That’s how Jesus wants us to treat our aggressors. We retaliate with love. This means that in protecting our families and nations, we actually attempt to save our enemy with the love of Christ.’
Reprinted from devonbailey.com.
We’ve suffered yet another tragedy in America where people were killed by an angry human with easy access to a tool designed to be destructive. This time it was a record with 49 deaths, 53 injured, and countless traumatized from the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando.
I love that my nation has the right to bear arms. I was raised in the South, and every family outing I ever went on included target shooting. Many of my family members teach concealed carry courses and are members of the N.R.A. When I visit my parents, my dad often has a pistol sitting on the dinner table. I still love to shoot guns, and I believe guns at their core are not a problem. Democrats blame our lack of gun control, while Republicans say good people need guns to protect themselves. As a Christian who has only ever voted for the Republican Party, I’d like to address this argument.
Citizens arm themselves not only to protect themselves, but because they fear their government may one day betray them. Political groups rally to let the government know they will not stand for oppression. Religious radicals kill any who do not conform to their laws. It’s a dark and difficult time. This isn’t just the context of America in 2016; it’s also the playing field of each narrative in the New Testament.
SELF-DEFENSE FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
The violent world that Jesus was up against is not so different from our own. It should therefore be easy for Christians to observe how they are called to exist under such conditions. We can simply place ourselves in these narratives and learn how God desires us to handle these conflicts.
Many people from my culture are happily expressive of their faith in Jesus Christ. So I’d like to meet this topic as a fellow Christian and approach what self-defense looks like in the life of Jesus, His followers, and the words found in Scripture.
To begin with the impossible question: Do you love your enemy enough to die for them?
This, of course, is the ultimate love Christ displayed on his cross. But not just Him—nearly every one of His apostles went to their graves because they didn’t fight back their aggressors.
Many of their last words included, “God forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” Their final act of life was to forgive their assailants—not kill them, but sacrificially love them.
The truth of the matter is we HATE that answer. We’re terrified of it. We think it’s irresponsible. Yet, each of the Apostles thought it important and true enough to die for it.
SELF-DEFENSE VS. MURDER
One might think, ‘Okay, Jesus commanded us not to murder, but do you think that Jesus would not want you to protect your family against an assailant?’ Jesus never made a distinction between defense and murder. Of course, individual people should protect their lives, but they also should protect the assailant’s life. What greater teaching could there be than the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
That’s how Jesus wants us to treat our aggressors. We retaliate with love. This means that in protecting our families and nations, we actually attempt to save our enemy with the love of Christ.
We believe in a terrifying and dangerous moment that our spirit is in the hands of God, as with the story of Stephen. Many Americans say they need guns for protection because they fear their government will turn on them. Jesus’ government turned on him—where was His sword? Stephen was brought before the law and stoned to death for his faith. Where was his attack? Peter? Paul? Philip? James? Bartholomew?
THE POWER OF SACRIFICIAL LOVE
The world of Jesus’ day was violent. But Jesus defeated that violence and government by taking their evil onto Himself, and through such submission, changed the course of human history.
Jesus asked His followers to not give back to such evil in any way. It is better to give your life for another than risk such evil. His followers are called to rejoice when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake. (Matthew 5:11) Paul was beaten numerous times and he returned to share the gospel. (2 Corinthians 11:25)
He was crazy. It cost him his life. But he loved as Christ loved. He loved his enemies.
I do not expect all people to see the beauty of this. In fact, I’m sure it’s greatly offensive to many, but I do call Christians to wrestle with this teaching.
For when one Father saw his enemies torturing and murdering his Son, He loved even those enemies enough to save them by the sacrifice of His child. What great a cost that was for Him. What great a gain that love has brought us.
It’s dark, nonsensical, and profoundly beautiful.
So beautiful it changes lives, and it changes the world. Because love like this doesn’t make sense, and it demands our curiosity. It starts with us.
Disclaimer: The author’s views are his own and not necessarily those of Rev. Rob Schenck or The Sword of the Spirit Ministry.