Should We Arm Our Churches, Part 2

We don’t know, what we don’t know.

That’s not an indictment or a judgment. It’s an admission. Especially when it comes to our 21st century knowledge and understanding of early Christian views on how Christians ought to deal with violence.

In my last post, I began to answer the question, “Should we arm our churches?” I drew specifically upon the many words of Jesus throughout the Gospels and from the words of Paul in his letters to the Church.

While one may believe that the words of Jesus, upon whom all of Christianity is supposedly built, are sufficient in answering any and all questions that have anything to do with how a Christian ought to relate to an enemy, and then how a Christian ought to respond to violence, this is certainly not the case.

While there is a mountain of evidence, straight from the mouth of Jesus, that anyone who follows him ought to- love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, not repay evil with evil, not resist an evil doer, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirt off of our back, not avenge ourselves, bless those who curse us, give food to your enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, there are still Christians who go to extraordinary lengths to nuance the words of Jesus or make well-intentioned excuses as to why the way of Jesus is not relevant, or applicable, to the 21st century Christian.

Well, that was Jesus and we are not Jesus.
Well, that was Jesus’ special calling that was specific to him.
Well, we live in a fallen world with fallen people and Jesus didn’t mean all of that for us.
Well, you are trying to make Jesus a hippy.
Well, as a Christian we have a responsibility to protect people.
Well, Jesus told his disciples to buy swords so he advocates violence.

I have to say that it is amazing and surprising to me all of the beliefs Christians stand firm upon as non-negotiables with barely a mention by Jesus, but how casual and flippant so many Christians become when dismissing or nuancing Jesus’ words on enemy-love and non-violence, despite mountains of direct and unequivocal words from Jesus.

So in attempt to take another step in making the case for followers of Jesus, that Jesus did, indeed, mean that we ought to love our enemies to the point that it would mean our lives, I will address specifically the “two swords” when Jesus was arrested and then I will overwhelm you with quotes from the early church fathers on how they viewed enemies and Christian retaliation to evil.

I said it in the previous post, but it seems either people didn’t read my post, or they purposefully ignored what I wrote, but Jesus did not tell his disciples to get swords for the sake of self-defense or for any sort of violence. The passage in Luke 22 tells the exact reason that he had them get swords. Read it below. It was for the sake of fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah that he would be numbered among transgressors, or law-breakers.

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

Were two swords enough to take on the temple guards who were heavily armed and protected with body armor? It is a ludicrous assertion. If you are going to mount a serious defensive against the temple guard, you better bring more than two daggers. Seriously. Beyond that when Peter used the dagger to cut the ear of one of the guards, Jesus rebuked him and told him to put it away. Jesus then subsequently healed the temple guards ear.

Please do not use this as an example for violence, retaliation, or self-defense, because it falls flat.

So to the early church fathers and I will end with this. Considering that Jesus died around 30 AD, the early church began to organize after his resurrection, and the first Gospels were written approximately between 50-90 AD, one ought to be able to look at the words of those in the second and third centuries to get a clear idea of how they interpreted Jesus’ words. What we find is that the early church was as radical in their non-resistance to evil as Jesus. In fact, that was the belief and disposition of the early church until Christianity was politicized and militarized by Constantine in the early 4th century and then through the opinions of Augustine of Hippo, who introduced Just War Theory in the 5th century. That does not mean that there could not have been earlier smaller, rogue movements within the church who advocated for Christian’s to pick up the sword, but it absolutely was not the norm as you will find in the quotes below.

Keep in mind that these are the words of the leaders of the earliest churches that formed out of the Great Commission by the disciples of Jesus.

Didache
Teachings of Twelve Apostles
80AD-90AD

“This is the way of life: first, thou shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself: and all things whatsoever thou wouldest not should happen to thee, do not thou to another. The teaching of these words is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast on behalf of those who persecute you: for what thanks will be due to you, if ye love only those who love you? Do not the Gentiles also do the same? But love ye those who hate you, and ye shall not have an enemy.”

Justin Martyr
100AD – 165AD

“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools…now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the Crucified One….The more we are persecuted and martyred, the more do others in ever increasing numbers become believers.”

