Friday, April 13, 2007

Short Apology for Why I’m Not a Pacifist

Okay, I’ve got ten minutes to explain why I’m not a pacifist. Haven't thought this through too much, so correct me where necessary. First, let me list the top reasons I’ve heard for choosing a pacifist platform.

1) Teachings of Jesus
2) Example of Jesus

First it is claimed that since Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, that we should not ever pick up the sword and fight. The problem is, Jesus’ disciples do not categorize the sword in negative terms. In fact, the sword is taken up by faith and made deadly by faith according to the author of the book to the Hebrews.

NAU Hebrews 11:32-34 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
John the Baptist also came to set people right again before messiah came. It is interesting that he does not tell military men to turn away from the sword, but instead to turn away from sin while bearing the sword.

NAU Luke 3:14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."
Paul also sees the sword as a instrument of God to punish the wicked.

NAU Romans 13:3-4 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an aavenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Jesus himself will come again some day with a sword to make war against his enemies.

NAU Revelation 2:16 16 'Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
Someone suggested to me in the last couple days that the sword that Jesus uses is the Word of God, inferring that the Word of God is the only sword we are to use as well. Even if we grant that the sword is the Word of God, we must remember that by the Word of God, worlds come into being, armies are created, enemies are defeated, and all things are held together. This Word of God which is in Jesus mouth is not to he equated with the Bible as we know it. It is so much more. It is his power to make alive and to kill.

Another example of the teaching of Jesus’ disciples falls under word pictures. It is very interesting to me that Paul does not place the warrior in a negative light, which he would have to if he believed it were wrong to take up the sword. Instead he encourages us to be like a soldier in the way they are focused on their mission.

NAU 2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Also, he draws parallels between the way ministers are paid and the way soldiers are paid.

NAU 1 Corinthians 9:7 Who at any time serves aas a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?
I know this is not an endorsement of military service, but it seems passing strange to talk like this, if Paul views military men as misguided. He does not encourage us to be like prostitutes in the way they bring forth children, even though children are encouraged and prostitutes often have many. It seems to me that when the Bible wants to draw a parallel for us to follow, it either uses a positive example, or at the least, a neutral example (consider the ant). Sometimes we do see, "Even the gentiles do that," kind of language, but that is a different form of argumentation.

There is another aspect of the teachings of Jesus that need to be taken into account. Some of the teaching was indeed temporal. As I’ve noted recently on this blog, Jesus did not permit his disciples to fast while he was with them. However, once he was taken away, they were to fast again. This was a very special dispensation.

As to the example of Jesus, I think this is also misguided. It falls under the “What would Jesus do?” category. Jesus would not pick up the sword because he came to lay down his life for our salvation. It’s not that he came to show us that it is evil to pick up the sword, it’s that it would have been evil for Jesus to pick up the sword because his father in heaven had told him to do the opposite.

In fact, if the pacifist were to be consistent, they really should walk on water. For this is what Jesus did and they claim we are to follow his example. But this is folly; Paul had to swim for his life when he was shipwrecked. He was not without faith. He was confident in the word he received from God the minute before the shipwreck and he was vindicated by God in the minutes following when the viper bit him and he did not die. We do not do everything that Jesus did.

Yes we lay down our lives for the sake of others. Sometimes that looks like going to the mission field, sometimes it means going without food so others can eat, sometimes it looks like putting down the remote control to live with your children, and sometimes it means going to war and paying for the temporal freedoms of others with your life.

It seems to me that as long as we don’t confuse the two kingdoms (earthly and heavenly), we are safe to turn the other cheek when personally wronged and pick up the sword when your government calls. We don’t spread the kingdom of heaven with the sword. But we do acknowledge that there is such thing as just war. When it's just, we are not forbidden from acting justly.

I know this isn’t real clear, but lunch is over and I’ve got to get back to work.

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