TEXT: MATTHEW 10:34-42/ROMANS 7:1-13/JER. 28:5-9
WHEN PEACE IS BAD AND STRIFE IS GOOD!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called as saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We readily think of strife and division as bad and peace as good.  Sometimes, however, peace is bad and strife is good!  The peace and agreement in Sodom and Gomorrah about immorality was bad.  The strife and division by which Lot and his family were rescued from that immoral city was good!

The peaceful, placating approach the leaders of Europe and America took with Hitler in 1937 was very bad.  The strife and division that German civil leaders and German military commanders secretly begged the powers in France and England and America to have with Hitler was very good.  In a study last fall we learned how the highest officials in what became the allied countries, including America, were repeatedly warned that Hitler intended to destroy Judaism, Christianity, and capitalism.  Convinced of the intense evil Hitler would unleash many German civil leaders and German generals were poised to decisively dethrone him in 1938.  They planned an orderly coup.  They were ready to install a new government headed by the former mayor of Leipzig Carl Goerdeler – a Lutheran.  They pleaded with all foreign powers to stand against Hitler’s every demand - to give him nothing. 

TEXT: MATTHEW 10:34-42/ROMANS 7:1-13/JER. 28:5-9
WHEN PEACE IS BAD AND STRIFE IS GOOD!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called as saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We readily think of strife and division as bad and peace as good.  Sometimes, however, peace is bad and strife is good!  The peace and agreement in Sodom and Gomorrah about immorality was bad.  The strife and division by which Lot and his family were rescued from that immoral city was good!

The peaceful, placating approach the leaders of Europe and America took with Hitler in 1937 was very bad.  The strife and division that German civil leaders and German military commanders secretly begged the powers in France and England and America to have with Hitler was very good.  In a study last fall we learned how the highest officials in what became the allied countries, including America, were repeatedly warned that Hitler intended to destroy Judaism, Christianity, and capitalism.  Convinced of the intense evil Hitler would unleash many German civil leaders and German generals were poised to decisively dethrone him in 1938.  They planned an orderly coup.  They were ready to install a new government headed by the former mayor of Leipzig Carl Goerdeler – a Lutheran.  They pleaded with all foreign powers to stand against Hitler’s every demand - to give him nothing. 

Just then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlin rushed to Germany to appease Hitler by giving him that piece of Czechoslovakia that he was demanding.  Chamberlin ignored the many voices begging for total opposition to Hitler’s demands.  He proclaimed that his pact with Hitler meant “peace for our time.”  In Germany an increasingly lock-step media proclaimed Hitler’s feat!  His popularity spiked to new levels!  He was idolized and adored!  His grip on power intensified!  Detailed plans for a coup that had included the army chief of staff and many generals were snuffed out by this false “peace for our time”. 

We readily think of strife and division as bad and trying to make peace as good.  Sometimes however, peace is bad, and intolerance and fighting is good.  Thank God Elijah wasn’t at peace with Jezebel and John the Baptizer was intolerant of Herod’s adultery and the Apostle Paul fought tirelessly against those who denied the pure Gospel.

Our culture trumpets tolerance as perhaps the greatest good.  Truth is seen relative – your truth – my truth.  Intolerance of anyone’s truth is seen as evil.  But thank God Frederick Douglass didn’t make peace with slavery and thank God Martin Luther King Jr. was intolerant of segregation and thank God Lech Walesa was so decidedly set against communism and thank God when free countries are firmly divided against radical terrorism.

We readily think of strife and division as bad and trying to make peace as good.  Sometimes, however, peace is bad and strife is good!  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 

This strife and division over Jesus came to His own earthly family.  The first mention of Jesus’ brothers (James and Jude) – describes their opposition to Jesus’ teaching ministry.  His calling of unlikely disciples, His healing on the Sabbath, the opposition of the religious leaders deeply affected also His family.  They thought He was out of His mind.  His mother and His brothers came to seize Him, to take charge of Him and take Him away (Mark 3:20-21; 31-35).  That’s when Jesus said, whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

A couple of years later when the Jews were actively seeking to kill Jesus, His brothers were again feeling resentment.  They did not believe in Him.  They told Him to leave the family region of Galilee and go up to Judea (John 7:1-5).  In other words, “Jesus, dear brother, please get out of town!”

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword.  The Greek can be understood that Jesus came not only to bring peace, but also the sword of division.  The issue, you see, is Jesus Himself!  He gives peace with God through the blood of His cross - objective peace – outside of ourselves peace – peace the world cannot give - peace that passes human understanding!  That is why He came in the flesh!  That is why He went to the cross!  But not all receive His blood-bought peace. 

Rejection of Him and His words will cause conflict for the apostles as it caused conflict for Him.  Jesus spoke first to the twelve as He sent them out to seek the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  He makes this clear as He gives them their marching orders.  He did not want His apostles unaware!  Proclaiming Him would not bring them universal acclaim but sometimes opposition and persecution.  Paul had almost no outward peace!  Jeremiah was an emotional wreck we call the weeping prophet!  You know the record of the lives and deaths of the apostles.  The same truth holds for those in the public ministry today.  There will be some division over the faithful proclamation of God’s Word.

