Inward vs. Outward Peace
Only God can bring us true peace in this world. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and called Him the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). So why does Jesus say, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"? (Matthew 10:34)
In Matthew 10, Jesus is not referring to the inner peace that we only find by accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. He is not talking about everlasting, spiritual peace. What Jesus means is that the same Gospel of peace that brings eternal joy and contentment to believers will be the Gospel that is rejected by the world. The Gospel of peace that reconciles sinners to a holy God will create animosity in the hearts of nonbelievers.
The same people who reject the Gospel of peace also reject the proclaimers of that peace. This rejection, conflict, and disharmony are what Jesus warns about. Following Christ will bring us inner peace, but it will also place us in situations where our outer serenity is disturbed. We may feel a lack of peace in terms of our relationship with the world, but our spiritual peace cannot be taken away from us.
The more we depend on being liked and desired by others, the more unsettled and disturbed we will feel when people reject the Gospel. The closer a person is to us, the more we will feel their rejection. We are far more troubled over a loved one's rejection of the Gospel than that of an acquaintance. This rejection can lead to discord in the home. "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—a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'" (Matthew 10:35, 36).
Jesus Himself is not sowing the seeds of discord but He is warning us that we will experience a temporary loss of outward peace because of those who reject His Gospel. However, Jesus does not tell us to avoid these people who disrupt our outer peace. He does not tell us to pretend that everything is fine though people around us are going to hell. Instead, we are to continue witnessing and sharing about Christ, even if the results are stressful for us. Even if our countenance is shaken, we are to continue loving, ministering, serving, and reaching out.
In humility we are to love everyone, even those who criticize us. We are to pray for those who hate us. We are to reach out to those who reject us. Even when our outer peace has crumbled, we are to lovingly speak the Truth of the Gospel.
Do you keep quiet about Christ for the sake of harmony and temporary, superficial peace? Seek God's forgiveness for the times when you have been fearful or embarrassed to speak His name. Seek His strength to face the conflicts that will occur because of your faith. Pray that your life will continue to testify to Christ, even when your relationships endure discord.
"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God."
2 Timothy 1:8
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