“We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.”

“We used to be filled with war, now all of us [Christians] have, throughout the whole earth, changed our warlike weapons. We have changed our swords into plowshares, and our spears into farming implements.”

“We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.”

“The devil is the author of all war.”

“We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”

Athenagoras
133AD – 190AD

“We Christians cannot endure to see a man being put to death, even justly.”

“We have learned not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder or rob us. Instead, even to those who strike us on the side of the face, we offer the other side also.”

St. Ignatius, Disciple of John
35AD – 110AD

“Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.”

Aristides
137AD

“It is the Christians, O Emperor, who have sought and found the truth, for they acknowledge God…. They show love to their neighbors. They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies. This, O Emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians, and this is their manner of life.”

“Christians appeal to those who wrong them and make them friendly to themselves; they are eager to do good to their enemies; they are mild and conciliatory.”

Clemente of Alexandria
150AD – 214AD

“The Christian poor are ‘an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without anger, without defilement.’”

“Above all Christians are not allowed to correct by violence sinful wrongdoings.”

“We Christians are a peaceful race…for it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained.”

“If you enroll as one of God’s people, then heaven is your country and God your lawgiver.”

“It is not in war, but in peace, that we have been trained.”

“An enemy must be aided, so that he may not continue as an enemy. For by help, good feeling is compacted and enmity dissolved.”

2nd Epistle of Clement, who was ordained by Peter
140-160AD

“For the Gentiles, hearing from our mouth the words of God, are impressed by their beauty and greatness: then, learning that our works are not worthy of the things we say, they turn to railing, saying that it is some deceitful tale. For when they hear from us that God says: ‘No thanks will be due to you, if ye love only those who love you; but thanks will be due to you, if ye love your enemies and those that hate you’—when they hear this, they are impressed by the overplus of goodness: but when they see that we do not love, not only those who hate us, but even those who love us, they laugh at us, and the Name is blasphemed.’”

Tertullian, who knew Polycarp, another Disciple of John
160AD – 220AD

“It is absolutely forbidden to repay evil with evil.”

“The Christian does not hurt even his enemy.”

“If, then, we are commanded to love our enemies, whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become just as bad ourselves. Who can suffer injury at our hands?”

“Only without the sword can the Christian wage war: the Lord has abolished the sword.”

“The Christian does no harm even to his enemy.”

“Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.”

“We willingly yield ourselves to the sword. So what wars would we not be both fit and eager to participate in, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?”

“God put His prohibition on every sort of man-killing by that one inclusive commandment, ‘You shall not kill.’”

“For what war should we not be fit and eager, even though unequal in numbers, we who are so willing to be slaughtered—if, according to that discipline of ours, it was not more lawful to be slain than to slay?”

“Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”

“But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts.”

“Learn about the incorruptible King, and know his heroes who never inflict slaughter on the peoples.”

“How often you [legal authorities] inflict gross cruelties on Christians….Yet, banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to?”

“But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar. But how will a Christian engage in war? indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime without the sword, which the Lord has taken away?”

“How will a Christian man participate in war? It is true that soldiers came to John [the Baptist] and received the instructions for conduct. It is true also that a centurion believed. Nevertheless, the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”

“Is it lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword will perish by the sword? Will the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? Will he who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs, apply the chain, the prison, the torture, and the punishment.”

“Shall we carry a flag? It is a rival to Christ.”

Hippolytus
170AD-236AD

“The professions and trades of those who are going to be accepted into the community must be examined. The nature and type of each must be established brothel, sculptors of idols, charioteer, athlete, gladiator give it up or be rejected. A military constable must be forbidden to kill, neither may he swear; if he is not willing to follow these instructions, he must be rejected. A proconsul or magistrate who wears the purple and governs by the sword shall give it up or be rejected. Anyone taking or already baptized who wants to become a soldier shall be sent away, for he has despised God.”

“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath (sacramentum) to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”

“A person who has accepted the power of killing, or a soldier, may never be received [into the church] at all.”

