast with error, but those who professed to be teachers of truth in their own nation, not being accustomed to gaze upon truth, and not seeing in the divine Teacher that which they looked for of pomp and worldly splendour, turned from Him; for it was not purity of heart and life that they desired.
Christ presented to His countrymen and to the world brightness, beauty, and holiness, the divine nature, by which they might be bound close to the heart of Infinite Love; He brought light into the world to dispel spiritual darkness, and to reveal truth [1 John 1:5]. But they would not receive the heavenly gift. The apostle inquires, “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth” [Galatians 3:1]? It is through the deceptive working of Satan that fatal delusions have been brought even into the religious world, and error and falsehood have been accepted instead of the light of truth. When light is rejected, darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people [Isaiah 60:2]. Men professing the name of Christ have worked against His cause, and the blessing brought to men at infinite cost has been turned into a curse; for when truth is rejected because it is out of harmony with the corruption of the natural heart, it becomes a sword to destroy. The truth, which was to restore and renew, is a destroyer of evil; and when evil is persistently cherished, it becomes a destroyer of the sinner also.
Strife and opposition have been the sure result of resistance on the part of men, incited by evil angels, to God’s plan of mercy. Man’s perversity, his resistance of the truth, makes the mission of Christ appear to be what He announced to His disciples—the sending of a sword upon the earth; but the strife is not the effect of Christianity, but the result of opposition in the hearts of those who will not receive its blessings.
From the first presentation of Christianity to the world, there has been a deadly warfare instituted against it. Its messengers have been hated, pursued, imprisoned and put to death, because they would not yield to the power of apostasy, and become one with Satan and his angels. They counted not their lives dear unto themselves, if only the truth might be revealed. But from the throne, as in the case of Stephen, Jesus in sympathy and tender love bends down, marking from His divine dwelling-place the earnest witnesses for truth, and the defenders of the faith once delivered to the saints. Those who suffer for the truth know the value of a pure gospel, a free Bible, and liberty of conscience.
Animosity to truth has not passed away, it exists in our own day. Families have been divided by the truth, and bitter persecution has been borne by those who have taken their stand on the side of truth. Many have realized the force of the words, “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” [Matthew 10:35, 36]. This prophecy was not limited to any time or place; but has been acted out over and over in the history of the world, and is re-enacted in our own day. Some have to meet persecution, and we should never cease to pray for those who endure opposition from their own families, and who keep silent.
Many lives have been lost in planting the cross of Christ in heathen lands; but the blood of the martyrs has been as seed from which has sprung up those who have carried on the great work. Vast changes have been wrought, and it has been demonstrated in the face of opposition, that Christianity never degrades the receiver, but on the contrary elevates, refines, and ennobles the character.
The Bible Echo, March 12, 1894.