by Rev. Frank Schaefer
Surely Jesus words take us by surprise this morning, when he says: "Do not think
I have come to bring peace on earth. I have 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 our
enemies will be members of our own household."
Whoa! This does not make for a good passage for Sunday school, does it? Don't these
words of Jesus stand in direct opposition to some of his other words, like: "blessed
are the peace-makers for they shall be called children of God."
Just a couple of weeks ago in our Sunday school lesson, we talked about the passage
where it says: "if you approach the altar and you remember that a brother has
something against you, go first and make peace with him, and then come and bring your
sacrifices?" So, what about that, what about trying to resolve our conflicts in
a civilized manner? What about being mediators?
Yet, Jesus says here: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Could
it be that the 6 and 7 year old boys who constantly fought and argued had it right? One
day these boys were fighting over a the bigger piece of meat, and the mother said: don't I
send you guys to Sunday school every week? You know, Jesus would have been happy to take
the smaller piece. And then there wouldn't have been an argument at all. To which one of
the boys said to the other: "O.k., you'll be Jesus!"
In order to resolve this seeming paradox, we need to understand the historic
background of Matthew's community. You see Matthew included this saying of Jesus, because
the reality in his church was that if you converted to Christianity, you faced severe
persecution, and often by your own family.
It is still like that in many countries around the world, especially in Muslim
countries. If you confess faith in Jesus Christ, you will be disinherited, thrown out,
shunned by your family, your community, and some are even thrown in jail and some are even
killed. And that's a fact. At Annual conference this week, we learned from our Pakistani
ministry people that more Christians have died on account of their faith in this century
than during all previous centuries combined.
Does that mean that we should be belligerent disciples though. No, by no means. When
Jesus said: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" he doesn't mean that
we take up arms or beat the crap out of our enemies. Jesus still calls us to be
peace-makers, mediators, but the reality is that when we confess Jesus Christ and when we
live according to the conviction of our heart, we will face opposition.
Even in our society you will draw enmity, laughter, and even hatred upon yourself if
you confess Jesus as Lord, if you stand up for biblical values, if you take a stand for
And you know why? Because our society has become a society of little conviction.
Everything is done to keep the peace. But peace at what price? It is a peace at the price
of moral values, a peace at the price of justice, a peace at the price of losing Christian
principles--or any principles for that matter!
Most likely, if you speak about church, about God at your work place, people will look
at you like you are a fanatic, they will roll their eyes, and perhaps you will even be
sued for mixing state and religion. And that starts in our school systems already.
I don't know whether aborting Christian prayer in public schools was good or bad, I
understand the concerns on both sides, but one thing I know, it hasn't stopped there. What
we should be concerned about is that it has become increasingly difficult for our children
to even learn about and live out their Christianity in our schools; and sometimes they are
even persecuted for starting prayer groups and bringing a bible to school. It is one thing
to try to be inclusive and sensitive toward all persons and their beliefs, and quite
another to go against those teenagers who try to live out their Christian values.
If there is one thing that Littleton, Colorado is telling us it is that we as
Christian believers, we the church have failed to make our voice heard. We need some of
those convictions that our persecuted brothers and sisters have. What an example Cassie
Burnall set for us. She had conviction. At gun point she confessed her faith in God and
was shot dead.
Is there anything at all that should get us off our fanny and bring us to our feet it
is Cassie's martyrdom. What an example this young woman has set for us.
I know it is not easy to stand up for God in an age where having convictions is
equated to being a fanatic, for being narrow-minded. But Jesus knows that too. And
that&'s why he said: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."; You may
be hated, you may be made fun of, you may even be punished for standing up for God, and
for what is true and right.
But guess what: if we do we are in good company of many of our brothers and sisters on
whose lives the kingdom of God was built. Convictions--you got to have them. Amen