Irenaeus, who knew Polycarp, another Disciple of John
180AD

“Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.”

“[Christians] formed their swords and war-lances into plowshares, that is into instruments used for peaceful purposes. So now, they are unaccustomed to fighting. When they are struck, they offer also the other cheek.”

Origen
185AD – 254AD

“We have become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.”

“To those who ask us whence we have come or whom we have for a leader, we say that we have come in accordance with the counsels of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take ‘sword against a nation,’ nor do we learn ‘any more to make war,’ having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader, instead of following the ancestral customs in which we were strangers to the covenants.”

“We have cut down our hostile, insolent, and wearisome swords into plowshares. We have converted into pruning hooks the spears that were formerly used in war. For we no longer take up ‘sword against nation,’ nor do we ‘learn war anymore.’ That is because we have become children of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Leader.”

“You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers with the Emperor even if he demands this.”

“Christ nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to anyone, no matter how wicked. For He did not consider it to be in accord with His laws to allow the killing of any individual whomever. For [Christian] laws do not allow them on any occasion to resist their persecutors, even when it was their fate to be slain as sheep.”

“We have come in accordance with the counsel of Jesus to cut down our arrogant swords of argument into plowshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take swords against a nation, nor do we learn anymore to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Lord.”

“Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. In this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army, an army of godliness, by offering our prayers to God.”

Theophilus of Antioch
180AD

“Say to those that hate and curse you, You are our brothers!”

Epistle of Mathetes
190AD

“Christians ‘love all people, and are persecuted by all; they are reviled, and they bless they are insulted, and are respectful.’”

St. Cyprian
200AD – 258AD

“Murder, considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse.”

“[Christians] are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves, it is not permitted the guiltless to put even the guilty to death.”

“The hand must not be spotted with the sword and blood-not after the Eucharist is carried in it.”

“God wished iron to be used for the cultivation of the earth, and therefore it should not be used to take human life.”

“Wars are scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood. And murder, which is admitted to be a crime in the case of an individual is called a virtue when it, is committed wholescale.”

Lactantius
240AD – 320AD

“For when God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but he warns us against the commission of those beings which are esteemed lawful among men. Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all, but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal.”

“[The Christian] considers it unlawful not only to commit slaughter himself, but to be present with those who do it.”

“How can a man be just who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? Yet, those who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things.”

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage
250AD

“None of us offers resistance when he is seized, or avenges himself for your unjust violence, although our people are numerous and plentiful. It is not lawful for us to hate, and so we please God more when we render no requital for injury. We repay your hatred with kindness.”

Athanasius of Alexandria
293AD – 373AD

“Christians, instead of arming themselves with swords, extend their hands in prayer.”

Mercellus the Centurion

As he left the army during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in 298AD

“I serve Jesus Christ the eternal King. I will no longer serve your emperors…It is not right for a Christian to serve the armies of this world.”

“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.”

“It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.”

Martin of Tours
315AD – 397AD

“Hitherto I have served you as a soldier; allow me now to become a soldier to God. Let the man who is to serve you receive your donative. I am a soldier of Christ. It is not permissible for me to fight.”

St. Ambrose
338AD

“The soldiers of Christ require neither arms nor spears of iron.”

“The servants of God do not rely for their protection on material defenses but on the divine Providence.”

“It is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it. We would rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another.”

St. John Chrysostom
347AD – 407AD

“I am a Christian. He who answers thus has declared everything at once- his country, profession, family. The believer belongs to no city on earth but to the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Peace and love,

Brandon

13 thoughts on “Should We Arm Our Churches, Part 2

  1. Wow, these quotes were a huge eye opener. Part 1 of this post already changed how I viewed the topic of self defense and arming myself personally as a believer, but this part is a complete paradigm shift.

    I’ve always been surrounded by people who made logical arguments that Jesus’ teachings about violence and killing applied personally but not to serving in a civic or military capacity. This completely changes that mindset.

    Brandon, thank you for sharing and for the time and research that went into compiling these quotes! Are they from all over, or are there collections of writings from the early church fathers that I could find these in?

