Jesus Got A Gun

This post is a response to an article written by Reverend John Armstrong that rebutted my original post entitled Should We Arm Our Churches? 


Over the last couple of months, I have been told by Christians that I had “better watch out” with what I am saying, that I need to “be careful” or that I “need to be more sensitive.” Even more, I have had Christians tell me that I am “dangerous,” and that my positions on nonviolence, in general, and guns in churches, specifically are “dangerous” and “divisive.”

Let me first say that just because I hold a different view on Christian nonviolence and guns in the church, and have initiated a conversation about the issue, does not make me insensitive, dangerous, or divisive. Conversations such as these are absolutely necessary, lest the Church become a self-reinforcing, homogeneous, echo-chamber, which I am afraid is largely becoming the case.

I do find it curious though, that the one who is taking the words and life of Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, the Early Church Fathers, and the pre-Constantinian Early Church seriously and at face-value around the issue of nonviolence, is the one regarded as out-of-line and divisive. One might think that those who stray from, or explain away, the words of Jesus, the New Testament writings, and the Early Church ought to be regarded as the unorthodox position. For the weight of evidence in support of Christian nonviolence far outweighs the opposing, unorthodox position of Christian violence.

When the actual words of Jesus implores his followers to “love [their] enemies,” that ought to be sufficient. For there is no greater enemy than oneattempting to kill or inflict harm. And it is exactly that enemy the follower of Jesus is instructed to love.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology says the word enemy, which is the Greek word exthrós, is “a person resolved to inflict harm.”  In other words, as followers of Jesus, we are instructed to be of such heart that we will love a person who is resolved to inflict harm upon us.

When one chooses to find gray areas in this, I wonder how one then determines who is one’s enemy and who is not. Even more, what words of Jesus, the author and perfecter of this faith, specify who is to be regarded as an enemy and who isn’t? There are not any distinctions to be made. An enemy is an enemy. And Jesus told his followers to love them. That certainly does not mean one ought not try to escape or think of other creative ways to preempt or diffuse the situation, but a follower of Jesus ought to love the enemy.

Even more, when Jesus tells his followers to not resist an evil-doer, which in Greek is mé anthistémi hé ponéros, it literally means “do not take a stand against, oppose, resist an evil man who injures you.” Jesus understands quite clearly what he is asking of his followers. And the Early Church understood quite clearly what Jesus meant. When violence comes upon a gathering of those who follow Jesus, it quite literally means for us to not stand up against it or oppose it or resist it.

So when one says that a Christian should “speak where Scripture speaks,” there then is no other choice than to say boldly that a follower of Jesus must love his enemy. Hard stop. And by virtue of this single declaration of Christ, one need not labor to recite all the other words of Jesus that support this one single verse.

Additionally, the argument that a Christian ought only “speak where Scripture speaks” misses the entire heart of the Gospel. For if that is the basis by which a follower of Jesus must move forth in the world, then one must be pro-slavery, pro-human cloning, pro-pornography, pro-illegal drugs and so forth.

But of course this is ludicrous.

The Spirit of God births within us a love that allows us to speak to contemporary issues and work toward peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a restorative (not retributive) means of justice. So while guns did not exist in the first century, one need only ask, “Since we share the same Spirit as Jesus Christ, would Jesus carry a gun to kill an enemy, even if it is done in self-defense or on behalf of another?” From the words and life of Jesus, I only find that we ought not kill an enemy. But you, as a follower of Jesus, can read his words in the Gospels and answer that for yourself.

Many Christians take the peaceable non-violence and enemy-love of Jesus to be only his divine calling and something divorced from his followers in the present. However, we never read Jesus saying, “This is my calling alone. It is not for you.”

