Sunday, June 5, 2011

...Let God Sort 'em out! "Acceptable" Violence, How Far Can Christians go?

(DISCLAIMER! This author does not condone violence (lethal or otherwise) of any kind for any reason! The author is interested in reducing the violence and acceptence thereof in the body of Christ. Many Christian seem quick to justify war or lethal measures for criminals and invaders to our homes. As a Christian, I would like to challenge you to question what you think is "acceptable" violence.)

It's the middle of the night, and you get woken up by a noise. Perhaps it's a floorboard creaking. Maybe it's a vase breaking.w You get up to go check it out. Perhaps you've grabbed a flashlight. Maybe you've also grabbed a baseball bat, a golf club. Or you might grab your gun. You investigate the noise and your flashlight reveals an intruder. Is the intruder armed? Or are they just doing a quick smash and grab?

Here's another one. You're walking down the street and suddenly some shady character starts attacking some random person on the street, beating them senseless so they can rob them. Or there's a misunderstanding, and a couple people start fighting, maybe some attacks you. Or in the worst case, a crazed, lone gunman starts shooting at people in some public place, only to kill as many people as he can, then himself. Doing nothing will result in unnecessary death, but so too could trying to stop the attacks. What's the right way to react?

Or you could be a Christian who wants to serve our country by joining the armed forces. This decision could lead to serving in battle. Who knows who the enemy is. It could be Muslim terrorists, or reaching further back fellow believers in Christ with a different philosophical outlook. The American Civil war, WWI and WWII. Undoubtedly there were points when Christians served in opposing armies in a war. How should a Christian deal with serving in an army during war?

What if one day, Christianity becomes illegal, or society collapses and you are arrested? Or if you need to defend your family from societal chaos. To lengths can you go?

These are all difficult situations to deal with and hard questions to answer. In other words, are Christians justified in using violence in any situation?

I want to first issue a disclaimer. This is a hard issue, and I would not say to use anything I say here to make your own final decision to any of these issues. I strongly encourage you to read God's word and pray about it. He will lead you to the right path.

I would also like to say, that I do not condemn those who serve in our military, as I know you do serve with honor, and are doing your best to help protect our country. I care for you and so does Jesus. But my father, an army veteran, as come to realize that some of the wars we are in now are not justified and so he now supports veterans for peace. I think we should defend the country from invasion, but all too often our fighting men are sent off to fight wars that may not be just.

I bring this topic up, because all too often I see on Christian message boards and bumper stickers, a rationalization or an attitude of violence first. Or I'm a Christian, let's duke it out. On one blog I frequent, I hear people say things that bear a shoot first and ask questions later attitude. I often see bumper stickers like "Keep honking, I'm reloading" on the same car with an Icthys.

Something doesn't add up.

So, I would like to present a few scriptures that should help guide us when we are confronted with horrifying situations like those listed above.

In many situations it may be difficult to act appropriately to a threat of violence.

So let's start at the most extreme and work back. We all know the commandment "Thou Shalt not kill." Many are quick to point out, it means murder. That is, premeditated murder. I believe this is correct, and that the Lord does not want people going around killing people for no reason, or for petty jealously.

Exd 20:13 NKJV - "You shall not murder."

Even though the Old Testament does indeed have justification for ending the life of other human beings in certain situation, I would argue that God does not see that as an ideal situation. We are ALL created in God's image. So if one were to end another life in war, on duty as a policeman or through some other self-defensive means I don't think God would be happy about it. Once a person's life is gone, their chances for coming to faith in Christ are now gone. Think about it. By taking life through any means, we are in effect acting as God and determining someone else's eternal fate if they are not saved.

So, do you want to make that decision to "get the bad guy" then have to stand before the Lord and have to give an account for how a person's chance to get right through Jesus was taken away? Granted, there are extreme circumstances, but I would like to posit that Christians in police, military or who find themselves in a self defense scenario pray far ahead of time for God to show them an alternative to these fatal decisions. Especially when there are non-lethal ways to subdue people or solve problems.

This thought ran through my head when news of Bin Laden's death came out. Many rejoiced, I'm sure many Christians rejoiced as well, I even saw Biblical justification for rejoicing over this "wicked man's" death. Yes, Bin Laden was an evil man and deserved to die, BUT in God's eyes, so did I before I came to faith in Christ. Now, Bin Laden will never have the chance repent and know Jesus. That is why I think his death is a mixed thing. My biggest feeling was that it was tragic that he can never repent. Perhaps ten years ago, I would have rejoiced as well.

A few more notes on war, or other "justified" violence. War is often motivated by those in power to make a profit in some way. Smedley Butler ("War is a Racket") wrote about this, and I highly recommend people read his book and hit the Future Quake Archives to listen to that episode. But aside from that, I think Jesus gives us some pointers on where that road leads.

Mat 5:9 NKJV - Blessed [are] the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Mat 26:51 NLT - But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest's slave, slashing off his ear.
Mat 26:52 NLT - "Put away your sword," Jesus told him. "Those who use the sword will die by the sword.
Mat 26:53 NLT - Don't you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?

So as you serve in the army, or police, or just generally favor lethal violence to take care of the bad guys, please consider those points.

Now, what about persecution, or places where Christians are arrested and beaten? What about if authorities come to your house and arrest you for believing in Jesus? What if looters are coming to your house to take your stuff? Is it worth you taking another life to try to stop them?