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    1. Thank you so much Jordan for the kind note. The quotes are readily available both online and in print. I have two resources I typically use- the first is this website http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/churchfathers.html … which is a link to the writings of the early church fathers. I also have a book of many early church writings, but I can’t remember the title of it off the top of my head. I will send it to you later. Thanks again!

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  2. As always, you present a great case. I will mention only two things that occur to me whenever I ponder / pray on the subject. Fist, Jesus mentions the “two swords” not only in the context of fulfilling a prophecy, but also in a list of things that the disciples must now do differently, now that he (Jesus) is going away. Instead of taking to money, now they should take a purse. Instead of taking no extra provisions (a bag), now they will need to take provisions. And – one could argue – if they previously carried no swords, they should now acquire some and be prepared to defend themselves on the road (from thieves or cutthroats) because the personal protection afforded by Jesus and his bodily presence will be gone.

    One could ask why it would be necessary to have a couple of “swords” on hand for Jesus to be numbered among the transgressors, since the Jewish leadership already considered him a transgressor and a rabble-rouser, and the “swords” themselves were never mentioned in any of the trials that Jesus subsequently endured. No one shouted out to Pilate that Jesus was leading an armed rebellion, so what purpose did the “swords” actually serve? However, if “two swords” served the purpose of occasional self-defense or a deterrent against attack on the road, they have a definite purpose, along with the “purse” and the “bag.”

    And secondly, when we defend our families, friends, or neighbors against violence, we are loving them as ourselves. Your interpretation of “love your enemies” forces us to choose the life of an “enemy” over the life of a friend or neighbor, and it assumes that allowing our enemy to do violence (instead of stopping them with self-defense) is a form of loving them. The call to love our “neighbor as ourselves” is no less imperative than the call to love our enemies. If my family were under threat from a violent person, I would be grateful if a neighbor stepped in and defended them. Therefore I would do the same for my neighbor. That is love for my neighbor.

    I do not consider it a loving thing to permit a violent person to carry out their violence against me, my family, or my neighbor. It may be many things, but it is not love. For Jesus it was love, because his death at the hand of his enemies made peace between God and all mankind – a very loving thing indeed. But for us it only allows my enemies to heap up their sins even higher than they already are. I don’t think it takes a lot of theological gymnastics to conclude that “love your enemies” – as you interpret it – may not be such a simple one-size-fits-all command against self-defense or family-defense or neighbor-defense.

    The many historical quotes you offer – and I love them – point more to the fact that as followers of Jesus, we are to consistently, predominantly live lives of gentleness, forgiveness, and love, but they don’t preclude the possibility that at times we may need to “lovingly” defend our family or neighbors against random violence, or that such defense violates the general command.

    Respectfully – Don

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    1. Don, first let me say how much I appreciate you, and the tone in which you discuss this. Usually people do not have the capacity to talk about such passionate issues in a calm and peaceful way, so I really appreciate that.

      I will address some of the points that you made shortly, but there are a couple of larger arguments I need to make first. I am not saying that you made this particular argument, but others have, that the God of the Old Testament was violent therefore, no matter what we see in Jesus, we pull that violence forward into our present and act accordingly. Of course, this line of thinking is faulty and can be easily refuted (and maybe I will do that in a separate post), but one overarching argument that is not so readily understood by those in the Church is that of bringing the future into our present. Let me explain.

      Many Christians believe that our future is a disembodied, spiritual existence that escapes the physical world which will be destroyed. There are others, like me, who do not believe that a disembodied, spiritual heaven and a destroyed world is our ending. Scripture makes it evident that there will be a resurrection of the dead and there will be a renewed heaven and a renewed earth where God will ultimately make his dwelling place among us.

