Another favorite from the past year, as I take some time away.
Where were we?
Oh, yes …
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father; a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.'”
— Matthew 10:34-36
Every so often, I see a poster or some other kind of image that shows Jesus holding a sword (or a semi-automatic rifle) and a slogan that spouts some kind of ultra-right-wing, anti-government, apocalyptic philosophy. The bit about bringing a sword is usually in there.
As I said yesterday, that quote from Matthew has been used to justify anything from teen rebellion to armed insurrection. People say they’re fulfilling Jesus’ purpose by taking up arms in His name.
And then there are others who use that passage and others like it to say that “all religions preach violence”, thereby asserting that Christ is no better than other religions that advocate killing those who don’t believe — or who stray from the faith. But let me offer something:
IT AIN’T THAT KIND OF SWORD!
His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, ad decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.
— Isaiah 11:3-5 (emphasis mine)
The Word of God is the sword that will strike the earth and wipe out the wicked. That’s confirmed in the Book of Revelation:
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.
— Revelation 19:15
Doesn’t the writer of Hebrews use the term “two-edged sword” to refer to the Word of God? It’s the Word of God that will strike the people of the world — and isn’t that exactly what happened in your own life when you accepted Jesus and received Christ?
(When I was ministering at Rainbow Mission back in 2005, I nearly left without my Bible. Rev. Bob Brown, the senior pastor, called after me, “Don’t forget your sword!”)
And the sword is an integral part of the Full Armor of God:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God ….
— Ephesians 6:13-17
But an actual, shining, well-tempered, razor-sharp sword from the finest foundry? Uh-uh. The idea of forcing change on the world at the edge of a sword or the point of a gun, is a total non-starter. It’s God’s Word that condemns us for disobedience and blesses us with redemption and the hope of an infinitely better situation than anything we could cook up for ourselves.
The best kind of double-edged sword, indeed: let’s learn to use it more.