34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 your enemies will be the members of your own household.’
This is such a difficult text because read in isolation it appears to create an image of God that is contradictory to that of a God who offers his people, "peace that passes all understanding." (Philippians 4:7). If we read this passage, however, in the context of all of chapter 10, then I think there really is no contradiction. Jesus is preparing to send his disciples (the twelve) out to do the work that he had been doing. He gives them the authority to, "drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." (Matt. 10:1). In doing so he warns them about how difficult it will be — that they will meet opposition beyond anything they could ever imagine — but he also reassures them again and again of the power and authority that they have been given as members of God's family. He is sending them out like sheep among wolves (v. 16), but I think verse 34 is his way of assuring his "sheep" they they are going into battle "heavily armed." God is a God of peace, no question, but Jesus came into the world to win victory over darkness/evil/sin/death once and for all. So in sending his followers out into darkness he gives them (us) all we need (himself) to not only defend ourselves, but to be the aggressors — to attack darkness with the light! This is not a verse reminding us about how God is out to get us! GOD IS OUT TO GET THE DARKNESS AND SIN AND DEATH THAT IS CONSUMING THE PEOPLE HE LOVES EVEN TODAY!
Looking further to v. 35-36, again, read in isolation (as it often is) these verses can paint quite a contradictory image of God to the one of love and peace… of one who restores the broken. Why would Jesus turn families against each other? So, again, context helps. Jesus is quoting Micah 7:6 here, which was written at a time of great despair for God's chosen people (Israel). It was a time when it appeared that darkness had won the day. So with that in mind, if Israel has fallen so far away, then many of the people the disciples know and love (IE: their mothers and fathers, etc.) would be the same people who would stand opposed to Jesus working in and through the disciples. It is interesting to read the verse that follows in Micah 7:7 which says, "But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." Even in times so consumed with darkness that our own families may stand against us there is still hope. In Israel's darkest hour… when it seemed as if God had fallen silent God spoke through Micah who, "watched in hope" certain that his savior and God would hear and respond… and God did respond in the person of Jesus! The only way to restore a family or any other relationship that has become broken is for those living in the light of Jesus to stand against the darkness… even if that means "turning against" the darkness consuming those closest to you.
This is heavy and difficult stuff, but I don't want to ignore the hard passages. I want to dig and come to know Go
d more fully through the gift of his Word in scripture.