Monday, December 3, 2007

The Soldiers

I thank God so much for friends and I thank God for contention. The best, therefore, is to have contention with friends. Let me explain, I am so strengthened by constructive Godly opposition. I love to argue in order to determine truth. As many of you know, I am going to be an Army Chaplain ministering to soldiers. And one of my best friends has challenged me with the correct Biblical stance on Christian non-resistance. Is it a sin to war? Can Christians kill in retaliation, such as if their house is robbed or their kids to be harmed by a mass murderer? The most important thing for me, of course, is if I can preach to my soldiers who may be killing people and be assured in my mind that I should not be preaching to them not to kill!! I mean the Army would kick me out! Because you cannot win wars without killing! So every New Testament text, he threw at me, I could refute with Old Testament reasoning or other scriptures that shed certain lights on how it should be interpreted or from looking back at the original Greek...BUT there was one that was super tricky and I had to spend hours researching the whole counsel of God before coming to a conclusion.....That conclusion on Matthew 5:38 is stated as best as I can (which always needs improving!) and it is attached below: Where do you stand on this issue?

The e-mail was in reply to an article sent to me by this Pacifist named Bercot

It seems from Bercot's portrayal of the early fathers that they were against capital punishment...capital punishment is something I have always held to by looking at the Old Testament law and the Sovereinty of God over nations...and how God uses nations as His cudgel against wickedness and also that capital punishment is an excellent example how sin must be judged, God will not pardon everyone into heaven! It seems that even if the early church father's were pacifistic, it is unfound in Scripture for the reasons mentioned above, they took a Millenial Kingdom prophecy and took it literal.....and they took Jesus' teaching of heart issues and made them anti-state...I do not think this was His intention. For example Jesus said that HATING WAS MURDER. And we would definitely agree that the root sin leading to murder is hate. But you would not send a man to jail for a life sentence for hating his brother...he would have to murder him. Likewise, you cannot deduce that Jesus was advocating anti-state sentiments from his declaration in the same sermon where he is drawing extremes:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’45 5:39 But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer.46 But whoever strikes you on the47 right cheek, turn the other to him as well. 5:40 And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic,48 give him your coat also. 5:41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile,49 go with him two. 5:42 Give to the one who asks you,50 and do not reject51 the one who wants to borrow from you.
5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’52 and ‘hate your enemy.’ 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and53 pray for those who persecute you, 5:45 so that you may be like54 your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors55 do the same, don’t they? 5:47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 5:48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.56

I struggled with the above passage and this is my conclusion:
If you believe in pacifism because of this, then YOU MUST (to avoid being hypocritical) believe in the justness of a life-sentence for those that hate their brothers, but do not murder them.
If you cannot believe in the conclusion of the above, then you have these options:
1. Jesus is talking metaphorically to make an important point about the issue of the heart's intentions.
2. Jesus is talking about spiritual persecutions (persecutions against the faith, not physical skirmishness, therefore allowing the protection of your family).
3. Jesus is talking to His first century audience and this does not pertain to us
4. Jesus is exhorting these people to be perfect like God, showing them their inadequecy and natural depravity
All the above may have partial truths, but in all they are fallacies. The following is my view:
5. Jesus was upholding a Godly principle that true Christian non-resistance is non-retaliation. Check this out Jeff, the same Greek word translated "resist" in Matt. 5:39 is used of PAUL RESISTING PETER in Galatians 2:11-14!!! So what is there a contradiction in the Bible??....Is Jesus saying not to resist and Paul is disobeying? No, Paul was correct to resist because Peter was wrong, he had withdrawn from Gentile fellowship and so contradicted the gospel. Jesus' illustrations and personal example depict not the WEAKLING who offers no resistance. He himself challenged the high priest when questioned by him in court (see John 18:19-23). They depict rather the strong man whose control of himself and love for others are so powerful that he rejects absolutely every conceivable form of retaliation. Further, we cannot take Jesus' examples with wooden literalism because they are not given as detailed regulations, but as illustrations of a principle, and partly because they must be seen to uphold the principle they are intended to illustrate. That principle is love, the selfless love of a person who, when injured, refuses to satisfy himself by taking revenge, but studies instead the highest welfare of the other person and of society, and determines his reactions accordingly. He will certainly never hit back returning evil for evil. Instead, he seeks to return good for evil. So he is willing to give the uttermost--in so far as these gifts are required by love. HOWEVER, WE NEED TO REALIZE that Jesus' purpose was to forbid refenge, not to encourage injustice.

Grace and Peace,

Chris

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