We call Jesus the “Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9: 6) but He said that He brings a sword (Matthew 10: 34). How can we reconcile these two? Because of Jesus, division will occur, even in families. Christ requires us to make a choice of following Him or not. ” . . . and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10: 38 ESV) No other choice is more important in our lives. The disciple must place Christ above all things and all others, even at the expense of peace.
Christ’s call is urgent and requires an immediate response. He tells a man who wished to bury his father before becoming a disciple, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8: 22 ESV) The fisherman at the sea and Matthew, the tax collector, follow Jesus immediately upon their call. “Immediately they (James and John, the sons of Zebedee) left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4: 22 ESV) Jesus said to Matthew, ” ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.”(Matthew 9: 9b ESV)
So in the battle in which Jesus is engaged, and in which we are to participate (See Gregory Boyd, God at War regarding Jesus’ conflict and eventual victory over cosmic and human enemies), we must take up our cross. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'” (Matthew 16: 24 ESV) We bear our own cross of suffering, knowing that the cross of Christ, that only He bears and can bear, is our shield and defense and our weapon against evil (See the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers). Our commitment to Christ involves a willingness to die in the cause of the kingdom. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 25 ESV)
The account of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels is one of conflict from beginning to the end. If we would be disciples, we must be willing to face the conflict that arises from our confession of Jesus’ name. Each disciple must bear his/her cross of suffering as he/she serves Jesus Christ in the battle. Those who would eliminate war and battle language in our hymns are gutting the meaning of the ministry of Jesus and of our discipleship. We are soldiers in full panoply (Romans 13: 12) in the cause of Christ, in the battle of light against darkness. We are soldiers who avoid violence! Our weapons are those of the Holy Spirit (See Luther’s battle hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).
We are peacemakers, but we do not make peace with darkness and evil. We do not give up our faith for those who oppose it, even in the family. We make peace where we can but not at the sacrifice of our following of Christ. The church is an instrument of God’s peace in the world. It is important that the church manifests peace in its own life as example to the world. The Church must also be always prepared for battle, and fight the way Jesus fought.
External peace is not achieved until God through Christ wins the day against the foe. Complete and utter peace is an eschatological gift; that is, it is established in all its fulness with the full coming of the kingdom. Let us pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” as we engage in the battle.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Oh, may Thy soldieer, faithful, true, and bold,
Fight as the saints so nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold!
Th (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 677)
Let us extend the peace of God as soldiers of the Lord.
Michael G. Tavella
Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397
November 11, 2019