Verse 34 seems like a contradiction to much of Christian teaching, especially as found in the New Testament. Is Christ speaking here solely to the difficulty facing his disciples? This affects the way we live out our lives as we attempt to follow Christ.
The HarperCollins Bible Commentary argues that Christ refers here to the divisions that will emerge as people choose between him and others. It notes that it cannot in any way advocate violence since it is the “most pacifist book in the Bible” (882). Chrysostom came to a far different conclusion. He argued that the peace of Christ comes only “when the cancer is cut away” (Ancient Christian Commentary, 210). Christ must preserve peace the same way a military commander does, “by cutting off those in rebellion” (210).
It seems unlikely that Christ here would be advocating some sort of violent revolution. However, I am aware that at least some of his disciples wanted such a revolution so I think it is possible that the original author of this passage intended something along these lines. However, if we look at it within the context of the canon I do not think that this is the proper reading any longer.