Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Christian Life, Weapons, & Resisting Evil

Christian Life, Weapons, & Resisting Evil

By Craig M. Szwed

I am a Bible-believing Christian and a Constitutionalist. I believe that those documents are, respectively, the owner's manual and owner's social contract for Christians here in these United States. I believe that we must accept, use, and honor the Bible and Constitution, as written. Those aspects of my life upset a lot of people. Many admire that I stand strongly "for something", but do not seem to want participate in it themselves. Those who wish to accompany me on this amazing adventure are welcome.

I'm not going to argue the merits of the Scriptures or the Constitution to defend them, any more than I'd argue with a burglar about the merits of whether a particular firearm or guard dog is what I should be using to protect my home. However, I want to try to clarify some of the confusion that exists about whether Christians can and should be ready to defend themselves, their loved ones, their communities, their homes, and whether the Second Amendment to our Constitution has a place in Christian life.

Christ is often quoted by, and in support of, those who are afraid of firearms, or who do not wish to defend themselves. I have no argument with those who are bona fide pacifists, but their choice is not my choice, and their pacifism, by definition, cannot be forced onto others. Yes, Jesus said, "turn the other cheek", but what is the context for that? and why are anti-gun people so willing to quote Christ on turning cheeks, but then they too often object to or reject most of the rest of what He said about a host of other things?

Matthew 5:38-48
38  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The context of the passage is that many things in our lives will test our faith, and that we are to try to find godly solutions to avoid or deal with what is going on. Christ lived a perfect and sinless life. Yet, in these human bodies of ours, and with our natural inclinations, we are neither perfect nor sinless. We humans need a Savior, because our sin nature leads us to many ungodly decisions, whether lies, drunkenness, cheating, hatred, etc. Jesus pointed out to His disciples that if they wanted to be like Him, and God the Father, then what he taught them was to be a guide for how to act. The question then arises whether Christ, His disciples, and all Christians always abide by only that part of Jesus' teachings? Is the "turn the other cheek" passage the only biblical evidence for how Christians are to conduct ourselves, or are there, also, other practical building blocks that need to be harmonized in the construction of one's Christian life?

Anyone who's read even a small portion of the New Testament knows that Jesus often spoke against hypocrisy, and that He even lambasted hypocrites to expose that their alleged beliefs were not supported by their actions. Despite His verbal and scriptural challenges to the hypocrites, I think that most people would say that Christ was not a terribly threatening figure throughout most of what we read in the New Testament, at least during His earthly ministry. However, there is one incident that should snap us awake to acknowledge another side of who He is and what He represents, for He is also the Right Arm of God, the Final Judge.

In John 2:12-17, Jesus makes a scourge of small cords, with which he goes after offenders in the temple. Note that the Scripture does not say that Christ made a small scourge of cords, but a scourge of small cords. This is important. Most of us have read that phrase and glossed over it. We do not often stop to consider exactly what Jesus Christ made, or why.

Jesus... manufactured by hand... a whipping instrument... out of small cords. Anyone who ever got a spanking, as a kid, knows that it hurts a lot less when a paddle is used versus when a thin switch is used. Small cords would cut skin a lot easier than large rope. Large rope would leave welts, but small cords would tear skin, especially if made the same way that the Romans made them for public floggings. It is with that small-corded instrument that Jesus drove the evildoers out of the temple. Jesus was cleansing and protecting the house of God, His house, striving to protect His people from evildoers. That scourge was not modeled after some kindly shepherd's herding staff to nudge or poke sheep. The word "scourge", used in this Bible passage, derives from the Roman scourge that was used for the public punishment of criminals. For the scholars in the audience, I quote Wordsearch: Strong's Concordance:

" Greek Strong's Number: 5416
Greek Word: φραγέλλιον
Transliteration: phragellion
Phonetic Pronunciation:frag-el'-le-on
Root: from a derivative from the base of <G5417>
Cross Reference:
Part of Speech: n n
Vine's Words: Scourge

 Usage Notes:
English Words used in KJV:
scourge 1
[Total Count: 1]

neuter of a derivative from the base of <G5417> (phragelloo); a whip, i.e. Roman lash as a public punishment :- scourge.
— Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary "

If you clicked on the descriptive research link, above, you saw the discussions and pictures of Roman scourges. Based on those pictures and descriptions, it is clear that Jesus intended to inflict pain and bodily harm on the offending perpetrators whom he drove out of the temple. The actions of Christ Jesus were premeditated, in that He gathered materials and hand-made the scourge that He used on the offenders in the crowd. As God in the flesh, Emmanuel, Jesus' motives were pure, and His method of punishment fit the crime. As Christ, the man, He had the physical and moral strength to accomplish the zealous will of God on that necessary task of driving out those who had insidiously infiltrated and subtly attacked the temple and His people. That would be like someone going into Congress and rousting with a whip the politicians who lie, cheat, and pad their own pockets. What a picture!!

As we proceed with this topic, let us remember that Jesus Christ was the humble, suffering servant, and simultaneously, the bold and zealous man of God who drove out the evil perpetrators. May we all have such humble fortitude to stand against evil when we are called to face it. We should try to make peace or find a peaceful solution first, but if that doesn't work then we need to be prepared to act righteously to stop evil. Some pro-Rights, pro-arms trainers and groups try to remind citizens of our need to correctly judge our motives and assess consequences of our actions. I highly commend such morally and spiritually minded trainers and organizations, for without reminders of our need to weigh our thoughts and actions, we can too easily slip into spiritual and moral negligence or complacency.