This sometimes gets me some guff on the message boards. People respond to my pacifism by saying things like they're not that spiritually elevated to react in this way. I don't know if I would be when the chips come down to it. I'm not saying what I would do or would like to do, but just trying to emphasize what the Bible tells us. Which is:

Mat 5:10 NKJV - Blessed [are] those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:11 NKJV - "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
Mat 5:12 NKJV - "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great [is] your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Mat 5:13 NKJV - "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

That's right. If you're arrested for being a Christian, I would argue that we should offer minimal resistance.

Mat 24:9 NKJV - "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
Mat 24:10 NKJV - "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Mat 24:13 NKJV - "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Luk 12:11 NKJV - "Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.
Luk 12:12 NKJV - "For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

That's right. It goes against our every instinct for survival. Many people, including many Christians have this instinct for self preservation and plan to resist any attempt at the above. But Jesus provides an excellent example for us. He allowed Himself to be arrested, abused, tortured and killed. He also tells us that it should not be a surprise if you or I were arrested for faith. Instead this sort of persecution is our chance to share the gospel with our oppressors. The Apostle Paul did it. For anyone who has trouble in this area, I would recommend checking out Richard Wurmbrand's "Tortured for Christ." You'll find that accepting persecution is probably still what God wants us to do and applies to present day Christianity. I don't think God will change His mind because our society has accepted violence in the case of self preservation.

Another great look at what a Christian should do when faced with unlawful arrest and persecution is Corrie Ten Boom's story. She hid Jews in WWII and went to a concentration camp for it. Despite this, she was able to forgive the man who had betrayed her and her oppressive guards and reach them for Jesus Christ.

What about a situation where we are being held up and robbed? Or maybe someone is robbing a bank?

First, I would argue that playing hero in this situaton is not advised by law enforcement. That's my guess anyway. You and I, Joe Average, untrained are more of a danger if we try to stop a robbery or a burglary. Granted, the police are slow to act, but in many cases action would lead to more danger.

But there's more. The Bible I think would tell us to go along with unreasonable people. So let's say that someone wants to start a fight with you and hits you. Most of us would hit right back. But that's not what the Bible says.

Mat 5:39 NKJV - "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Or if someone wants to rob you. This one is hard to deal with, and I would even say that I can't honestly say how I would react here. But here's what God says.

Mat 5:40 NKJV - "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have [your] cloak also.
Mat 5:42 NKJV - "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
Mat 5:43 NKJV - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Mat 5:44 NKJV - "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
Mat 5:45 NKJV - "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 NKJV - "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Mat 5:47 NKJV - "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
Mat 5:48 NKJV - "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Perhaps I'm taking this out of context, and I've been guilty of not following this myself, but this is the high calling God has told us to follow as those who belong to Christ.

So, thus far I hope that I've demonstrated that most of what our society accepts as justified violence has little or no place in the walk of a Christian. But are there points where it is OK to respond with violence? What if there's a shooting massacre? Or maybe an innocent person is being attacked or raped. What about the intruder coming into a house at night? What then?

First I would argue that anyone perpetrating a shooting massacre is likely demon posessed. If you don't believe me, go ask Russ Dizdar. Maybe I'm wrong, but I would say that many are. I would maybe first try praying or commanding the demon in Jesus' name to stop. That is if you are a Christian. If that didn't work, well then that's a whole different animal. The praying or rebuking can likely be done in a way also that does not bring harm. I would not condone getting into harm's way to put it to the test and this is a rough guideline. I would first advise seeking cover and helping those you can, then praying, etc.

Well, let's move on. If a burglar breaks in at night, what sort of action should be taken? What about an attacker or murderer or rapist? Can a Christian defend themselves?

I would say yes. If someone is about to murder you or rape you then you should defend yourself, however this can be done without lethal force. I have taken Tae Kwon Do, and though I'm not much to fight, I do know it's possible to protect yourself without causing your attacker permanent damage. I would argue if possible, that would be most desirable. In this way, I would recommend taking some basic self defense training (be discerning not to get into some sort of mystical/New Agey thing!) and learn how to do some basic moves especially if you are a woman. You'd be amazed what hitting the right pressure point can do stop an attacker, and 99% of the time, it does no permanent damage.

I would be less violent against an average burglar. After all, is someone stealing my physical belongings worth death? I would say not. I can buy a new TV, or whatever but I can't bring that person back to life.

Here is a brief article on self defense.

So to sum up, I would encourage everyone to pray and read God's word. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment for how to deal with these sorts of situations. Ask Him to help you to know how to respond should these situations arise. Ideally, He will let you know far ahead of time how to react.

Please keep in mind that my whole purpose here is to 1) demonstrate to everyone (and Christians in particular) that lethal violence should very rarely be an option. Let alone the first option. 2) I also want to get the body of Christ to use wisdom and discernment in reacting to action-scenarios rather than just going James Bond on every criminal. 3) I wanted to also let the body of Christ know that God is very likely not a huge fan of "justified" violence in war or police action.

I realize that in many situations in the real world it's not so easy to divide black and white. So my call here is to get Christians (especially you gung ho "Is there life after death? Trestpass here and fidout" Christians). I just see to often in Christendom a call to arms for things that I think God would see as minor issues. At any rate, thanks for reading, and remember, take this to God, His Word, and pray about it. This is article is merely a suggestion and guideline...perhaps a primer to further study on your own.


Another reason I wanted to bring this up is because there are rumblings of a bad nature. Not to keep plugging Future Quake, but they've had a number of articles implicating that people in high places are trying to corral Christians and Muslims into a Holy war. Obviously Jesus would not be pleased. If you want more information, go peruse the last 2 months of Future Quake episodes.

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