      In this new creation, there will be no more sin, death, or decay. The lion will lie with the lamb, as there will no longer be enmity in creation. All will be made right and will be the way it was always intended to be from the beginning. So when we read language in the NT calling those who follow Jesus a “new creation,” that is what it is referencing- new creation has started, has been initiated in the present, first in Christ and then in us. In Christ, the old creation has gone and the “new creation” has come. In fact, in Romans 8 it talks about us being the “first fruits” of new creation. As you know, first fruits are the very first portion or yield of a crop that is sacrificially given to God. In essence, we are the first part of that which is to come in its fullness in the future. We are very literally bringing this future life of new creation, where all is made right, into our present lives. As it will be in the future, we begin to live it presently. So even in the midst of hostility, as new creation people who live presently as we will live in the future when all is made right, we live lives of self-sacrificing, other-centered love and peace to everyone.

      Following Christ is not “getting saved” and then being a good moral person in a difficult world until we “go to heaven.” We are ushering in God’s kingdom presently in and through our lives as peacemakers, as those who no longer live in enmity with others, as those who will not resist an evil-doer, as those whose only disposition is love and only love, as those who have been made a new creation people for the sake of this ministry of reconciliation.

      This is the larger argument for non-resistance to evil- it is who we are. The only disposition by those whose present citizenship is the in-breaking, present kingdom of God is love and the only way that moves forward in the world is through love. It knows no violence. It knows no hostility. It is peaceable and loving. It always looks like Jesus.

      Now, to address your arguments in specific.

      I understand your logic that using violence in defense is an act of love, but I believe it is rooted in a faulty, worldly wisdom. The wisdom of the world has always been, “Since I love my family, my country, my tribe, I will defend and kill for them.” We are always the “good guys” and they are always “the bad guys.” I don’t see how this mindset changes anything. For every family, country, and tribe will believe that the “other” is the enemy that needs to be killed for the sake of my beloved family, country, and tribe. This is exactly how the world has always operated.

      That’s why I believe that building an entire “self-defense” argument on “two swords” is a mistake and why it was only done to satisfy the prophecy. You ask a litany of questions as to the necessity of having “two swords” to be “numbered among the transgressors,” and I will simply say… I am not the author of the book who made the connection of the swords to a prophecy. The author mentioned the swords and then subsequently tells the reader why he told them to get swords, in order to fulfill scripture. The author made the connection. Once again, when Peter used it for the sake of self-defense, he was rebuked. If this is the basis by which the majority builds their argument for self-defense, it is built upon incredibly shaky ground compared to the mountains of evidence that point otherwise.

      Because when one considers that eleven of the twelve disciples died for the Christ they preached and for the Christ in which they lived, one must wonder why they didn’t self-defend. Or, why the Apostle Paul did not self-defend, but was killed. Or, why the early church did not self-defend, but was also killed. The answer is that they practiced non-resistance to evil. They did not repay evil for evil. They were a new creation people who believed that they were already present citizens of this kingdom, this in-breaking reality of God’s present rule and reign, and they were inaugurating it, they were ushering it in.

      Lastly, many take the peaceable non-resistance and enemy-love of Jesus to be only his divine calling and something divorced from his followers in the present. The thing for me is that we never hear about Jesus saying, “This is my calling, but it is not for you.” Everything we hear from Jesus is, “This is my calling, and to follow me, it shall be your calling as well.” Where do we find evidence of Jesus making peaceable non-resistance and enemy-love his unique calling and something separate from the calling of his followers? There is no evidence for it. In fact, the evidence points significantly to the opposite. To follow Jesus is to follow the narrow way. To follow Jesus means to turn away from all the supposed worldly wisdom. To follow Jesus you will be reviled and hated for your love. To follow Jesus will mean your life.

      I continually go back to the overwhelming evidence that we have in the words of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the words of Paul, the life of Paul, the life of the disciples/apostles, the words and lives of the early church fathers, and the lives of the early church, in addition to an overarching kingdom theology in which we are the present in-breaking embodiment of new creation, of the Body of Christ, who have been told to, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

      The way of Jesus defies every worldly wisdom, every worldly convention, but there is a love and a joy and a peace that is in it that makes it worth dying for. For what do we have to fear?

