The gospel is not just about how to receive eternal life, but also about how to live this life.
As we grow in our knowledge and experience of the gospel, life also grows in vibrancy and vitality. Where grace and faith multiply, love and unity flourish. To the degree that we emphasize grace and faith in our lives and in our community is the same degree to which we experience peace, joy, delight, and unity with God and with one another.
The gospel was intended to advance and promote peace. Not just peace to our inner beings, and not just peace between men and God, but also peace between all people and eventually, peace to the entire universe.
In one of the first declarations of the gospel in the Bible, the angels announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds and proclaim to them peace on earth and goodwill toward men (Luke 2:10, 14).
Throughout the entire ministry of Jesus, He sought to bring peace where there was hostility, and love where there was hate.
Even among the Twelve Apostles, Jesus brought together Zealots and tax collectors who would have hated each other in any other context. Near the end of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed to His apostles that He had come to bring peace, was leaving them with His peace (John 14:27), and that just as God had sent Jesus to proclaim peace, so also, His followers must do the same (John 20:21).
In the letters of Paul and Peter it is the same. Over and over, these apostolic writers proclaim that in Jesus Christ, there is now peace (e.g., Eph 2:14-17; Col 1:20; 1 Pet 3:11).
As such, any time we use the gospel to produce anything but peace, we are misusing and abusing the gospel.
If our defense of the gospel causes bitterness, strife, and division “for the sake of the gospel,” it is likely that we do not understand or defend the true gospel of peace in Jesus Christ.
But didn’t Jesus say he would bring a sword and division?
But what about when Jesus claims He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, that His ministry would not result in peace, but division (cf. Matt 10:34; Luke 12:51)?
Sadly, these statements by Jesus have been severely misused by Christians who want to justify their own warlike behavior toward other Christians. Such a view, however, contradicts almost everything else Jesus taught.
It is best, therefore, to understand that Jesus is not talking about His purpose in coming, but rather, a consequence of His ministry and teaching. His statement is not prescriptive, but descriptive. He is not describing what He wanted to happen, but rather, is describing what would happen. He was predicting; not prescribing.