Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 140. "I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword"
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 140. "I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword"

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

While the Parable of the Prodigal Son features familial reconciliation, Jesus said, "Do not think that 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, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:34-37).

How would Jesus' ministry divide families? It would not result from people abandoning their Jewish faith in favor of following Jesus, because Jesus said, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them" (Matthew 5:17). Social disruption was the inevitable consequence, but not the design, of Jesus' ministry. He opposed the hierarchical social order, which unjustly marginalized members of society, such as those who were poor, widowed, or infirmed. Since the social order helps maintain peace and order, Jesus' ministry threatened to disrupt all levels of society, including the most fundamental social unit - the family. However, the Bible teaches that our communities are not peaceful or reconciled as long as they adhere to social customs and laws that rely on scapegoating some individuals. It is striking that the parallel passage to Matthew 10:34-37 in Luke includes, "henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three" (12:52). The scapegoating mentality is all against one, with people unifying in their hatred of the scapegoat. In contrast, Jesus' ministry threatened to lead to destabilizing conflicts, such as three-against-two conflicts that were difficult to resolve and could tear families and other social units apart.

A case-in-point is how the Christian Vegetarian Association has received angry e-mails claiming that we misrepresent Scripture. People have accused us of being self-righteous, judgmental, and heretical, even though we explicitly do not claim that diet determines salvation; that meat-eating is inherently sinful; or that we are better Christians. One likely reason we engender such hostility is that we reveal animals as scapegoats, and this truth divides our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, the alternative, to participate in scapegoating God's animals in the name of superficial Christian unity, would not please God. However peaceful our intentions, we do challenge the social order, and this can cause conflicts. Jesus understood this, yet he did not abandon his ministry. Whatever the consequences, we are called to lovingly witness for Christ, not to acquiesce to injustice or ignore opportunities to reconcile Creation. We do not truly promote peace if, in the name of getting along with our neighbor, we ignore the suffering our society inflicts on marginal, often unseen individuals. Such peace is an illusion, just as Jeremiah said of Judah's priests and the false prophets, "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11).

We need communities that reject scapegoating as the glue that holds them together. This, I think, is why Jesus made the shocking declaration, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). Service to God may call us to risk all relationships,7 and even our own lives. When traditional relationships become stumbling blocks to reconciliation, we must be ready to establish new kinds of relationships. Indeed, while Luke 12:52 describes a house divided, Luke 13 features the Prodigal Son parable, in which the father abandons cultural protocol and seeks to reunite his fractured family.

Go on to: Part 141. The Truth in Fiction
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