Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came 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 man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 

Matthew 10:34–36 


“Chameleonism” is not a word. You will not find it in any dictionary. But you know what I’m referring to—the survival tactic in the wild, when an animal becomes the color of its environment to hide from its predator. It’s the perfect image for the temptation every believer faces as they live in this hostile world—the choice to either stand their ground for Christ or blend in with the unbelieving crowd.  

Chameleonism is another Siren song we must close our ears to. It’s the song that urges us to hide our commitment to the Gospel, let go of our biblical convictions, and temper our calls to repentance. It carries the chorus: Adopt the world’s values, affirm the world’s practices, and approve the world’s thinking. It’s a song sung in churches where winsomeness is prized, and friendliness is deemed the silver bullet of evangelism. It’s the catchy tune: If the world likes you, they’ll like Jesus.

This Siren song flies in the face of Paul’s command, “Come out from their midst and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). It rejects James’ warning, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4). It denies John’s threat, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

And yet still, the song is tempting to sing along to. Isn’t it? After all, who wants to be canceled by the culture? Who wants to lose friends for their faith? Who wants to be personally insulted, publicly shamed, or in some cases, even physically harmed? 

The Shocking Savior 

Of all the shocking statements Jesus spoke throughout His ministry, perhaps the most jarring is: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). But wait! Isn’t Jesus the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)? Did the angels not announce Jesus to be the Child of Peace when He was born (Luke 2:14)? 

Yet Jesus is clear. He did not come to bring peace. He is the Prince of conflict, not comfort; the Lord of turmoil, not tranquility. He was sent by His Father “to cast fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49) and judgment upon the world (John 9:39).  

Sent with a Severing Sword 

Of course, as is evident from the rest of the Gospels, Jesus did—in one sense—come to bring peace. Jesus told both the woman with the blood flow and the prostitute who anointed His feet to “go in peace” (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50). When Jesus sent His apostles on their evangelistic journey, their first words were to be, “Peace be to this house” (Luke 10:5).  

How are we to make sense of this conflicting image of a peaceful Savior wielding a severing sword? 

The answer is this: Jesus spoke of two different kinds of peace. Jesus was sent to announce eternal peace between the sinner and holy God—the peace of forgiveness, justification, and adoption. The peace Jesus did not come to bring was harmony between His people and this fallen world. 

Christ Issues an Ultimatum 

Just before announcing His sword-wielding purpose, Jesus issued this ultimatum: “Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). Let those words sink in. Eternal realities are at stake. Blending in with the world in order to survive, means exposing yourself to Christ’s coming judgment. 

Notice how Jesus described His followers in verse 16. He called them “sheep in the midst of wolves.” In verse 17, He warned they would stand trial in court and be scourged in the synagogues. In verses 22-25, He promised that they would be hated, hounded, maligned, and even executed because of their commitment to His Gospel. Chameleon Christianity was not an option.

Jesus expected His people to stand out, even as the predators encircled them as prey. 

Jesus’ words are an either/or. The chameleon “Christian” who loves the temporal approval of this fallen world—the one who adapts to the cancel culture of our day—will experience Jesus, not as a welcoming Savior but as a sentencing Judge. Chameleon “believers” will receive no joyful welcome into Heaven. They will experience shameful rejection into Hell. 

But the flip side of Jesus’ ultimatum is also true. To the one who takes his stand with Christ, who allows the severing sword to do its work, and refuses to let the world squeeze him into its mold, Jesus offers an eternal promise: “I will…confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Only those severed from the world’s approval will be welcomed into the presence of the Father.

A Costly Cut 

Christ’s gospel sword not only severs our affection for worldly approval, but it has the potential to cut the closest of blood ties. Immediately following His sword-wielding purpose, Jesus said, “I came to set a man against His father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:35). 

The translation “to set a man against” is much gentler than how Jesus said it. “Divide into two” would be more accurate. Jesus demanded loyalty to Him that superseded one’s love for his family—even if that meant excommunication from loved ones. Jesus’ next statement is even more graphic: “A man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:36)—a reality Jesus experienced firsthand.2 

To most American evangelicalism, these words sound too extreme—even impractical and insensitive. But around the world, Jesus’ promise is a painful reality. Think of the Christians in Morocco. They turn to Christ at risk of physical abuse, banishment, and even death at the hands of their family.3 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death” (Matthew 10:21) is not hyperbole. It is an everyday occurrence throughout the world.  

Yes, devotion to one’s family is a Christian necessity (Eph. 5:23–25, 28)—yet one’s familial love must be superseded by a passion for Christ. As Jesus explained, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).  

A Gospel of Death 

Jesus then warned, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Of all the images Jesus could have chosen to explain Gospel commitment, He chose the most bloody, humiliating, and excruciating method of death. To put it in sword language: The gospel severs our love for our life.  

This is how deep Christ’s gospel sword cuts. Thomas à Kempis’ words are a needed reminder considering today’s chameleon Christianity: 

 Jesus has many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him…Those…who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation.

Confessors, Not Chameleons 

Do you see why Jesus called His gospel a sword? Do you see how dangerous the Siren’s song of chameleonism is?

Jesus promised eternal life to confessors, not chameleons who change their colors to match the world in order to survive. 




Jesus’ Gospel still cuts today. His warnings of worldly hate are still in force. Though organized persecution has not yet crossed American borders—it is coming. American Christians have been dismissed in the media, become the butt of late-night jokes, and find themselves in the crosshairs of growing anti-righteousness movements. The silly slaps of today’s comedians will soon become the fists of future legislated oppression. 

