..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Friday, December 28, 2007

He Who Lives By The Sword Dies By It: Should A Christian Protect Himself? Part Two of "Should the Church Use Armed Guards?"

In Luke 22:35-38, we again look at this
most difficult saying of Jesus. How
shall we interpret Jesus' words to His
disciples to "buy a sword" when it
seems to be at odds with the tenor
of what Jesus preaches, (i.e. turn the
other cheek; forgive; walk the second
mile, etc)?

Matthew Henry suggests that the sword
Jesus is telling them to buy is a
spiritual sword. In one sense our
weapons must be spiritual but
was this what Jesus had in mind here?
This buying of the sword is still
linked with Jesus being numbered
with the transgressors, which is
not easily understood. So attaining
a "spiritual" sword would not be
something that was worthy of prosecution
or even visible. Is Jesus suggesting that
his disciples obtain a few swords but
not use them as form of civil disobedience
so that Jesus would be "numbered with the
transgressors"? (an "only criminals have guns"
kind of thinking) I see no sense that
Jesus intended for his
disciples to use them except as the
mildest form of deterrent. This opens
up a larger can of worms then we have
time to address today!

Jesus, however, is definitely not
suggesting using swords or arms
to carry out the mission of
preaching the gospel. The
possession of arms seems limited
to a personal sword, if anything, and not
a military uprising. (see the
American Thinker's series of articles
of pacifism & Christianity) When Peter starts
to have his interest piqued at the
idea of swords, Jesus quickly
squelches him by saying, "it is
enough"...(the two swords carried
by the group). The fact that Jesus
disciples even had two swords among
them is interesting.

I'm wondering if Jesus is acknowledging
that the world is indeed evil, and
that protecting oneself is part of
human nature. Perhaps He might be
saying that if you want to carry
a sword, do it, but don't get carried
away with it, and don't rely on it,
and ABSOLUTELY don't use it to
enforce His message. I still think
He is calling us to a higher place.

I think it is fair to say that in His
saying,"It is enough" there is a strong
message of distaste and that Jesus is
really wanting people to go to a
deep place of trusting God--again,
something that cannot be legislated
and something that He is not willing
to demand of His followers, but prays
they will come to (and will not be able
to come to without the outpouring
of the coming Holy Spirit).

So Jesus could be saying, "use a sword
as protection if you feel that you must,
but know there is a higher path."
The interesting thing is that after
the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane
with Peter and the ear, there is no
tradition I know of in the early
church of Christians using violence or
even protecting themselves. At worst
they simply flee from the threat.
Apparently they got the
message loud and clear!

Of course, later we have the
ugliness of the crusades, and violent
encounters with Muslims, another whole
sad story in itself, but that is much later and
the violent actions of the crusades cannot
be traced back the the purest teachings
of Jesus. Now I am really close to
volatile subjects, so back to "Should
a Christian defend him or herself?
And should a Christian defend someone
in his or her care, especially a child?

Obviously, the use of non-violence to
stop violence and evil is a great call.
Sometimes that can be accomplished by
using the spoken authority that God
grants us in the Name of Jesus. We
can use prayer, use love, use peace as
the weapons we fight with. Do they
produce the same results as a magnum?
No. And you need to be at peace with that.

Other times we might use physical
force that is not deadly to protect
ourselves or an innocent bystander.
Sometimes we may simply put ourselves
and our loved ones in God's hands, even
if that means losing our earthly lives.
Many of the people, however, that I spoke with
in preparing this article felt like
they would use physical force to
protect a child or someone in their

Francis Schaeffer says,
“I am to love my neighbor as myself,
in the manner needed, in the midst of
the fallen world, at my particular point
in history. This is why I am not a
pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world
in which we live – this lost world –
means that we desert the people who
need our greatest help . . . I come
upon a big burly man beating a tiny
tot to death . . . I plead with him to
stop. Suppose he refuses? What does
love mean now? Love means that I stop
him in any way that I can, including
hitting him. To me, this is not only
necessary for humanitarian reasons;
it is loyalty to Christ’s commands
concerning Christian love in a fallen
world. What about the little girl?
If I desert her to the bully, I have
deserted the true meaning of Christian
love – responsibility to my neighbor."

At what point does this break
down or does it? Is this what
love really means, that I resort
to violence to stop violence?
(Of course, if someone were hurting
a child or an innocent in front of
me I would probably hit them
over the head with a baseball bat and not
think twice...but then this is why
I am prayerfully pondering this issue!)

During the Second World War, Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, was
involved with the plot to kill Hitler.
If we have a chance, as a Christian,
to prevent the slaughter of hundreds
if not millions of people, should we
use that chance even if it involves
deadly force? Could you pull the trigger
on Hitler to save millions of Jews?
I'm surprised? sorry? to say that
I might say I might do that also.
I'm really not sure. God help us!

These are weighty questions. A pastor
is responsible for his congregation
before God. Perhaps it is up to each
individual pastor to pray and seek
God as to what God would have him
do. When it comes to defending myself
there seems to be less of an urgency,
for while I would not want to lose my
life or be hurt, I can know that I
am in the hands of God and perhaps
more ready to meet Him then my attacker

Perhaps there are no easy answers other
than going to God and doing what He tells you!

I leave you with two powerful thoughts,
"If is is possible, as much as depends
on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves,
but rather, give place to [God's] wrath:
for it is written: Vengeance is Mine,
I will repay: says the Lord. Therefore,
if your enemy is hungry, feed him,
and if he is thirsty, give him a drink,
For in so doing you will heap coals
of fire on his head. " Do not be
overcome with evil, but overcome
evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21).


"Pursue peace with all people, and
holiness, without which no one
shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).

May your journey be free of strife
and sheltered from worldly turmoil,
but know, no matter what, that you
are safely in the hands of God.
Do not succumb to the world's ways
but follow the highest path Christ
sets before you.

Strive to walk in the highest
grace possible for you will
walk in the long line of those
of whom it is fitly said, "the
world is not worthy" (Hebrews 11:38).
The only bloodshed that should
truly be ours is the bloodshed of our
own prayerful striving against sin,
(Heb. 12:4)--even as Jesus sweat great drops
of blood as He wrestled with absolute
obedience to God. (Luke 22:44).

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