At the time the Gospels were written, the vast majority of Christians were converts from either paganism or Judaism. Matthew was writing his Gospel primarily for converts from Judaism. In the eyes of everyone, these converts were renouncing their culture and their family, as well as their religion. They embraced their new faith with such passion that it led to a severe wrenching from their past and to deep interfamily
conflicts as well.
The words of Jesus consoled them: “Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread not peace, but division” – the word our version translates as “division” is the Aramaic word for “sword.” Jesus is saying, ” I have come not to bring peace but the sword.” And he says, “This sword will cut through blood relationships, making a man’s enemies those of his own household.” Jesus’ words consoled the converts, assuring them they were moving along the right path.
What does this passage say to us who for the most part, certainly, are born Christians, not converts? Given the closeness of family ties and deep family ties in our culture, perhaps the passage is telling us today that no matter how strong the claim of the family is on us, if there is a conflict between the demands of the family and Christ’s values, our primary loyalty has to be to Christ and his values, even if this means that the family-members will look on us as traitors. As Christ puts it, this is the cross we must take up today, if we are to be worthy of him.