Friday, September 24, 2010


Christians have been martyred throughout the history of the Church. Beginning with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, believers are still dying for their faith all over the world. What you do not hear in the reports of these atrocities is any reference to martyrs defending themselves. Whether it is a deliberate omission of the facts, or an accurate description of the event, there is no mention of Christians acting in self-defense. However, as the time of the antichrist rapidly approaches with his take-over of our country, many Christians are stockpiling weapons, food, and other supplies for the purpose of resisting him.

I have mixed feelings about this trend. On the one hand, Jesus told His disciples to turn the other cheek when struck, give to those demanding something of you more than they ask, and go the extra mile when ordered to do so by an oppressive authority (Matt. 5:39-41). On the other hand, Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword if they didn't have one in Luke 22:36, and Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:8, taught that a man should provide for his family (as far as I am concerned, I believe that includes protection). How can these two opposing views be reconciled? Is there and explanation for the difference in teaching?

I believe that both perspectives are valid, and that each can be explained by looking at what the Word has to say to Christians. In all the examples where the Christian is told "to go the extra mile," the instruction is given to the individual. When the abuse or unreasonable demand is made of us alone, we are to respond in a passive and submissive way. However, none of the examples say to allow someone to abuse others. In the two cases where someone might accuse Jesus of encouraging violence, both have to do with defending someone else. When Jesus turned over the money-changers' tables in the temple courtyard, He was defending the sanctity of His Father's house (Jn. 2:14-17). While it does not specifically say that He struck them with the scourge, the passage clearly implies He used it to drive them out of the temple.

In the other example, when Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, He clearly intended to use the sword to teach them a very important principle. Jesus had told them He would be betrayed and taken by force (Matt. 16:21; 26:21). When He first told them, Peter declared he would not allow it to happen, for which he was severely rebuked (Matt. 16:22-23). Knowing Peter's tendency to react without thinking, He had him buy a sword (Lk. 22:36). Sure enough, true to form, Peter demonstrated him ineptness by missing the man and only cutting off his ear (Jn. 18:10). Jesus used the occasion to teach His disciples that they were not to live by the sword, but were to willingly give up their lives for Him on their "own cross" (Matt. 16:24-25; 26:51-52).

So, was Jesus teaching them not to use a sword to defend others? No! By telling them to carry one, He was saying that they needed to be able to defend others, but He was not telling them to defend themselves. A sword is a weapon; we need to own one; but the weapon is for defending others; surrendering to "our cross" clearly teaches us that the sword is not for self-defense.

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