Continuing with the question of “Did Christ Teach Anything About War?
Mr. Moyer continues to persist that Jesus taught war and violence in His Sermon on the Mount; he says, “Someone says, ‘yes, but look at the Sermon on the mount?’” Then says, “All right, look at the Sermon on the Mount; remember that Christ prefaced that sermon by saying, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill’” Matthews 5:17. A preface introduces a subject and is put at the beginning of the work or section talked about. Verse 17 comes substantially after much has already been said in Matthew 5, and could not be called an introduction or a preface. Verses 17-20 should be looked at as more parenthetical in nature, given by Jesus to explain His relationship to the Law, in the middle of laying down kingdom guidelines; and verse 20 concludes by revealing the Pharisaical hearts of those who refuse to acknowledge and exemplify the life of Jesus, by straining at His simple teaching, while swallowing wholesale the traditions of men. Jesus is the completion of the Law and the Prophets. How should we understand this fulfillment? Verse 19 gives us the answer. The key here is to see that He is talking about those who are in the “kingdom of Heaven.” He is not talking about those who have been denied access to the kingdom, but those who are inside the kingdom; and He relates that those who teach commandments contrary to what He is teaching will be considered “the least in the kingdom;” “But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.”
As Christians we need to be careful that we do not only teach things contrary to Jesus, but also that we, in our zeal to be found patriotic, find also that we have alienated ourselves from Him and become an enemy.
Moyer tell us not to, “Force into the Sermon on the mount meanings that are not there,” as Mr. Moyer is about to do, “for the words of our Lord do not mean the abolition of armies and navies . . . .” What?! Why does he bring in this subject? His pamphlet is titled, “The Christian and War,” not, “The Abolition of Governments and Armies”? As we have seen, governments are ordained by God, and Jesus is not interested in competing with them or restricting them in any way; He is on a mission to show men how to escape the world by spiritual means; not how to join forces with it by endorsing their bloodshed and creating Christian executioners. All the meanings of The Sermon on the Mount are quite clear to those who choose to believe what is written, or quite vague and confusing to those who promote a different agenda and try and make Jesus speak out of both sides of His mouth.
Our theological advisor now proceeds to limit the love that a Christian is supposed to show, and thereby limiting the love of God. How far does Mr. Moyer allow his love to go? Since the Lord was unable to express Himself adequately our advisor clarifies the words with this commentary, “When our Lord said, ‘Resist not evil,’ and, ‘Love your enemies,’ He was talking about the law of retaliation between men, but not their relationship to government.” These are Moyer’s words, not the Lord’s; these come right out of the end of his thumb. Only by contorting the plain words of Jesus is he able to uphold this pretzel he calls the “just war” doctrine; but it is only a well-entrenched fairytale. Nowhere does the New Testament support his assumptions. More than that, for nearly the first three hundred years of Christianity, Christians believed these verses to mean exactly what they say. Moyer’s proud arrogance gets its strength from the mob of likeminded institutionalized Christians, beginning as far back as the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, and their gaggle of sycophantic followers. Is it any wonder that Christ called His Church a “little flock,” when the great horde of carnal Christians find the skepticism of the “Broadway” so gratifying to the flesh?
