July 25, 2007 § Leave a comment
My friend, Reed Merino, has written a nice article addressing some objections to Christian non-resistance. He quotes Hippolytus, but more early Christian quotes can be found if needed.
“You can’t turn the other cheek on behalf of anyone but yourself. Nonresistance is only for individuals vis a vis individuals. “
The command that Jesus gave is indeed to individuals, just like His commands about adultery and humility; here is the full passage, which sets up the context:
Matthew 5:38-48 “You have heard that it was said, “AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.” But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
From this context it is clear that Jesus was establishing a Way of life that was RADICALLY different from the “fight and flight” instincts of mankind’s “human nature.”
His Way was different from even the Spirit-filled prophets that had preceeded Him. Neither Moses nor ANY prophet had ever spoken in this “crazy upside-down” way. Furthermore, the radical-ness of that Way outlined above clearly encompasses more than the issue of killing while in the military or killing as a policeman: as also stated, it encompasses the radical freedom from the hold that the “what is mine is MINE” instinct has upon all human lives. It also has to do with overcoming evil with good when someone sues us unjustly, instead of trying to defend our reputations and honor. It has to do with the way we are to shower our love upon others in the way that the Father sends the rain — upon evil and good people alike — an outpouring of divine love into us and then through us, stretching us into the perfection of God, making us “partakers of the Divine nature.” The fact that this passage is a command threatens our “human nature”, because we are so atheistic in our fleshly instincts that we cannot help believing that such a [seemingly] defenseless love will expose us to ridicule, rejection and even physical harm. Human nature tells us that God will NOT honor such a radical leap of faith if we make the choice to renounce that human nature. When you renounce that human nature, the world’s citizens realize that you are declaring that it is THEY, the great majority, who are living the upside-down lives. Indeed, NO one has ever spoken in this “crazy upside-down” way before.
Because this teaching and Way have such deep and widespread consequences, we can be confident that God would have made sure we know of any exceptions or modifications we were supposed to apply to the literal, grammatically natural sense of those phrases. And, to the consternation of our human natures, there are none to be found!
But every command of God is also an implied promise: being in God’s covenant of salvation requires such a “carnicidal”*** [see below] decision; but the fact that we MUST obey these radical teachings from our Creator and Protector makes this paragraph a part of God definition of “the Gospel” proclamation: “Indwelt by My Son and My Spirit, you CAN overcome evil with good. You CAN receive such outpouring of Divine love that it will continuing spilling over when brought into the presence of those filled with human and spiritual evil. You CAN enjoy a happiness that does not require ANY accumulation of possessions to make you feel secure and content.” “He who believes in Me as the Scripture says, from His ‘gut’ (Greek: ‘koilia’) will FLOW rivers of living/moving/ unstoppable water,” and that Spirit will guarantee that what is impossible with men IS possible with God! Amen?
If we only resist the radical interpretation of the teachings in that paragraph, and the universality of their scope, because we have a scholar’s discipline to weigh ALL of His teachings before we surrender to any ONE of them — if that is the case, well and good (VERY good). But He who weighs the hearts will reveal to us when our resistance is merely the intellect’s covering over of cowardice and distrust (for which there is an appropriate remedy, when acknowledged and confessed).
And if He reveals that motivation of cowardice and distrust to us, we need to temporarily forget about the theoretical answer to the “Christians in the military” debate, and go deeper into the “A, B, C’s” of what He sees to be true within our hearts — that we are still afraid of what HE calls “dying to self;” that we really do not [yet] want to know experientially what HE means by the mutually exclusive nature of the choice between the kingdom whose prince is the “power of the air” and the kingdom whose emperor is the Holy One of Israel:
Hebrews 13:12-14 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
Choosing to become His disciple also MUST include the recognition that America, “Christendom” (even at its VERY best) and every nation that has ever populated the globe is part of a Satanically- manipulated system that will never and CAN never be like Israel was commanded to be. Israel failed its vocation to be a geographical/ political entity within which the will of God was incarnated — and it HAD such a Divine command. No other political entity has even be extended such a command or promise by God. Israel’s failure was the world’s failure. We who choose Jesus over Satan serve the world by being its firemen, but not its policemen, if you know what I mean. We serve the world by taking care of its plague victims when its own citizens flee from the city in fear, even though it costs us our life. Until we make such a “carnicidal” decision, we are still waiting for the “jury to come in” on our decision to yield to Christ. It is the lack of such decision to be taught and received that makes Christendom the bastardization of that kingdom of God that Jesus brought to the earth: this is true of Christendom’ s evangelical and pentecostal forms, as well as its “Catholic” forms. The reason why the church always taught, with Peter, that “Baptism saves you…”, was because (originally) baptism was intimately connected to the tumultuous decision to surrender unconditionally and absolutely to the authority of Christ and His teachings — taken in their literal, grammatically natural sense.
