34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 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. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. "
I understand the common Christian interpretation of this verse is that the divide is between believers and non-believers. My interpretation is the social justice version. I believe that Jesus was an excellent example of a warrior for social justice, and on further examination, this verse will lead us to a principle many fear but that ultimately leads to peace.
Abuse of any kind creates a divide. To relate abuse and social injustice, remember that social injustice has to do with distribution of advantages and therefore, resources. When a person or group of people seeks to gain advantage over another person or group of people through oppression, that is abusive and therefore, injustice occurs. In a family, the leverage is wrought over another through verbal, economic, physical, or sexual means and sets up a false dependency. The abuser sets up a situation, where, by beating into or starving out of or ignoring the needs of another, that other must enter into a struggle and fight to regain their humanity.
This is where Jesus's sword comes in. The sword severs oppressors from the oppressed. It is a sword of protection and truth. Regaining one's humanity and realizing that one's spirit was never meant to be treated with such contempt and abuse requires taking up an inner journey towards wholeness and strength. It means reclaiming one's Self and setting your heart squarely in the light of love.
This is extremely difficult in a family situation. Sometimes, the abuse is rejection and the decision is made for you. In some ways, that is easier. But to stay in a family where the sense of belonging and loyalty to dysfunction is often hard-set and immovable within yourself can be harmful to yourself and others. This is where the sword of love and spirit can free you.
|Credit: Jonathan Hillson|
One has to choose between the "good" face an abuser shows, and the "bad" actions. One is forced into a black and white, otherwise, you'd go crazy trying to figure out the sweeping contradictions in behavior, the abusers' complete cluelessness about themselves, the extreme entitlement to do as they please and twist the story.
Tenebrism is an artistic technique that was used mainly in religious paintings. Tenebrism uses stark contrasts between light and dark. The answer for survivors of abuse is to enter into a tenebrism of spirit, and violently reject that which is oppressive and abusive to others, and paint yourself with the light of love. Only then can the divide be really seen. Abusive and oppressive situations create muddy chaos and dark, dark confusion. It is important to contrast that by staying out of it, and then maintaining a fierce loyalty to love.
This is the necessary divide. Peace cannot occur until there is a very clear and dividing line between those who choose to cause pain and those who choose what is connected to humanity. It's very much a right/wrong proposition. It's wrong to oppress but abusers can't stop themselves. Make them consciously choose by contrasting their actions with love. It's equally as wrong to take on the abuser's message that you somehow deserve their abuse and their cruelty. Peace cannot occur while simultaneously causing someone pain, although abusers want you to believe that.
Love is divisive. Love really is intolerant of abuse. Love trusts that if you are held to the darkness of your own spirit, that you can work to correct that and come to what is beautiful and true. Love is a sword and demands that you are loyal to a humble walk through empathy and generosity of spirit. Love says to reject oppressors and those who support cruelty. They get to choose their love or their hate. But you can always choose love.
Once the divide is clear, then if you have invested something in a relationship with people who are still in darkness, then you can discern if you have something to work with. If they insist on blindly holding to their fears and entitlement to abuse, then send them compassion for their compulsion to harm and let them go. If, however, they have the capacity for contrition and remorse for their hurtful behaviors, then there is hope for peace and the sword of love did its work. The sword of love quickly shows who cares for their relationships and who doesn't, who has remorse and who doesn't, who feels appropriate guilt and who doesn't, and who is able to change and who isn't.
The verse about Jesus coming to bring a sword, to me, is about healing. Once a survivor of abuse is standing up for themselves, they are wielding the sword of love and demanding justice. This is absolutely what Jesus came to do...to set things right and rescue victims (the oppressed) from abusers (oppressors) through a journey of spirit.
Use the sword of love. I am telling you, there are others who have been harmed too by the violence of darkness and who have struggled in the gray area for a long time. It is a noble and worthy struggle to heal, and to come into the hopeful light, and we are never alone.