Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 5

In the Old Testament, self-defense is assumed in the laws that were given for Israelite civil law. But what about the topic of self defense in the New Testament?

It is true that just before His arrest Jesus tells His disciples that they should make sure they are armed with swords - and the disciples take his words literally and show him that two of them have swords.
(Luke 22:35-38) ¶ And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” ¶ So they said, “Nothing.”
36 ¶ Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”
38 ¶ So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” ¶ And He said to them, “It is enough.”

The big question is, what did Jesus mean by this?

In context, he seems to be saying that the situation is changing for the disciples, from a time of relative ease and safety during his earthly ministry, to a time of mortal danger. In the past he had sent them out to minister without any supplies and they had been cared for through God's supernatural supply. But now that Jesus is going to be rejected and killed, the disciples will face persecution.

Does this mean that the disciples will no longer received God's supernatural provision and protection in their continued ministries? Do they now need to answer force with force in the pursuit of God's kingdom?

Evidently not.

A few hours later Jesus is arrested by the officers sent by the high priest and led by Judas. This crowd has swords and clubs, and the disciples who have swords are anxious to use them in defense of Jesus. Peter goes so far as to draw his sword and take a swing at the high priest's servant, Malchus.
(Luke 22:49-51) ¶ When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”
50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

But what does Jesus say?
(Luke 22:51) ¶ But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.
(John 18:11) ¶ So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
(Matthew 26:52-53) ¶ But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
When Jesus appears before Pilate, he also talks about the use of force.
(John 18:36) ¶ Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

So what have we observed about self defense from these scriptures? It is fair to say that Jesus did not object to his disciples arming themselves with the weapons of their day. But it is also important to point out, that force of arms was clearly NOT the means by which the disciples were to defend the cause of Christ, even when enemies came against Christ with similar weapons.

Subsequently, in the book of Acts, Peter and John would be arrested and beaten by Jewish authorities, Stephen (and others) would be stoned to death by Jews who hated his Gospel, others would be driven from their homes, arrested and imprisoned. James was executed by Herod as a political favor for the Jews and Peter was scheduled for the same fate until God miraculously released him. The apostle Paul faces stoning, beatings, imprisonments and several plots against his life because of his testimony for Jesus.

Sometimes they were delivered supernaturally. Sometimes they escaped by other means, including hiding, moving out of town, government troops rescuing them, their legal standing, etc. Sometimes they did not escape, but died at the hands of their persecutors.

But in spite of all of this violence against the Christians, there is no suggestion that they ever answered the aggressors with force.

So what is the lesson here? The right to arms for self defense still seems to be a presumption, but they are not to be used in the cause of Christ.

So, please comment with your questions and observations. I will get back to this later in the week.


MomE said...

This made me think of a conversation we had about the government. I was questioning what you'd do if they attempted to take your guns. You said something to the effect that it wasn't worth dying over...but if they told you what you could and couldn't preach...that was! Am I on the right track?

Pastor D said...

That's the basic idea. Self defense, police service or even warfare are ok in their place. But they are not to be confused as the methods for promoting the gospel.