HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.–Matthew 10:34
Christ Came to Bring Both Peace and a Sword
There seems to be a glaring contradiction between this word and some other words of Jesus. Some of the most familiar Gospel words–words that shine down like stars on the world’s darkness–speak of Jesus as the great peace bringer. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Yet here, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The point I wish you to observe in passing is Christ’s disregard for superficial consistency. Life proves many a proposition to be true that logic would readily demonstrate as false. And the strange thing about the words of Christ is, that while they seem to contradict each other at the bar of reason, they link themselves together into perfect harmony when we go forward in the strength of them. Are you fond of arguing about Christ’s teachings? You may argue till doomsday and never find their power. They are words of life meant to be lived out; there is no argument in all the armory like action. And it is only as we set our faces heavenward, making these statutes our song in the house of our pilgrimage: only as we view every new morning as a new opportunity of putting Christ to proof; it is only thus, through the gathering experience of days, that we awaken to their power and truth. I notice in the engines of our river steamers that there are rods that move backward as well as rods that move forward. A child would say they were fighting with each other, and that half of the engines were going the wrong way. But though half the engines seem to go the wrong way, there is no question that the ship is going the right way: out of the smoke and stir of the great city into the bays where the peace of God is resting. So with the words of Christ that seem to oppose each other. Make them the driving power of the soul: and the oppositions will not hinder progress, and the contradictions will reveal their unity, and you shall be brought to your desired heaven.
So to our text; and there are two lights in which I wish to set it. (1) The coming of Christ sends a sword into the heart. (2) The coming of Christ sends a sword into the home.
He Calls Us to a Lifelong Warfare
First, then: The coming of Christ sends a sword into the heart. Now this is exactly what I should have expected when I remembered the penalties of gain. For everything a man achieves there is a price to pay. There comes a wound with everything we win. Think of the knowledge of nature that we now possess. All knowledge, whatever joy it brings with it, brings with it in the other hand a sword. All love, though it kindles the world into undreamed-of brightness, has a note in its music of unrest and agony. Every advance mankind has ever made holds in its grasp new possibilities of pain.
It is through thoughts like these that I come to understand how the coming of Christ into the heart must send a sword there. To receive Christ is to receive the Truth; it is to have the Spirit of Love breathing within us: and if truth and love always bring sorrow with them, I shall expect the coming of Christ to be with pain. I have no doubt there are some to whom Christ came, and made them very happy. You will never forget the hour of your conversion, when, as by the rending or a veil, the night was gone, and the trees in the forest clapped their hands before you, and every star in the heavens shone more brightly. A true experience, a very real experience: there are those here who look back on such an hour. But Jesus does not always come that way. He comes with the sword as well as with the song. He comes to banish the old shallow happiness, to break the ice that was over the deep waters, to touch the chords that had never given their music, to open the eyes to the hills above the cloud. And if He has come to you thus, so that you are not happier but consumed with a passion of divine discontent, I bid you in God’s name go forward–it is Christ with the sword, but it is still the Christ. It is a great thing to feel like singing. Perhaps it is greater still to feel like struggling. This one thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind I press towards the mark.
Three Ways Christ’s Coming into the Heart Brings a Sword: He Opens Up the Depths of Sin within Us
There are three ways in which the coming of Christ into the heart sends a sword there. I can only briefly touch on these three ways. Christ opens up the depths of sin within us; that is one. We see what we are in the light of His perfection. We were tolerably contented with our character once, but when Christ comes we are never that again. Like the sheep that look clean enough among the summer grass, but against the background of the virgin snow look foul; so you and I never know how vile we are until the background of our life is Christ. You would have thought that when Christ filled Peter’s net, Peter would have been ecstatically happy; but instead of that you have Simon Peter crying, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Christ came to Simon Peter with the sword; showed him himself; taught him how dark he was. And whenever the sword-stroke of an indwelling Savior cuts into the deeps of a man’s heart the wound is very likely to be sore.
He Calls Us to a Lifelong Warfare
And then Christ calls us to a lifelong warfare. The note of warfare rings through the whole New Testament. The spirit is quickened now to crave for spiritual things, and the flesh and the spirit must battle till the grave. I knew a student who had been to Keswick and had drunk deep of the teaching of that school. And very noble teaching it is when nobly grasped. And he came back to Scotland in a kind of rapture; everything was to be easy evermore. And he went to one of our most saintly and notable ministers to tell him about this newfound way to holiness, and the minister (with his beautiful smile) looked at him and said, “Ah, sir, it will be a sore wrestle till the end.” For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual darkness. And the evil that I would not that I do, and the good I would that do I not. Paul knew the peace of God that passed all understanding, yet to Paul the Savior came bearing the sword.
