Because of the articles I wrote about the “Christianization of War and Violence” I now find it necessary to go just a little further.
The number one response to this controversial topic is the question of defending others from an evil person set on doing harm to a friend or family member. We can easily conceive of turning the other cheek when evil is directed toward ourselves, but what about when it involves someone close to us, or intervening in a situation where stern resistance is demanded for the safety of a person being assailed.
What would Jesus do in these situations? What does the Bible instruct us to do? Is there a line that can be drawn between non-resistance and resistance involving special circumstances? Does the Lord leave us any wiggle room or is His commands cut-and-dry?
These questions are the seeds that have grown into all the other justifications for the necessary use of violence by Christians. It has evolved into the wholesale involvement in government, at all levels, and the use of weapons of mass destruction to subdue evil nations.
Is there ever a time when a Christian can sanction the use of violent resistance and still claim to be following Jesus? What is the truth of the matter?
If we look at common sense, or ask reason to prevail, or consider the logical solution, we would without question make room for all kinds of resistance against evil men; it is the natural thing to do; but is it the right thing to do?
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ if it doesn’t mean to endure every kind of suffering which may be inflicted by men, on men? Christian non-resistance is more than submitting to unjust government taxation or conscientious objection; and it is more than refusal to engage in military service or to take part in war; and it is even more than suffering personal wrongs inflicted on our own bodies. Christian non-resistance is founded on the way of the cross, which is Jesus’ way of displaying just how much we are to endure for His sake. His sacrifice leads us in the narrow way of the Christ life; it is the way we are to follow; Jesus "when he was reviled, did not revile in return, when he suffered he did not threaten."
The question is not, “Is there ever a time when a Christian can sanction the use of violent resistance and still claim to be following Jesus?” The real question is; has the way of Jesus saturated your life to the very core with a regenerating everlasting life, or is your Christian life merely a superficial pretext disguising an un-converted mortal? To be a follower of Jesus is to follow Him in the precise way in which He walked, which includes a life of total non-resistance; He never left us any wiggle-room or a plan “B”. God through Christ reconciled men unto Himself, He in turn gave unto them the ministry of reconciliation; God making His appeal of love through the Christian disciple who does not repay evil for evil, who does not avenge himself, who loves his enemies and prays for those who persecute him. This is the way of love and the cross as lived by Christ. The non-resistant life holds that the disciple of Christ must enter into this experience and follow where it leads, dying to all of our natural instincts and desires of self-defense and retaliation, forgiving, even as He forgave.
If we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, what part of that image is reserved for violence, self-defense, or war? Are we to assume that Jesus has left to our own imaginations and creative thinking the ability to tamper with or infringe into areas designated as “off limits” or to judge some miniscule part of our sin nature as allowable in extreme cases? We make these judgments in the face of truth and to our own hurt.
But, some will say that the life you describe is an impossible life to live this side of the Millennium. The practice of non-resistance, if not impossible for the major part of Christendom, is at best an extreme requirement, even for the most advanced. Didn’t Jesus say that His “burden is light”? A life of non-resistance, from all appearances, lays more on Christian’s shoulders than they are able to perform. Won’t the majority pull back or faint and abandon Christianity as something beyond their reach?
Judging from modern Christianity, that is exactly what they have done, only they haven’t fainted, they pulled back in to a comfort zone. Most of Christendom has found their religion quite accommodating. But, who is to say what is possible for His people? God or man? Who is to judge what and how much is required!? Did the Disciples present Jesus with a list of their abilities, and state that they could do thus-and-so and no more? Is the grace of God not more than sufficient for the weakest of His children with but an ounce of real faith? God Himself is the enabler; it is He who empowers for those who trust His strong right arm.
For those who think that these commands of Jesus are for a different day, a day yet in the future when men will have the faith to endure, the question is why? Why would we need to endure hardship when there is no hardship? In the Millennium when love prevails, will there be a need to turn the other cheek or love your enemy? Are these commands and virtues not to be practiced now, when there exist so many opportunities for such a powerful influence and contrast with the spirit of this world? Besides, will there be a different code of conduct in the Millennium than exist right now? Jesus’ answer is that the Kingdom has come unto you, now. If swords will transformed into instruments of peace, and violence and killing will be gone, and non-resistance will be an known term, because there will be no evil to resist, then those who call themselves by Jesus’ name, should be children of the Kingdom, who don’t know how to resist an evil man.
Is the only Good News the news of a future life of ease and comfort when we are whisked away after death to enjoy eternal bliss? Isn’t there even more to the Gospel? Isn’t our faith a living faith and trust that we are not alone in this foreign land; that all the resources of our Homeland are at our disposal? In whatever situation we find ourselves, those resources are for us, then and now. This is the reason David could say in the 23rd Psalm
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Jesus did not come to give us a new set of laws and rules to live by; He came to give to us a new life, a supernatural life, that He would live through us. We are children of a New Land, living a new life of love and freedom. Freedom from the fear of assault and death; freedom from not knowing how to protect our loved ones; freedom from having to lay up weapons of defense for that one contingency not imagined. Freedom to speak of this new life in the face of ridicule; freedom to be honest, compassionate, and to pity a world bound by blindness and deafness. David understood this freedom, and could set down and eat a meal in the presence of his enemy. The enemy has been defeated; and how was it defeated? by overcoming evil with good. It is that simple!