Thus, the undistracted Christian must hold the sword of Christ’s gospel in one hand and the security, joys, and tenderness of Christ in the other. 

Cling to the Sovereign Safety of Christ  

Before Jesus issued His Gospel demands, He made this promise: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). In other words: This evil world system can only take your earthly life; it cannot touch your eternal soul. 

Death carries no sting for Christ’s people, for the Father holds our future in His omnipotent and faithful hand.

The believer has “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).  

Christian, live within the sovereign safety of Christ. Come out from the world, unafraid of the consequences. Be noticed for your righteous living, undaunted by the threats. Though others may condemn you, “there is…no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Yes, hostility is certain, but you need not fear. You are “more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). 

Rejoice, For Your Reward in Heaven is Great 

Jesus knew how sharp His sword was and how deep His Gospel cut. He knew the temporal joys His people would be called to sacrifice. This was why He promised eternal bliss to all who come after Him in faith, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me…Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:11-12).

As the world’s hatred for the Christian deepens and its rejection of the Gospel turns ever more vengeful, you must think often of your heavenly home. Fix your mind on the greatness of your coming reward. Remind yourself that “momentary, light affliction is producing for [you] an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Believe that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).  

Do not miss the connection between your gospel struggle today and your future blessing tomorrow.

Randy Alcorn is right, “Eternity will hold for us what we’ve poured into it during our lives…When you see today in light of the long tomorrow, even the little choices become tremendously important.”

Let Psalm 16:11 remove any fear from your heart—“In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). Pray Ephesians 1:18 for yourself— “that you will know…what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” 

Rest assured. God will not permit His saints to go unrewarded. 

Confess Your Cowardice and Receive Forgiveness 

You may not always take a stand for Christ as you should. You will shrink in fear in the workplace. You will cave in embarrassment with your neighbors. Your Christian colors will change so that you look and sound like your surroundings. But there is forgiveness for all who confess their gospel cowardice. 

 Peter is the classic example of one who changed his colors to survive. There are only two passages in Matthew’s Gospel where the word “deny” (arneomai) is used. The first is Jesus’ warning in Matthew 10:33: “Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” The second is Matthew 26:70-72: “[Peter] denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about’…and again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’” 

Was Peter’s soul now lost? Would Christ deny him before the Father? The answer is, No! There is forgiveness for the chameleon. 

As Peter issued his third denial, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Jesus knew what Peter had done. And so, He locked eyes with him. Though fallen, Peter still belonged to Christ.  

O there is inexpressible power in the look of the Lord! With a look of majesty He beholds the earth, and it trembles. With a judicial look He overtakes the sinner, who explains, ‘I perish at His presence.’ His dying look on the cross melts the stony hearts, and transforms lions into lambs…and by means of a grieved and loving look, He restores lambs to His fold, which had long gone astray in the wilderness.

It was a look that brought tears to Peter’s eyes. And it was there that he “remembered the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). The Greek used in this section is strong and intense. Peter was throwing himself down in violent sobs, dissolved in grief and humiliation over his sin.  

In contrast to Judas’ denial of Christ, which was permanent and damning, Peter’s heart had been broken to the point of contrition. And thus, Jesus would not deny him before His Father. He would cleanse Peter from his sin and then send him back into the world to proclaim His glorious Gospel (John 21:15–20).

Where there is godly sorrow, there is always complete restoration. 

Though not an actual word, chameleonism is a real temptation we all face, sometimes daily. Jesus’ words are still true: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). 

Do not be deceived by this Siren song. It is sung to kill the only hope for this dying world. It aims to bury the Gospel message and silence its messengers. Maintain your boldness. And find courage in your Savior. Because the Gospel will be victorious, and one day every knee will bow before our Sovereign King.  


[1] This is part 5 in a series entitled “Undistracted.” Click here for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

[2] See: Matthew 13:54-57; Mark 3:21; John 7:3-5 

[3] Stories such as Sherzod Odilov are not uncommon. “When Sherzod, who recently graduated from Jacksonville (Ark.) High School, telephoned his Muslim parents in Uzbekistan to tell them of his newfound faith, his father disowned him, making it clear he was no longer welcome in his home and was never again to speak to his mother or his siblings. He withdrew all funds from Sherzod’s U.S. bank account, arranged to cancel his son’s U.S. sponsorship and college scholarship and even drew up legal papers declaring Sherzod is no longer his son.” Charlie Warren, “Exchange Student Accepts Christ, Disowned by Family,” Baptist Press, July 2007, (accessed 23 Nov. 2011); Compass Direct News, “Christian Girl Has Muslim Man Forced on Her,” (accessed November 23, 2011); The Voice of the Martyrs, (accessed November 23, 2011). 

[4] Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 85. 

[5] This was also the message the glorified Christ sent to His suffering church in Smyrna. Though under immense pressure, ostracized from the world, and living in abject poverty because of their commitment to Christ, He reminded them, “I know your tribulation and your poverty” and then added these words, “but you are rich….Do not fear….Be faithful” (Revelation 2:9–10). What undergirded the Smyrnian Christians’ faithfulness was the eternal riches that awaited them in glory—their future “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).  

[6] Randy Alcorn, The Law of Rewards (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003), 99–100. 

[7] F. W. Krumacher, The Suffering Savior (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 192.