By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  September 20, 2014

            Jesus did not come to bring peace. Rather, he came to bring a sword that would divide families. This statement of Jesus Christ is never easy to take, let alone understand. At the heart of the powerful and prophetic implications in this single statement is the foundation of our genuine call to stand on the side of genuine peace. It is a challenge of choice!
            Jesus speaks a lot about peace. He promises blessings to those who work for peace and says they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). He condemns the use of violence and in proclaiming that those who live by the sword will also die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). He prays for the disciples to live in peaceful unity (John 17) and calls for the priority of living out of his love to be the absolute authority guiding their lives (John 13:34). There is very good reason that the prophetic title of God’s Messiah from Isaiah 9:6 announces Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and that Jesus himself embodied and shared that peace.
            Many are quick to point out that if Christianity is a religion of peace, Christians have done a very poor job of demonstrating that Biblical truth. History is filled with brutal examples where violence has been the expression of choice for the church. When challenged with the difference between Christ’s priority for peace in light of the Church’s history of conflict and bloodshed, many faithful Christians turn to Jesus’ words that he has come, not to bring peace but a sword, as justification for the reality of violence through the church. It makes sense, but that is far from what Jesus meant.
            Jesus does bring peace. Yet, in his own words from John 14:27, it is not the same idea of peace that the world considers. Jesus brings a peace that transcends the world’s understanding of peace. In order to truly live in the peace of Jesus Christ, however, one’s devotion to Christ must be above all other interests, loyalties, and relationships. Christ’s peace requires a choice that many people will necessarily find disruptive because it is a choice to place Jesus above family, career, nation, and even the one’s obligation to the church. When that choice is made, those who feel that such religious devotion is misguided, stupid, or selfish, will react in negative conflict.
            Rather than contradicting his other statements in favor of peace, Jesus said this in full recognition that not everyone would like the choice of Jesus’ true followers. Therefore, truly choosing Christ would inevitably create conflict. The real message, however, reaches far beyond the reality of conflict. It extends right back to Christ’s genuine and holy peace.
             Life in Jesus Christ is a life that fulfills his prayer for unity as well as his command to live in accordance to the love he exemplified. It was a truly compassionate, empathetic, and caring love. More importantly, it is a life of love that neither avoids conflict, nor fuels it. It is a love that seeks to truly transcend conflict in the name of extending Christ’s peace.
            Today, we have the opportunity to dig deeper into the great power of God’s love and explore the possibilities of the true peace that he brings to life. Barry Bartel is the featured speaker and workshop leader for the Carlsbad observance of International Peace Day. His workshop on everyday peacemaking, “Skills to Transform Conflict” at the Carlsbad Library Annex from 2:00 to 4:00 this afternoon. It is a powerful program on how we, as followers who love Jesus Christ and seek to live out of the love he has for us, can transcend the conflict of our lives and in our world. This is followed at 6:00 this evening at the Beach Band Shell with a day of faith-based peace celebrations featuring music from several local churches, information on peace, as well as food and fun for the entire family. All events are free and open to the public.