As you remember, when Jesus was arrested in the Garden, Peter took his sword and cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear, and after doing that, Jesus told Peter to, “Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Mr. Moyer asks, “What did Jesus mean when He told Peter . . .” to, “Put up again thy sword. . .”? In the last article we showed that the explanation was easy and that Jesus gave the reason as the fulfillment of Prophecy (see Isaiah 53:12, Luke 22:36-38, Matthew 26:50-54), but Mr. Moyer believes that it has nothing at all to do with Jesus’ purpose, and settles the matter based on his own purpose. He says that Peter was not to “take the sword” against the civil authorities; hence, if he did he would “perish.” What great lengths the “just war” advocates will go, to build an alibi for sin. We have all been guilty of this, at one time or another, but we must allow Jesus to speak; and we must allow our hearts to hear, and repent. Jesus makes a blanket statement about using the sword–to fulfill prophecy–and the rewards of so doing. Can we realistically believe that if there had been a Christian in the ranks of those “civil authorities” who came to arrest Jesus, and that Christian, drawing his sword, cut off the ear of one of Jesus’ followers, that Jesus would have thought that it was okay, because he was part of the police force and a civil servant, and therefore guiltless? Would Jesus then tell Peter that the policeman was right in what he had done, and that Peter, alone, was wrong,? and that His words about perishing wasn’t meant to apply to the Christian civil servant because he was under the authority of the state? What a stretch of theological pride? The use of violence is equally evil, and condemned by the Lord, whether it is personal retaliation or by permission of government. The violence of both has its origin in the darkness of men’s hearts, Romans 12:19-21.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It is hard to believe that I was once among the crowd that would have applauded Mr. Moyer’s insight of the-difficult teachings-of Jesus. When once the veil is removed we stand in awe of the simplicity and plainness of what our Lord had to say. I was once part of the “Reformed Theology” crowd who fashioned the idea that no one could believe unless God predestined them to believe, regardless that we are told over 100 times in the New Testament to simply believe what is written. How could an un-schooled person ever wade through all the verbosity of the high church religionist, the multiple volume commentaries of the enlightened doctors, or the profundity of the most ignorant Christian philosopher; or how could a poor man or woman ever find a Savior in the deep-dark-woods of the academics of our esteemed Christian universities, all butting heads, and striving for the preeminence. There are difficult things in the New Testament, but there is so very much more that is plain and simple. We must believe the plain and simple, and hold it tight and take it to heart, and not be tempted to throw away what is plainly taught so that we can force our way into some manmade orthodoxy, which defies the plain for the convoluted.
Mr. Moyer is relentless in his quest to make Scripture sound like a book on the art of war, and takes yet another verse from Jesus, out of context.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
This verse, if read alone, sounds as if Jesus is advocating war; and those who promote “just war” love to use it to accomplish their evil purposes; but the truth is, if you would read the entire section from Matthew 10:34-39 you will quickly discover that Jesus is relating the consequences of being a true believer and follower of His. Mr. Moyer, on the other hand, says that if we simply believe what is written, then we are spiritualizing those words. He says, “You may spiritualize this if you wish, but we (there is that six foot rabbit again) insist that the tenth chapter of Matthew is dispensational, Israelitish, and national in character . . . .” Did any normal Christian understand what he just said? When Jesus said He came to bring, “. . . a sword” He was saying that a sword is a weapon that divides and cuts and separates things; and that He would do just that; He would divide the family, those who believe, from those who do not believe, and that those who were reluctant to suffer this division were not worthy to be His followers; and furthermore, those who were not willing to follow Him, and die, for their devotion, by taking their own personal cross, would find a little life, but not eternal life. There was no difficulty here; it was plain and simple, and over a hundred times we are commanded to believe what is written. Mr. Moyer chooses, not to spiritualize it, but to mutilate it with his own sword.
If we are to believe Jesus’ words, about the separating effect of following Him, then we would of necessity need to believe that His kingdom has come unto us and that we are under kingdom rule. If that is the case then my argument stands and Moyer’s falls. Jesus says precisely, that the kingdom of God was within us;
. . . nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (i.e. within you). Luke 17:2
But, Mr. Moyer, for the convenience of his argument, relegates the kingdom to some future time, and that the kingdom has no impact on Christians now. Moyer says, “The kingdom of Heaven is not the Church, but the millennial kingdom to be set up when Christ comes again.” The millennial kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, where kingdom Christians reside, and if spiritual then able to be here now, just as Jesus says. For a Person to be born again is to heal their blindness and to place them into the kingdom; they are born into the kingdom;
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. John 3:3
. . . Delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13
Of course we only see now “as in a glass, darkly” but still we can comprehend it, because we believe what is written. The future does hold a great reward for those who trust in those words, and hold on to the very end. And, yes, Jesus will return with a sword, it is true, and His reward is with Him.
