Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus A Pacifist? Not So Fast.



Jesus is certainly the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6) in that He will one day bring true and lasting peace to the earth. And His message in this world was remarkably non-violent (Matthew 5:38–44). But the Bible is clear that sometimes war is necessary (see Psalm 144:1). And, given some of the Bible’s prophecies of Jesus, it is hard to call Him a pacifist. Revelation 19:15, speaking of Jesus, declares, “Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” The setting up of Jesus’ millennial kingdom will necessitate violence in the form of a war waged against the forces of the Antichrist. Jesus’ robe will be “dipped in blood” (Revelation 19:13).

In Jesus’ interaction with the Roman centurion, Jesus received the soldier’s praise, healed his servant, and commended him for his faith (Matthew 8:5–13). What Jesus did not do was tell the centurion to quit the army—for the simple reason that Jesus was not preaching pacifism. John the Baptist also encountered soldiers, and they asked him, “What should we do?” (Luke 3:14). This would have been the perfect opportunity for John to tell them to lay down their arms. But he did not. Rather, John told the soldiers, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Jesus’ disciples owned weapons, which conflicts with the idea that Jesus was a pacifist. On the night Jesus was betrayed, He even told His followers to bring swords. They had two, which Jesus claimed was enough (Luke 22:37–39). As Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew his sword and wounded one of the men present (John 18:10). Jesus healed the man (Luke 22:51) and commanded Peter to put away his weapon (John 18:11). Of note is the fact that Jesus did not condemn Peter’s ownership of a sword, but only his particular misuse of it.

The book of Ecclesiastes presents life’s balance of contrasting activities: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: . . . a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, . . . a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3, and 8). These are not the words of a pacifist.

Jesus did not sound like a pacifist when He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. ‘For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD’” (Matthew 10:34–36). While Jesus is not stipulating warfare, He definitely embraces the conflict that comes with the incursion of truth.

We are never commanded to be pacifists, in the usual sense of the word. Rather, we are to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). In doing so we must take a stand against evil in this world (which requires conflict) and pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22). Jesus modeled this pursuit and never shrank from conflict when it was part of the Father’s sovereign plan. Jesus spoke openly against the religious and political rulers of His time because they were not seeking the righteousness of God (Luke 13:31–32; 19:45–47).

When it comes to defeating evil, God is not a pacifist. The Old Testament is full of examples of how God used His people in war to bring judgment upon nations whose sin had reached its full measure. A few examples are found in Genesis 15:16; Numbers 21:3; 31:1–7; 32:20–21; Deuteronomy 7:1–2; Joshua 6:20–21; 8:1–8; 10:29–32; 11:7–20. Before the battle of Jericho, Joshua was met by “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14). This personage, who was most likely the pre-incarnate Christ, was distinguished by holding a “drawn sword in his hand” (verse 13). The Lord was ready to fight.

We can be assured that it is always with justice that God judges and makes war (Revelation 19:11). “We know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30–31). What we learn from these and other biblical passages is that we are only to participate in warfare when it is justified. The countering of aggression, injustice, or genocide would justify a war, and we believe that followers of Jesus are free to join the armed forces and participate in warfare.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Christians And Politics

Focus less on this


And focus more on this


If there is anything that will spark a spontaneous debate, if not an outright argument, it is a discussion involving politics—even among believers. As followers of Christ, what should be our attitude and our involvement with politics? It has been said that “religion and politics don’t mix.” But is that really true? Can we have political views outside the considerations of our Christian faith? The answer is no, we cannot. The Bible gives us two truths regarding our stance towards politics and government.

The first truth is that the will of God permeates and supersedes every aspect of life. It is God’s will that takes precedence over everything and everyone (Matthew 6:33). God’s plans and purposes are fixed, and His will is inviolable. What He has purposed, He will bring to pass, and no government can thwart His will (Daniel 4:34-35). In fact, it is God who “sets up kings and deposes them” (Daniel 2:21) because “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:17). A clear understanding of this truth will help us to see that politics is merely a method God uses to accomplish His will. Even though evil men abuse their political power, meaning it for evil, God means it for good, working “all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Second, we must grasp the fact that our government cannot save us! Only God can. We never read in the New Testament of Jesus or any of the apostles expending any time or energy schooling believers on how to reform the pagan world of its idolatrous, immoral, and corrupt practices via the government. The apostles never called for believers to demonstrate civil disobedience to protest the Roman Empire's unjust laws or brutal schemes. Instead, the apostles commanded the first-century Christians, as well as us today, to proclaim the gospel and live lives that give clear evidence to the gospel’s transforming power.

There is no doubt that our responsibility to government is to obey the laws and be good citizens (Romans 13:1-2). God has established all authority, and He does so for our benefit, “to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-15). Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-8 that it is the government’s responsibility to rule in authority over us—hopefully for our good—to collect taxes, and to keep the peace. Where we have a voice and can elect our leaders, we should exercise that right by voting for those whose views most closely parallel our own.

One of Satan’s grandest deceptions is that we can rest our hope for cultural morality and godly living in politicians and governmental officials. A nation’s hope for change is not to be found in any country’s ruling class. The church has made a mistake if it thinks that it is the job of politicians to defend, to advance, and to guard biblical truths and Christian values.

The church’s unique, God-given purpose does not lie in political activism. Nowhere in Scripture do we have the directive to spend our energy, our time, or our money in governmental affairs. Our mission lies not in changing the nation through political reform, but in changing hearts through the Word of God. When believers think the growth and influence of Christ can somehow be allied with government policy, they corrupt the mission of the church. Our Christian mandate is to spread the gospel of Christ and to preach against the sins of our time. Only as the hearts of individuals in a culture are changed by Christ will the culture begin to reflect that change.

Believers throughout the ages have lived, and even flourished, under antagonistic, repressive, pagan governments. This was especially true of the first-century believers who, under merciless political regimes, sustained their faith under immense cultural stress. They understood that it was they, not their governments, who were the light of the world and the salt of the earth. They adhered to Paul’s teaching to obey their governing authorities, even to honor, respect, and pray for them (Romans 13:1-8). More importantly, they understood that, as believers, their hope resided in the protection that only God supplies. The same holds true for us today. When we follow the teachings of the Scriptures, we become the light of the world as God has intended for us to be (Matthew 5:16).

Political entities are not the savior of the world. The salvation for all mankind has been manifested in Jesus Christ. God knew that our world needed saving long before any national government was ever founded. He demonstrated to the world that redemption could not be accomplished through the power of man, his economic strength, his military might, or his politics. Peace of mind, contentment, hope and joy—and the salvation of mankind—is accomplished only through His work of faith, love, and grace.