Every single word of Jesus indicates that we, as his followers, have the exact same calling as Christ. So where would one find evidence of Jesus making peaceable non-violence and enemy-love his unique calling and something separate from the calling of his followers? There is absolutely 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 is to pick up one’s own cross daily. To follow Jesus means to turn away from all supposed worldly wisdom. To follow Jesus means one will be reviled and hated for their radical love and grace. To follow Jesus will mean one’s life because we no longer live in enmity with others, we no longer repay evil for evil. As followers of Jesus, our only disposition is love. And that may make me naive, stupid, crazy, radical, and divisive, but I take the enemy-loving words of Jesus at face value, just like his disciples and the Early Church.

Because when one considers that eleven of the twelve disciples died at the hands of an enemy, one must wonder why they did not self-defend. Or, when the Apostle Paul was killed at the hands of an enemy, why he did not self-defend. Or, why the Early Church was killed regularly at the hands of their enemies, but did not self-defend. The answer is that they practiced a peaceful non-violence rooted in the radical, enemy-love of Christ. And they believed others would see this radical love of Christ and be drawn to it.

Peace always…

Brandon

Read More

Should We Arm Our Churches, Part 1
Should We Arm Our Churches, Part 2

Heaven: Heaven and Earth Be One

Over my last four posts, I have centrally focused my attention on deconstructing the predominant belief of many within mainstream Christianity, which asserts that the goal of God is to ultimately take His people away to a disembodied heaven to live for eternity while destroying all of creation.

At the same time, I have been offering glimpses from Scripture of what God’s true intention has always been and what it continues to be- not whisking people away to a disembodied heaven for eternity, but rather working to redeem, renew, and restore all of His good creation through the defeat of sin and death as evidenced and initiated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the bringing together of heaven and earth has been launched in the present and we look forward to the day in which the full consummation of heaven and earth will be complete with God making His dwelling place among us in a renewed and restored earth.

We didn’t arrive in this place by accident. The Scriptures from Genesis forward evidence a God who has been working painstakingly to remedy, mend, and heal that which was fractured and broken from the very beginning- not just people, but all things.  

The central purpose, the grand narrative, the over-arching achievement of God is to- bring heaven and earth back together as one.  

Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, in the new age [the Messianic rebirth of the world], when the Son of Man shall sit down on the throne of His glory, you who have [become My disciples, sided with My party and] followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19: 28 AMP

So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord; And that He may send [to you] the Christ (the Messiah), Who before was designated and appointed for you–even Jesus, Whom heaven must receive [and retain] until the time for the complete restorationof all that God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets for ages past [from the most ancient time in the memory of man]. Acts 3: 19-21 AMP

For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it–[yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons). Romans 8: 19-23 AMP

In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him, [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth. Ephesians 1: 7-10 AMP

For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him. And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]. For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently. And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross. Colossians 1: 16-20 AMP

It is obvious that the weight and trajectory of the Scriptures come together in the victory and accomplishment of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross and resurrection to new life…and describe the objects of this salvific activity as a complete reconciliation and restoration of all thing in the Age to Come- our bodies, the creation, everything, and all things in heaven and earth.

For all that had gone wrong in the garden, it is the gardener who fixes it and restores it.

In every way our paths have been crooked, there will be a day when they are all made straight.

In every way God intended for us to be helpers and caretakers of His good creation, His original intention will be realized in the new heaven and new earth.

In every way nature has suffered the curse, producing thorn and thistle, and animals have had enmity toward man and one another, there will be a time when wine will flow from mountains an the lion will lie with the lamb in peace.

In every way we have been told, or have come to believe, that we are of little value or significance, we will fully and finally realize the profound value we have in God’s eyes since the creation of the world.

In every way relationships were fractured and broken because of our rebellion against God and our distrust and hatred of one another, there will be perfect harmony, unity, and community one with another and all with God.

In every way we have longed for peace and justice, and held out hope that there would be a better day, we will one day beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, never again lifting a sword against another, nor learning of war any more, for the love of God will fill the cosmos.

In every way nation has risen against nation and kingdom against kingdom, the fullness and completeness of God’s glory and peace throughout the land will reveal the cultural beauty and uniqueness of every nation as they are healed and celebrated.

