Jan 25, 2010

Resistance and Pacifism Part III : Final Cut?

Resistance and pacifism represents two sides of the fence in most of christendom. By and large, you are either or. Some of us are fond of the constitutional right to bear arms, defend our persons and our families, and some of us are hard pressed when confronted by the Scriptures to admit, we need to turn the other cheek, or not 'resist an evil man.'

Two years ago I held a position that advocated our rights to be involved in defense of our person when necessary outside of the context of presenting the gospel. I still do not quite know if that view matured into a defensible position. However, I did begin to defend it a series of posts labeled 'Resistance and Pacifism.' If you have time, give them a read. They are at least worth an exploration for contextual application.

In the past two years I have begun to view these things in light of my Scripture readings, and of course, new discernment through maturity has changed how I interpret some of the key passages that are used to defend bearing arms, defending ourselves/others with violence, or eventually justifying the 'Just War' theory. Arthur Sido at 'the voice crying out in suburbia' has posted a series concerning the viewpoints of a Christian's right to bear the sword. He fairly explores both sides and comes to a conclusion that results in a challenge to most of us who view the bible through American eyes. He starts to see the message of the Lord is plain. Our obligation as believers is to follow the teachings of our Lord and treasure the opportunity to consider this life but dung in comparison to the treasure we will have in Heaven. This includes claiming a 'right' to physically assault another for the sake of defense.

I do not believe I have come to full maturity on my position regarding this issue, but will admit I have begun to assume a pacifistic position. In his post regarding the 'Anti-Sword View,' Arthur quotes the synoptical account of Jesus' arrest in the garden. He discusses with his readers the need to observe the Lord's reaction to Peter when he draws a sword (that Jesus instructed them to buy) and strikes the ear of one of those seeking to arrest Jesus. As simple as it may sound, there is much to be learned from studying the Greek construction of this passage, as well as looking plainly at the passage itself.

And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment." And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough."
(Luk 22:35-38)

Just take a look at the statement 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' Obviously we know this to be a quote of Isaiah 53:12, and we know this to be fulfillment of the Lord's purpose to go to the cross and be numbered amongst the transgressors (us) so that he may be a full propitiation for sin. I found it profitable to consider within this context the statements our Lord made regarding the purchase of a sword. It was not to defend themselves against the mob that was coming to arrest Jesus, it was so that was written about Him would have it's fulfillment. The transgressors have a two-fold meaning, immediate, and future. Obviously the two swords that Christ said were enough would not be sufficient in defending Christ against a group of trained men would it?

It really seems simple to me. No need to impose a complex theological and systematic explanation that proves all the places where violence was not 'reproved' in order to substantiate a claim that makes it okay to harm or injure others in the name of defense or justice. This clearly is a job that is okay for the 'State' to conduct, but not the individual believer himself. The Lord stated clearly that we turn the other cheek. He also made it clear that if His Kingdom were of this world His followers would fight (Joh 18:36). I claim that what you read in the account of what happened in the garden was NOT an example of the Lord's followers fighting, or defending. We surely see Peter rebuked for his hastiness, and we also hear the Lord say that living by the sword will cause one to perish by it as well.

Stark contrasts that are much clearer than we often think they are. If we view this topic without an agenda, or an evangelical-politico lens, we may see the truth of our messiah brought forth clearly.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I think the confusion for many people not only lies in their Americanized interpretation of the Bible, but also in the fact that in Luke's account Jesus made reference to sending them out to preach the Gospel without a sword before. So people think that is the context, but it is missing in Matthew, Mark and John and even in Luke Peter was rebuked for using it just as you said.

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