The fact that the command was given to individuals does not restrict its universal application any more than the fact that the command to sexual purity was given to individuals. When I am in the battlefield facing an enemy that wants to kill me before I do the same to him — this is a HIGHLY individualistic scenario. That fact that my nation’s survival may be at stake is only relevant to those who have not yet died to citizenship in that system: it was the attempt to join together those whom God has split asunder that created the various forms of “Christendom” that have disappointed most of us in this discussion group.
“Jesus never condemned the life of a soldier. Centurions were received into the church without the slightest hint that they would have to give up their military career.”
This is an argument from silence that supports whatever side you are on: there was also not the slightest hint that they would continue swinging the sword. Neither side should use these texts to support their argument. The testimony of Hippolytus’ “Apostolic Tradition” (ca. 200 A.D.) demonstrates how the church fulfilled the command of Christ without requiring the abandonment of the military (which was NOT held in dishonor, as it is by modern secular pacifists):
“16 They will inquire concerning the works and occupations of those are who are brought forward for instruction. 2If someone is a pimp who supports prostitutes, he shall cease or shall be rejected. 3If someone is a sculptor or a painter, let them be taught not to make idols. Either let them cease or let them be rejected. 4If someone is an actor or does shows in the theater, either he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 5If someone teaches children (worldly knowledge), it is good that he cease. But if he has no (other) trade, let him be permitted. 6A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 7If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. 8If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 9A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. 10If someone is a military governor,a or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 11The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God…“
“War is unavoidable in a fallen world.”
Yes: there will be wars and rumors of wars until the very end. There will also be theft, adultery, disease, hatred of authority, despising of angelic beings, etc… We are NOT called to be secular pacifists who despise authority and try to force governments to act as if they were peace-loving, justice-loving, God-fearing institutions. We are called to build up a parallel, competitive, good-willed kingdom of God, called “My church,” whose communities “have all things in common” and have an instinct for “equality” toward one another, who have resolved (however imperfectly) the problems that must beset the societies of composed of godless human nature.
“I can make the argument myself that if Christians had solid faith and were full to the brim with the power of the Holy Spirit available to us, prayer alone would be sufficient defense — and dying in the place of others has always been the highest Christian calling, the best defense if it comes to that. But I can’t quite defend applying that in this fallen world among Christians who are weak in faith.”
Again, good logic would require that we apply this argument to EVERY teaching of Christ and His apostles that our “human nature” feels the need to compromise. Everything from the profoundly consequential issue of remarried applicants for baptism, to the supposedly less important teaching about head coverings has been justified by resorting to this principle. It is that very principle that has created the “Christendom” whose conflicting denominations litter the landscape of this planet. Regardless of how cowardly the rest of Christendom is, MY decision must be to surrender absolutely and unconditionally to the identity, authority, commands and promises of God’s Messiah. Amen?
The real issue is: do I trust Jesus enough to treat Him as if He were the brilliant, meticulous designer and manufacturer of my own body, Who never wasted words or failed to think through the far-reaching consequences of every word that proceeded from His mouth? When God brought me into and out of that crisis and intellectual surrender, it was amazing how quickly so much of the perplexing Scriptures fell into place (not all, but an amazingly large percentage of them).
Come, Lord Jesus, and enable our hearts to believe in and cry out for that Spirit’s falling, that Spirit who will shepherd us from within to believe like little children in every word that has come out of your mouth. MaranaTHA!
***my tongue-in-cheek for “homicide of the carnal nature”
cross-posted to earlychurch