In a recent writing project, I included a brief interpretation of Jesus’ assertion that he brought a sword rather than peace (Matt. 10:34; cf. Luke 12:49-53). This is what Ellen White says about Jesus’ message:
How, then, can the gospel be called a message of peace? When Isaiah foretold the birth of the Messiah, he ascribed to Him the title, “Prince of Peace.” When angels announced to the shepherds that Christ was born, they sang above the plains of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. There is a seeming contradiction between these prophetic declarations and the words of Christ: “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34. But, rightly understood, the two are in perfect harmony. The gospel is a message of peace. Christianity is a system which, received and obeyed, would spread peace, harmony, and happiness throughout the earth. The religion of Christ will unite in close brotherhood all who accept its teachings. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile men to God, and thus to one another. But the world at large are under the control of Satan, Christ’s bitterest foe. The gospel presents to them principles of life which are wholly at variance with their habits and desires, and they rise in rebellion against it. They hate the purity which reveals and condemns their sins, and they persecute and destroy those who would urge upon them its just and holy claims. It is in this sense–because the exalted truths it brings occasion hatred and strife–that the gospel is called a sword. (Ch. 2, “Persecution in the First Centuries,” The Great Controversy, 1888/1911, pp. 46-47)
- When have you seen the cross and Christianity bring peace? How did it bring harmony or reconciliation? What social or emotional barriers were overcome?
- When have you seen the cross and Christianity cause division? What issues were involved? Was this permanent, or was unity ever restored?
- How does reconciliation with God lead to reconciliation between people?