What Did Jesus Mean in Saying, “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword”?


The verse Matthew 10:34-36 seems to contradict the teachings of Christ the pacifist who asks us to turn the other cheek. What is its real meaning? Thanks:)
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and 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."

—Jo, Lebanon


Dear Jo,

Good question! Jesus often spoke metaphorically but used down-to-earth terms that suggest a literal interpretation. The verses that you quoted are a prime example.

I’ll paraphrase how Paramhansa Yogananda interpreted those verses: The mission of every master is not to make our human lives more comfortable. It is a call to war against ego-identification. Using the sword of discrimination, we must cut away attachment to fleeting identities (this body, this personality, this family) in order to realize the eternal soul. His teaching presented an “either/or” proposition. We can’t have both. Our subconscious material desires recognize that it is a fight to the finish, and the subconscious will, being the abode of habit, resist the spiritual quest. We must fight for our time to meditate, strive to overcome bad habits, and struggle to keep God foremost in our minds and hearts. In short, we must make strong efforts toward spiritual growth (“the sword”), because entrenched habit will overpower anything less.

Nayaswami Gyandev