      Thank you brother,
      Brandon

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  3. Thank you. I think your articulation of the “First Fruits – New Creation” argument is very persuasive, along with the subsequent life examples of the apostles. I have noted that the arrests of James and Peter did not invoke any kind of defense or rescue effort from the early church, but only prayer, and so from early on there seems to be no attempt to physically defend themselves. I still wonder about distinctions between defending oneself from persecution for Christ’s sake vs. defending oneself (or family) from random violence not connected to our faith. We are told that to suffer for righteousness is blessed, but what about suffering for nothing other than a violent person’s violent intent? I suppose your “New Creation” viewpoint negates all violence against another, yet I can honestly say that any action I take toward an attacker would not be born of hatred for them, but more out of love and concern for the victim. The victim may be unsaved, and about to lose their life (forever) for no better reason than my rigid determination that any kind of “violence” in any situation is wrong, so I cannot attack their attacker. Certainly a difficult proposition to entertain in “real life” outside my spiritual musings.
    Don

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    1. Thanks again Don. I admit that such musings are difficult propositions. And you must understand that I started in the complete opposite camp and leaned heavily into war, retaliation, and violence as an appropriate response in kind. I was ultimately persuaded in 2007 when I, at last, understood the kingdom of God and then began to unlock the mysteries hidden within this kingdom ethic. I had always understood the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven as simply “Heaven.” That place to which we will go in the future. But once I discovered the verse in John in which Jesus says that, “the kingdom of God is within you,” all of my defenses failed. Every parable is about the present and about God’s inward reign in our hearts and minds. That is when my world was turned upside-down for the better. And to be honest, this new perspective scared me. What would people think of me? Will people hate me/hate my new understanding? And then further questions like, “How does the church not know this? Why do churches largely ignore the kingdom of God?” In light of Jesus proclaiming, “The reason I have come is to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God,” I wondered how we diverged from THIS good news. It is a citizenship and an indwelling reality in our lives that never makes distinction between violence done against one for faith and violence done randomly… because our faith is in and through all things. Our faith transcends situation and scenario. Our faith transcends arbitrary lines of division drawn up by the world. Our faith is not compartmentalized or divided or selective. Our faith is thorough and immersive and overwhelming to any and all, the friend and the enemy. It is a faith that sees the utter brokenness of the world, the utter brokenness of the violent offender, even during an offense and shows profound mercy, to the point of saying, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

      In closing, let me say that I just wish churches would meet together and come up with non-violent contingency plans to deal with a violent offender. The issue is that many churches have reacted, as the world, to meet violence with violence, instead of primarily pursuing creatively non-violent means to prevent or curtail an attack. Our very first motivation being violence says a lot about our misunderstanding of Jesus and what it means to be his followers. And then, our significant lack of an applied theology in practice. And then, our monumental lack of creativity. For we go to extraordinary lengths to say we are pro-life, but at the end of the day, we are selectively pro-life. Our lack of creativity in preventative measures proves it.

      Thank you so much brother for the excellent conversation. It has been a pleasure. I will give you the final word.

      Peace…

      Brandon

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      1. Thanks Brandon, but your final word is already a good one! I have close Christian family members who own guns, have CCW license, and a definitely pro-self defense. They also often mix American patriotism and faith (my big bugaboo). It could certainly be contentious if I began articulating what you have so eloquently presented. Thanks for helping to broaden and sharpen my understanding.

        Don

        Like

  4. Wow! I have read all of the above in awe. As a nearly 70 year old, recently baptized Christian I really appreciate your forthright and respectful debate.

    As a kind hearted, peaceful, law abiding citizen, it is difficult to come to terms between scripture and being a citizen. I have always wrestled with one God loving nation earring with another God loving nation, and each praying for the blessings of God to kill the enemy. It is illogical and makes no sense.

    Likewise, the death penalty has always been a moral delemia. I can honestly say though, that the feeling I get when I hear that person who committed horrendous evil is executed, is not a healthy one, surely not one Jesus would condone.

    The “beating of drums” in church on veterans day (even in weekly prayer) has always struck me as conflicted at best. Your interpretation and the early church statements are a challenge to follow, but appear to certainly be the only way Christ would walk.

    Your “for what do we have to fear” hits the nail on the head. Death? For with real faith, we have resurrection… or else we do not have true faith.

    God bless,
    Blaine Keller

    Liked by 1 person

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