The purpose of this blog post, is the show from scripture that there is a time to kill. (Ecc. 3:3) With all the talk about guns lately, and the demonizing of gun owners by the media, I’ve decided to finally state my view.
But before I get there, I think we should make something plain. Not everybody is called to the same purpose. Some people are meant to be men or women of peace, and some are meant to physically fight against evil. But we are all called to put on the armor of God and fight the powers of darkness.
I like stories. I especially like parables, that illustrate important points. I recently re watched the movie “Solomon Kane” and that, along with conversations I’ve had with other believers, inspired this post. Since most people probably haven’t seen this movie, I should give some kind of brief outline. Solomon is portrayed as an evil man at the beginning, who literally comes face-to-face with Satan, and manages to escape. He then tries to retreat to living in a monastery, repenting of his sins, and hiding from Satan. But the head priest tells him that God has other plans for him and he must leave. Solomon tries to live a peaceful life and he finds a family of sorts, fellow believers who he plans to travel to the new world with. But there is much evil in the land, and he is soon forced to either fight to defend the ones he loves or die. Most movies have a climax, where the central question is put forth. In this case it is Solomon asking God if this is all he is to Him, merely a man of war. (This is a very dark, violent film, so be warned.) But it has a thread of redemption running through it.
We are told in scripture that as much as it depends on us we are to live peaceably with all men. But how much does it depend on us? There are times when we, like Solomon, are faced with impossible choices. Sometimes even when we’re trying to be peaceful, we have to draw lines in the sand, and say, “Here I stand, on the side of what is right.” Like Shadrach Meshack and Abednigo, we might have to say “We will not bend to this culture’s idols.”
Sometimes the lines do get blurry, and it’s hard to see God through the fog, but hold on to your convictions, while trying, simultaneously, to let God be the judge. Jesus even says to bless those that curse you, and do good to those who despite fully use you. Does this mean that we just submit to abusive people?
We are also told, above all, to guard our hearts. And Proverbs tells us to avoid fools. In context, a fool is a completely selfish person. We are told to be discerning, and not quick-tempered. There is a big difference between doing good to someone who is abusive and continuing to allow them to abuse you. You can be a kind, giving person without putting yourself under their power.
Be peaceful as much as possible. If a person is angry don’t return it with your own anger. But don’t be their Whipping Boy either. Draw lines in your life to keep the foolish person away from your precious heart.
This whole line of thought has caused me to re examine Matthew 5:39 a lot more closely. You know the one: Turn the other cheek.
I’m starting to think this has to be one of the most misused verses in the Bible, right up there with “Judge not that you be not judged.”
If you take it strictly at face value, you find that that not even Jesus kept it. What was Jesus’ reaction when he was slapped? ( John 18:22)
Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”
Why didn’t he just just remain silent, and turn his other cheek to the high priest? He did not just submit silently to this evil, even though he knew it was God’s will for him to die. He still insisted that he was in the right. The high priest was actually acting against God’s law, by even having a non public trial, and everyone there knew that. To understand, we must realize what slapping of the cheek meant in that culture.
“If someone slaps another person, he must pay two hundred zuzim. If it was backhanded, he must pay four hundred zuzim. If someone flicks a person’s ear, pulls his hair, spits so that it lands on him, strips his cloak off, or pulls off a woman’s headscarf in public, [the perpetrator] must pay four hundred zuzim”. (m.Bava Kamma 8:6)
This slapping was not about injuring the other person. It was a form of insult. A slap with the back of the hand was twice as insulting, and the offended party could demand twice as much money. What Jesus is teaching, both here and in other parables, is humility and forgiveness of people who slight us. We are supposed to leave room for God’s judgement instead of constantly taking people to court over minor offenses. So we are right back to “As much as it depends on you, live at peace.” This is not a verse advocating pacifism, or meek submission when someone is actually abusing you. Rather it’s telling us to let go of our supposed right for vengeance. The Jews that Jesus was speaking to a perverted the law into an endless cycle of demanding their rights whenever someone offended them. Sound familiar?
To sum this up: we are not to render evil for evil. Don’t go pick a fight with people who insult you or belittle you. That’s just pride talking. Leave room for God to judge the foolish people. But what about when it comes to life and death?
Please get out your your Bibles and turn to Nehemiah. Okay, I’m not really a preacher, I just always wanted to say that. But Nehemiah is an amazing book, and Nehemiah the man really changed his world in a big way. He was sort of the Solomon Kane of his time, willing to go up against evil to create a better world for those who came after him. He was a man on a mission from God, to rebuild the Holy city. Several things I want to point out:
Nehemiah 4:4″ Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.”
Praying for God to defeat your enemies, is perfectly legitimate, if your enemies are truly in the wrong.
“9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.
15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.
16 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah.
17 They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.
18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
Isn’t that interesting? They prayed, they trusted God, but they also posted guards. They didn’t assume God didn’t want them to protect themselves and their families. If you read further in Nehemiah you will find that when they did get the city rebuilt they gathered to confess their sins before God and to praise him for everything. They were shrewd in how they protected the city, and gave God all the glory when it was over. As Jesus later says, be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.
How does this apply to us? Yes, posting guards means prayer warriors, but it also means putting trained men and women in place to stop evil people from shooting up schools and churches. And let’s call it evil, instead of crazy or mentally incapable. In the last school shooting it was a 19 year old man, not a kid, who was capable of a planned attack. These are the actions of an evil person, not a crazy one.
And I don’t really care how old fashion it sounds. If you are a man with a family, you’re the first line of defense against evil people physically attacking them. There’s nothing wrong with learning to shoot or fight or having a weapon. You might need it someday to defend the defenseless.
Jesus never advocated overthrowing the Romans. He didn’t tell his followers to arm themselves to resist the ruling authorities, but he did tell them to sell their cloaks to buy a sword, presumably for protection against Bandits on the road.
Paul claims that God sets up ruling authorities.
“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
This would seem to include policemen and guard’s and even private citizens licensed to carry a firearm.
There is a related question that keeps coming up about God’s judgement. Some people seem to think that there’s one God in the Old Testament another in the new. It’s a common idea that Jesus is always forgiving and never angry. The fact is, Jesus didn’t have any problem with God’s judgments. In fact he gives a lot of warnings about those judgments. He talks about the days of Noah when all of humanity was wiped out by God’s wrath as a factual event, and of course, he was there during the judging. He’s not a different Being, he is part of the Trinity from everlasting to everlasting.. He said: “I and the Father are one.” He even says it would be better for you to have a big rock tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea then to cause someone to lose faith. I personally don’t see how one can read the entirety of the Bible, and deny the Justice of God, or that the death penalty is sometimes a just punishment. People tend to confuse the forgiveness of God with the idea that no one should ever be punished for their crime. Perhaps Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven, but that doesn’t mean we should have released him from prison.
If you are reading all this and thinking that the most violent thing Jesus ever did was turn over a few tables, you might want to read Revelations.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
But this is all just metaphorical right?
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Sounds pretty literal to me.
So going back to Nehemiah, trust in God but keep your powder dry. Don’t be lax and unprepared for difficult times and situations. Even when God is sending manna you have to go pick it up. Even when God blesses your business, he expects you to continue doing you work with all your might. And if God is going to deliver the Goliath into your hands like he did for David, he still expects you to learn how to use the sling. If you’re ever in that situation, may your hand be steady and your aim be true.
But, as always, peace is what we pray for and long for. Shalom until next time.