In every way rulers have crushed, oppressed, and killed those whom they have subjugated, we will one day experience the loving, merciful, and victorious leadership of Jesus and those who rule with Him.

In every way we have split and divided over race, social status, and economic achievement, dishonoring God in the process, the nations will one day gather united in our diversity and worship God as one.

In every way our bodies have given out, been debilitated or handicapped, and suffered the crushing weight of disease and death, we will one day have incorruptible, resurrection bodies that will do things we could never imagine.

And in every way we have longed for and anticipated eating and drinking anew with Christ and one another in the fully realized and consummated Kingdom of God, we will one day sing praises, give thanks, break bread, and celebrate the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Messiah.

peace…

brandon

self made man…

My friend and I made preparations to wash feet. Everyone from our church was invited to come. No one knew what we were doing. We filled four or five water basins and put them strategically around the room. Beside each basin was a hand towel to dry the feet after washing them. On the screen were the words of Jesus to his disciples- as I have done for you, now you must do.

We didn’t give anyone any instructions. This was going to be a demonstration in humble service. We were simply going to take the water basins and begin washing the feet of those who were there. So we began. As we washed the feet of two or three people something remarkable began to happen. Those whose feet we had already washed stood up, took the extra basins of water, and began to wash the feet of others as well. Upon seeing this I set my basin down and took a seat to observe what was happening.

That is when I was completely caught off guard.

My wife and my good friend both came over to me and knelt down. They took my dirty sandals off and began to wash my feet. Unexpected emotions began to surface as tears filled my eyes. I was so humbled to be served in such an intimate way by those I love dearly. It was truly an honor.

But despite my feelings of appreciation I couldn’t fight the most unexpected emotion that crept into this holy service. My pride.

Instead of savoring the joy of those who were serving…all I could think was: I am capable of washing my own feet. I don’t need anyone going out of his or her way to wash my feet. They don’t need to imposition themselves on my behalf.

The truth is that it was hard to be served.

These same feelings came rushing back to me over the last couple of weeks, as I was the recipient of two incredible “random acts of kindness.” Both of the acts left me speechless and profoundly appreciative of how kind and selfless people can be…but they also left me struggling with being served by another person.

I started asking my friends, “Is it easier for you to serve someone else, or to be served?” The answers were shocking to me. Although my impromptu poll was far from scientific…the people I asked stated unanimously that they have a much easier time serving others than being served.

Beyond the straw polls and evidenced through many of my own personal anecdotes of wanting to serve others in need, I have found that people resist being served because they do not want to “inconvenience” others.

Why is that?

Have we been so molded and shaped into a people who believe we need to “pull up our bootstraps” and get the work done by ourselves that we fight being served?

Have we developed a wild sense of independence and pride that keeps good-hearted servants at arm’s length so they can’t help us?

Have we become so insulated and isolated from people…for fear of getting hurt or owing someone something…that we do not give others the opportunity to give selflessly without them not expecting anything in return?

I know this is a broad stroke of the brush…but I have come to the conclusion that we do not have a “serving” problem as much as we have a “reluctance to be served” problem.

Too many times we make the moment about ourselves, our pride, and how capable we are of doing things on our own…that we completely miss the greater point. It isn’t about people seeing our deficiency, our inadequacy, or our inability to do things for ourselves…it is about the great joy others take in serving us. And when we deprive others the opportunity to serve us…we deprive them of the profound joy of serving Christ.

That is the lesson I learned while my feet were being washed. As I watched my wife and good friend each wash one of my feet, I didn’t see them grumbling. They weren’t thinking less of me. And even though they could have made some snide comments about the smell and unkemptness of my feet, I didn’t even hear a grunt from them. Instead…I saw something else displayed in them. They thoroughly washed and dried my feet with as much joy as if they were serving Jesus Christ himself.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord.” But also ready yourself to be served when others want to serve you.

peace…

brandon