Mr. Moyer continues by saying that the only reason Jesus; “refused to contemplate war or to do anything to overcome His enemies,” was because His reason was, “that HE CAME INTO THE WORLD TO DIE.” This phrasing of words, along with his strong emphasis, would lead you to believe that: 1. Jesus had no intention of establishing His kingdom in the present tense, and 2. That Jesus left no instructions of how kingdom citizens should conduct themselves before they die, or 3. That Jesus example was not a template or example of those very instructions. Mr. Moyer goes on to conclude that if his reason does not satisfy is because we are, “like the prophets of old who could not distinguish between the first and second coming of Christ.”
Now that Mr. Moyer thinks he has formed some sort of consensus through his “powerful exposition” of Matthew 10:34 he asks;
Shall a Christian Obey Human Governors?
Mr. Moyer says, “Our answer is Yes.” “We submit to you the teaching of Paul in Romans 13:1-5, ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.’” No objection so far; I too believe that this is true; and I also believe that “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and that, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God.” This is all true, but you cannot conclude from this that we are to disobey God so that we can obey men; and that is exactly what Mr. Moyer does in three long paragraphs; but that is not the end of the story folks. The question is where do we place the emphasis of this verse; I think we would be safe to place the emphasis on “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” Jesus says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:17. Now the question is “What things are God’s?” Well, Jesus has enumerated those things quite nicely in The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Paul, in Romans 13, is not telling us to disobey Jesus; on the contrary if you read the previous chapter Paul says much about service to our fellow man and our debt of love. Paul well knew that there would be a conflict between obedience to God and obedience to men and government; it was that very government, ordained of God that murdered Paul. Paul says those things because the government is the minister of wrath; that we should live peaceably, paying tribute, custom, fear, and honor, to whomever it is due. After all, we are only pilgrims, and not citizens.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
With Mr. Moyers intellectualizing of Romans 13:1-5 he opens the door to other interpretations. I could do my own exposition and oppose Mr. Moyer on no less equal ground. I could make a strong argument against using the ballot box based on Paul’s words, “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and that, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God.” What is the ballot box except an attempt to “resist” and overthrow the ordained powers of God. If Christians believe that God has ordained government for a specific purpose, whether to chastise or bless, are we not opposing God’s ordained ministers when we try to effect a change based on our own desires? My argument is better than Mr. Moyer’s, but do you see how this works? Shouldn’t we start by believing the plain and simple things of Jesus, then build on those? If we can’t figure something out; set it aside till later when God gives light, don’t force it to mean something that conflicts with the simple teachings. Create a mental box, where you can store those hard teachings, till more understanding comes.
Mr. Moyer says, that, “No man has any right to any protection or privilege of government who washes his hands of all responsibility to that government.” I agree! He also says, that, “A conscientious objector will not go to war, but will pay taxes so that his neighbor may go to war, which is scarcely the meaning of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’” But, Mr. Moyer, according to Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” I believe Jesus, in His story of the “Good Samaritan,” would have us believe that the man you say you would kill on the field of battle, is your neighbor as much as the man who lives across the street. I think it would follow that the man who kills, or encourages killing his neighbor in war, is not a “Good Samaritan.”
Christians have a great responsibility to obey government, when it doesn’t conflict with obedience to God. The Christian is obligated to do what no others can do, which can directly affect the greatest good toward government leaders, and makes Christians the most responsible and valuable of subjects, i.e., to intercede to the God Who ordained that government, on the government’s behalf. What greater service can a Christian do for the nation and its leaders than to pray for their peace? And, after all of this, if the government or fellow Christians choose to persecute them, or render them undeserving, then so be it; those Christians will continue to pray. Is not this the spirit and teaching of our Lord? and, is not this the example we have been left with from the Apostles? and, is not this the history we have inherited from our brothers and sister of the first three hundred years of Christian life?
We have a rich heritage, but we have gone very wrong. Our answer is in the ancient path; not the revival era; not the Reformation; and not the Post-Nicene Fathers of the Constantine period, but the answer is with Jesus and the Apostles and the Anti-Nicene Christians of the first three hundred years. Although error began to creep in after the Apostles were gone, they all spoke with an astounding singleness of mind and conviction that is nowhere seen today.
I will try and conclude this series with the next two articles where we will, ask and answer, Mr. Moyer’s questions of:
Can a Man Scripturally Be a Conscientious Objector? and,
Shall a Christian go to War?