Another aspect of this topic is that God allows our faith and actions to be tested to teach us, and others, many different lessons. For instance, at the Last Supper Jesus makes the following statement about buying a weapon:

Luke 22:36-38
36  Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37  For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38  And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

That same night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, after Peter tries to protect Jesus by cutting off the high priest's servant's ear, Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword, as that part of the eternal plan was fulfilled:

Luke 22:48-51
48  But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
49  When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50  And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51  And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.

The interesting thing about this incident is that Christ had told them that they should have swords, then allowed them to use the sword, after which Jesus healed the physically injured servant, immediately. This is the plan and wisdom of God working to show them and us that even during evil events God can make good things happen. Can you imagine the amazement of that priest's servant who was part of the raiding party sent out to capture Jesus Christ and take Him back for interrogation? The servant went out under orders to wrongly imprison Christ, was attacked and wounded by a disciple of Christ, then fully healed immediately by the 'man' whom he was supposed to help capture. You can be sure that that servant never saw that end coming. You can be sure Peter never saw that end coming. Only the Christ of God knew all the pieces and timing that would be needed to accomplish what happened. I'm certain that after Christ rose from the dead that that priest's servant became one of the new followers of Christ in Jerusalem. You don't experience dramatic miracles like that healing, without carefully weighing the meaning of it.

I make that point to demonstrate that people on evil missions can have miraculous things happen to them after they are confronted by armed believers. And as happened to Joseph in the Old Testament, God can turn evil intents into His own advantage and bless those who were abused. I used to know a very proud man who was sent to federal prison for theft and embezzlement. Before he went to prison he wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, other than to cling to his religious relics and liturgies. He wanted nothing to do with the biblical Christ because he was not a real believer. As an adult, the man had ignorantly gone along with his family's religiosity. However, having committed his sin and crime, and having been sent to the federal pen, that man began to see the error of his ways. Within about six months, he ended up trusting Jesus Christ as his Savior, and rejoiced that he had been caught and punished for sin. He rejoiced that people who were intent on fighting evil had stopped him and brought him face to face with his need for personal repentance, faith, and eternal salvation. THAT, to the praise of God, is the aim of God, above all other human endeavors. He wants people to turn to Him, accept His plan of salvation, then to go fight evil and win others to Christ, that we all might live peaceably as He wants us to do.

Keep in mind the lessons and examples that Christ Jesus set for His disciples and apostles. Prior to his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, God's Messiah, Paul had been a very religious persecutor, tormentor, and murderer of Christians. It took the direct intervention of the risen Christ, from Heaven, to get Paul's attention and set him in the new godly direction, as a new believer in the bodily resurrected and ascended Christ. The apostle Paul and his companions faced repeated evils and perils during their mission trips, as Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-30. Paul also fought with beasts at the colosseum at Ephesus as he says in 1 Corinthians 15:32. Although Paul continually preached and taught that believers need to press on with striving to live in peace with all men, yet, from his own testimony, it is evident that he continually faced various spiritual and physical battles throughout his life.

Throughout Paul's Holy Spirit inspired teachings he reiterates the need to resist evil and the devil, including resisting our own sin nature, as he points out in Romans 7. He warns us against looking for payback, in Romans 12, and counsels us about the true armor that God has provided for us (Ephesians 6:12-18). And, yet, we still have to remember and consider that Paul fought with wild beasts at Ephesus and dealt with robbers while traveling on the missions on which Christ sent him. I have no proof, but given that Jesus personally taught Paul, I'm sure that Paul was fully away of how Christ had to deal, hands-on, with evildoers in the temple.

God admonishes believers to resist and fight against Satan, the devil. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul tells us to stand our ground against the devil. In James 4:1-10, James warns us to carefully check our motives, and to actively resist the devil. In 1 Peter 5:5-11, Peter tellls us that the devil seeks to devour people, as a hungry, roaring lion would hunt us down. Peter, also, cautions us about our motivations and attitudes, lest we try to resist evil in our own strength and pride. I'm sure that we've all met gun lovers and gun haters who are so caught up in their own selves and their pride that they have no room or desire to weigh their motives when dealing with other people. May God help us all, that that latter state of heart and mind not be true of us.

Those among us who rationally study the Bible and Constitution, to learn and pursue the issues involved in maintaining a spiritually, morally, and constitutionally sound law-abiding armed citizenry, know and understand that the principles of defense of the weak and unarmed have derived from Scripture, even as the New Testament points us to the lessons of the Old Testament saints who fought evil all their lives. Let us, therefore, cling to those sound principles that are borne out by the Bible, that we might press on striving against the evils that beset us personally and as a nation.

Being among those who subscribe to a law-abiding armed citizenry, we must consider these caveats:
2. we must examine our motives for arming ourselves, whether it be to sacrificially support, defend, serve, and protect, or whether it be to fulfill our own lusts. The first can be blessed, the latter is cursed.

Let us, therefore, seek first to honor and respect the God who made us, and then to be clear, in our own hearts, minds, and souls, regarding our motives, intents, and objectives, as we press on with our cause to support and defend our Constitution and the Rights that God has granted to us. These are not entitlements to be assumed, but rather living contractual obligations to be exercised and fulfilled by us, in gratitude to our Maker for having given to us these United States of America.

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