The same holds true for you and for all who confess Christ and His words faithfully in life’s relationships!  Spouses may oppose Christian worship!  Children may rebel against parents who seek to honor God’s will!  Some parents have disowned their children for confessing Christ and His forgiveness.  Make no mistake, family togetherness is what Jesus desires.  He gave the gift of marriage wherein two become one flesh.  He intends the love of a husband for a wife to be as His own love for the church.  He has commanded children to love their parents and honor them in all things and promised to bless them therein.  He has commanded fathers to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  He seeks to bring His love to others through the gift of family. 

However, outward harmony in the family can be so valued that it outweighs speaking the truth in love and acting on that truth.  Earthly affections can be so strong that they obstruct loving someone in Christ.  You are not to nag, but not nagging is not the same as total silence and implied acceptance of known sin.  You are to speak the truth in love but you are to speak the truth!  We cannot exempt ourselves from Jesus’ command – Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

The First Commandment is surely present here!  As St. Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, the very commandment that promises life proves death to us.  God’s law is holy – His commandments are righteous and good – but the law shows sin to be sin – sinful beyond measure.  “You shall not covet” says the law and your heart that lacks contentment and is agitated with worry stands condemned.  “Your sinful passions bear fruit for death” says the law – and your prideful thoughts and lustful thoughts and judgmental thoughts and self-satisfied thoughts are seen as pursuing death – not life!  Such passions may feel full of life and purpose!  Making peace with sin may give pleasure and comfort in relationships for a time!  But, it bears fruit for death!  The very commandment that promises life proves death to us.

Such holy commandments are not what our Old Adam ever wants to hear!  We sinners easily fear more the displeasure of a family member than God’s wrath against their sin and our own.  We can love more our own blood than the God who shed His blood for us and for them.  The temptation to put God’s word at a distance and cave-in to family or peer pressures is constant.  This temptation is intensified in our decaying culture in which voices of the elite and voices in education and voices of entertainment proclaim a world view much different than that of Jesus Christ and His sent ones.

So don’t think all turmoil and easiness in your heart is bad!  Don’t automatically believe you are the problem when you speak the truth in love and are ignored or hammered or mocked for it!  Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  We readily think of strife and division as bad and peace as good.  But beloved, the strife that Jesus brings is good news!

The word for bring in the Greek can be translated as “cast” or “throw out.”  It is a bold picture – a sudden hurling of the sword where peace is expected.  It calls to mind King Saul hurling his spear at David as David sang peace-giving psalms to him.  Jesus hurled His sword not at you, nor at your loved ones.  Jesus hurled His sword at your sin – to divide you from the devil – to divide you from eternal death.  Jesus did not let this world remain united in its cursed and condemned lot!  He causes division because He must divide us from this dying world and the judgment we merit. 

Think of the sword and the strife surrounding Good Friday.  There was no peace in the midst of that good strife for His disciples.  Their bravado was pierced with failure and fear and denial and desertion.  There was no peace in that good strife for Mary.  A sword pierced her heart in what her eyes beheld.  The fruit of her womb was bloodied and beaten and buried.  There was no peace in that good strife for Jesus.  Bloody sweat and agony pierced His prayers in the Garden.  Spikes pierced His hands and His feet on Calvary! 

Then this cry from His lips pierced the thick darkness of that Day of Judgment – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  You see, Jesus knows family division like no one else!  A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  The Father was set against His Son because the Son had taken up with us!  He was sinful beyond measure!  He was made to be sin for us!  While we enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).  The sword of God’s wrath struck Him with all of its weight in our place! 

That’s why yet another cry pierced the blackness of that day of infinite strife – “It is finished!”  Dear Christians, this strife is the best news the world will ever hear!  The early morning light of the third day guarantees it is so!  Now there is peace!  Your sins are divided from you as far as the east is from the west!  You have died to the law through the body of Christ for you were baptized into His death!  Christ purchased this peace for everyone you know.  Even Jesus mother and brothers are seen receiving this peace – waiting in Jerusalem with the early believers for the Ascended Christ to pour out the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Peace is good, but not if it is false peace.  Hananiah prophesied a positive-thinking, ignore-God’s-judgment false peace!  Jesus prophesied judgment-satisfying true peace that has come to pass!  “Peace be with you” He said, fresh from the grave – absolving His disciples!  “The Peace of the Lord be with you always,” He says to you this morning – absolving you of all sins.  He absolves you also of the pursuit of false peace and of the imperfect carrying of your cross!  His blood cleanses you from all sin!  Satan seeks to rob your conscience of this certainty but then Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.  The one who receives a prophet because He is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward…The issue, you see, is Jesus Himself and His words and His sent ones!  He gives you peace with God through faith in Him – true peace – outside of yourself peace - whether you feel it or not peace!  That is why He comes to serve you again this morning!


The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a