Sunday, April 10, 2016

Was (and is) Jesus really a pacifist?

John 18:10-11King James Version (KJV)

10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.
11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
There has been a raging debate for centuries now. Some say that the people of God should never take up weapons for any reason. Some say that we should protect what we love- just as Jesus protects his church. 
The passage listed above has been used by many to "prove" that Jesus was against his people using weapons. But, is that true? Was Jesus the pacifist that many try and portray him to be? 
First of all, a careful look at this passage shows that Peter was, in fact, NOT rebuked for using a weapon. Indeed, in Luke 22:34-39, Jesus tells his disciples to buy a sword because things are about to get crazy. Would a true pacifist say this? 
Here, in John, Peter- wanting to protect the Lord he loves- pulls his sword and attacks one of the men who have been sent to capture Jesus. Jesus doesn't rebuke him for the sword. He doesn't tell him to throw away his sword and become a pacifist. Rather Jesus tells him to put his weapon away for now. The real rebuke is in the next statement. Jesus explains to Peter that in his actions, he was standing in the way of the holy plans of God almighty. In other words, Peter was told to stand down and  let God's plan play out. But, Peter was not told to become a pacifist. 

But, what about Jesus' other teachings? 

Yes, he told us to "turn the other cheek," but cheek is not plural, it's singular So, how many times are we to allow ourselves to be slapped? Yes, Jesus took lots of stripes, many punches, a crown of thorns, two nails, lots of insults, and a spear in his side. But, this was also on his way to redeeming us. He was the Lamb of God. He had to be slaughtered and his blood shed in order to buy our redemption. 

On the other hand, when Jesus saw the ungodliness of the money changers in the temple, he made a whip and used it! He beat the money changers, let loose the animals, turned over tables, etc. He was a one man wrecking crew! Was this the actions of a pacifist? I think not. 

Some point to Matthews account in Matthew 26: 51-54 and say, "See, we are supposed to be pacifistic. Jesus says if we take up a weapon, we will die by that weapon." Is that what he really said? The context of the verse shows again that Jesus didn't say there was never a time for us to use a weapon. Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there IS a time for war. 

But, in Matthew he tells Peter (unnamed in this scripture) to a) put up his sword (a pacifistic Jesus would have told him to throw away his sword). Evidently, there was a use for the sword at a later time. This was just not the right time or reason.  

B) He tells Peter, "don't you know I have the authority and power to stop all this right now?" (My paraphrase). In Johns account of this, when Jesus told the soldiers that "I am he," his words released enough power to knock them
all to the ground. He then used that show of power to make sure that his disciples were free to go. The clear implication to his captors being that "I am allowing you to take me, but I will protect my followers if you don't let them go." 

C) He then tells Peter that if he did stop it by going to war (as Peter was trying to do), then God's plan for the salvation of man could not happen. 

The correction against Peter was not that he used a sword. The correction against Peter, again, was that he was interfering in the salvation of mankind at that moment. The timing was wrong, not the fighting.

In truth, Jesus was fighting a spiritual war for our souls. A war in which he gave his life for us. 

Paul tells us to love our wives as Jesus loved the church and died for us. A man who is not willing to fight (and die, if necessary) for his wife and family to protect them is not a Christian man and doesn't truly love his family as Christ loves the church. 

There are many warrior word pictures painted for our instruction in the Bible. 

Ephesians 6:10-18 talks about putting on the "whole armour of God." Yes, it's a spiritual lesson, but, if the spiritual lesson is true, then isn't the physical picture he's using to teach by also true? Shouldn't we, as men of God, be willing to literally go to war to protect our loved ones? 

Romans 13:4 recognizes the validity of the governments armed forces and police. Are Christians supposed to be wimps and not take part in those institutions? 

Indeed, 1 Timothy 6:12 states that we should, "fight the good fight of faith." If we are to be willing to spiritually fight, shouldn't we be willing to physically fight if the situation warrants it? 

Yes, we are told to "resist not evil," but that's the same passage that tells us to turn the other cheek. But, also, how do we square this with the command to "resist the devil"- the ultimate evil? Evidently, as Ecclesiastes says, "there's a time for every purpose under heaven." 

So, how do we know when to fight and when not to fight? By following Jesus. If he tells us to fight, we fight. If he tells us not to fight, then we take what comes. HE, not we, is the ultimate arbiter of justice and he decides when we do or don't fight- and how we fight. 

How many times in scripture does God tell his people to fight? MANY times. The God of the Old Testament became flesh in the New Testament to pay for our sins and make a way for us to have a relationship with him. But, he hasn't changed. Sometimes he will tell US to act. Sometimes he will tell us to let HIM act. 

But, we MUST be willing to fight- in whatever form he tells us to. Whether that fight is spiritual, or physical, or both, is entirely up to him. 

There are dark days ahead. If we aren't willing to stand and fight, who will? 

But, Jesus is no pacifist. And neither should we be.