What Exactly Does It Mean When Jesus says “I Have Come to Bring a Sword on Earth?”
Jesus famously declared that He had come to bring a sword on earth (Matthew 10:34–39). Now, before you think this only applies to Christians, hear me out.
A sword implies a fight. The wielder of a sword either is the protagonist or the antagonist in a fight. The protagonist in a fight could be the person on side of justice, or the person seeking to inflict an injustice. Ditto an antagonist involved in a fight.
When you observe two people wielding swords and fighting, knowing the protagonist and the antagonist, knowing sizes of swords, and knowing the skill with which the swords are wielded does not tell you who exactly is on side of justice.
Consider the Second World War. We all know Germany and Japan were on the side of injustice, seeking domination of everyone else. If they had been seeking to emancipate, as opposed to dominate, it would have been obvious, small countries such as Holland perhaps would have been glad.
Suppose, however, we pretend not to know which armies were on side of justice. If you judged the conflict by sizes of swords, from 1939 to 1943, you would consider Germany to be on side of justice. From 1943 to 1945, you would consider the Allies on side of justice. If you judged by skill, you would arrive at same conclusion. If you judged by protagonist vis-a-vis antagonist, you would declare the Germans and Japanese wrong because their attacks on others were unprovoked and unrelenting, judge Allies on side of right.
But is characterization of protagonist and antagonist always inviolate in context of rightness vis-a-vis wrongness of actions? Absolutely Not.
During the American Civil war, the North, or equivalently, the Federal Government was the protagonist, the South or Confederacy the antagonist. The North was on side of justice, the South on side of injustice. If black women were desirable enough to be concubines to White landowners, their men deserved at the very least sharecropping contracts. Sharecropping contracts of course were part of income solutions designed for black men post emancipation. But then came education and true emancipation.
No one absent education ever arrived at refinement of self. Even if reading of the Bible could help your vocabulary and refinement of self (neutral minded English teachers would swear by this), someone first would have to teach you how to read.
Consider America’s fight for independence. America was the protagonist, Britain the Antagonist. Whether or not you agree with tactics that were origins of the fight, clearly America was on side of right, Britain on side of wrong. Post independence, America and Britain have become friends. The British recognize America had the right to desire, to seek independence.
None of protagonist versus antagonist, sizes of swords, or displays of skill are inviolate descriptors of right vis-a-vis wrong. It takes understanding of root causes of a matter to arrive at designations of right and wrong.
When Jesus declares that He has brought a sword on the earth, He declares that it would no longer be the case that a biological brother would support his sibling who engages in wrong actions merely because they are blood.
He declares that a man will fight his biological brother in defense of what is right. He declares a father will set himself against a son or daughter, a mother against a husband or son, a sister against a brother, mother, or father. Jesus declares that the only faction He approves of are people who are willing to pick up their figurative swords for entering of the fight for what is right.
You perhaps have heard the story of how British scientists cracked the Germans’ secret code for communications with one another during the Second World War. Yes, they had to have their equipment and algorithms, and yes they had to work real hard, but it supposedly was a German who sent greetings to his wife or girlfriend every day whose messages helped crack the code.
Was this chance? Or was this a German struck by his conscience doing his little bit to help Allies win without putting his life or his loved ones at risk?
Whenever and wherever you find yourself in a position to fight for what is right, and pick up your sword for the fight, you do something that is noble, courageous, and right. If Jesus truly is the gloriously physical representation of God, you get blessed by Him. If Jesus is not who He said He is, which I personally do not believe to be the case, you stand up for what is right, and with justice as natural or spiritual principle of justice of life, you get blessed in course of your daily life, relationships, and activities.
Is there reason to believe in principle of justice as natural and spiritual force of life? In this respect, history is filled with good evidence too numerous for enumeration. A few, however, for illustration.
Think Hitler (just discussed), Napoleon Bonaparte (who was humbled twice in his quest to rule all of Europe merely out of personal aggrandizement), Sparta versus Athens (Sparta won the military battles in it’s quest to dominate Athens, yet went into oblivion; Athens lost the military battles, yet became the cultural and intellectual center of the world), Rome, which ended up with Emperors shortly after it assassinated Julius Caesar (was it not exactly because they sought to be free of Emperors that Julius Caesar, in spite of his pardons of senators for their uprising against him, was assassinated). Think the Roman Emperor Valantinian who assassinated his General Aetius who successfully defended Rome against aggressors in 453 AD merely because the General became extremely popular. Think how Valantinian himself was assassinated shortly thereafter in 454 AD along with what many historians consider the first fall of the Roman Empire.
History then is full of the lesson that the spiritual and natural principle of justice is part of essence of life on earth. There is more than enough evidence to go on, to prove that standing up for justice pays off here on earth, in the short run, long run or both. If you stand up for justice, you either get blessed by Jesus here on this earth, or get blessed by spiritual and natural principle of justice that is part of essence of life on earth.
Either way you get blessed. What is there not to like about that?