He Heightens Our Ideals
But above all, it is by heightening our ideal that the old peace goes and the pain begins. It is in the new conception of what life may be that the sword-stroke cuts into the heart. We are no more the children of time and space. We are the children of glorious immortality. We are launching out onto a career that will advance and deepen forever and forever. And do you think that the birth of a mighty thought like that can be accomplished without wound or pain? Whenever the horizon widens there is sorrow. The sword of Christ smites through the thongs that bind us. The sword of Christ cuts down the veil that shadows us. The sword of Christ makes free play for our manhood; we step into our liberty through Him. And if, with all that, there comes a haunting pain and an unrest that may become an agony, remember that Christ came to send the sword.
Christ Sends a Sword into the Home
But I pass on now: so, secondly and lastly, Christ comes to send a sword into the home.
Did you ever think how true that was of Nazareth? Did you ever reflect on our text in the light of that home? There was not a cottager in all the village but would think of one home they knew when they heard this. Joseph and Mary–was there any home in Nazareth on which the sunshine of heaven seemed to rest so sweetly? The peace of mutual love and trust lay on it, like a benediction from the green hills that sheltered it. Then into that quiet home came Jesus Christ, and the point of the sword has touched the heart of Joseph. And he was minded to put Mary away quietly, for the great love he had to her. Then came the flight to Egypt; then Jesus in the Temple–ah, yes! the sword is going deeper now. And when the public ministry began, and He was put to scorn, rejected, crucified, I think the sword had smitten that quiet home. It might have been so peaceful and so happy, with the laughter of children and the joy of motherhood. It might have been so peaceful and so happy if God had never honored it like this. But Jesus was born there, and that made all the difference. It could never be the quiet home again. Gethsemane was coming, Calvary was coming; a sword was going to pierce through Mary’s heart. He came not to send peace, but a sword.
Now I think that still in many and many a home the coming of Jesus spells out unrest like that. When a young man or woman in a worldly home takes a definite stand, comes out and out for Christ, then the father and mother and every brother and sister will understand the meaning of this text. There is no outward quarrelling–how could there be when all the family are members of the Church? But the new enthusiasm and the new consecration and the new wholeheartedness for Jesus Christ–all well enough at the distance of the pulpit, but now brought into the bosom of the family–cause unrest, uneasiness, and irritation there, and that is Christ coming with the sword. I quite admit the sword is needlessly sharpened sometimes by the pride and arrogance of the young convert. I have had cases in my ministry where all my sympathy went out to the unconverted brothers. But this I want to say, Is there any young man or woman whose difficulty in deciding for Christ is the life at home? Well, then, be very humble; do not obtrude yourself; remember your ignorance, remember your youth; but as you have a life to live, and as you have a death to die, and as you have a God to meet before the Throne, do not let father or mother or the happiest home that ever cradled man keep you from closing with the call of God. If there must be trouble, then trouble there must be. To thine own self be true. As man to man Christ says to you, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
The Sword in the Hearts of Parents over Their Children
A word to the children of sorrow as I close. A word to the fathers and to the mothers. I want you to remember there is another way in which Christ has brought the sword into the home. For home itself has a wealth of meaning in it that it never would have had save for the Gospel. And the natural love of the mother for her child has been deepened and glorified since Jesus came. Brotherhood, sisterhood, fatherhood, motherhood, childhood, you do not know how little these words meant once. And if now they speak to us of what is truest and tenderest, of ties unsurpassably delicate and strong, it is the love of Christ, it is the revelation of the Father, it is the touch of our Brother that has achieved the change. And what is the other side of that rich heritage? Ask any Christian mother for the answer. Find out if her heart never bleeds over her child; if she has not hours of haunting and torturing fears. Develop love, and you develop sorrow. Deepen the heart-life, and you deepen suffering. It is by doing that, through all the centuries, that Christ has brought the sword into our homes. The Stoic said, “Dry up these fountains of feeling”; so he made a solitude and called it peace. But Christ deepened and cleansed life’s wellsprings here, and that very deepening has brought the sword. I think it is worth it. I would not be a Stoic. It is better to live vividly, spite of the pain, than to have the fingertips of all the angels grope at a heart of steel. After all, if He smiteth, He will bind up again. If He woundeth, yet He will make us whole. The sword, like Excalibur swung by the arm of Bedivere, shall flash and sink into the deeps forever, when we wake in the eternal morning of the Lord.