Let me begin by stating emphatically that I totally believe that every capable citizen should be responsible for their own safety and security in a manner that is both legal and comfortable for them. I I I also know that not everyone is ready or capable of taking a life in order to be safe, and not everyone can deal with the psychological repercussions of killing in self-defense. Everyone must draw that line for themselves.
As some of you may know there was a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston SC in June of this year. This church is about two city block from my office, and I have on many occasions walked past this and many of the historical building in downtown Charleston, when seeking to find new things to discover in this old city. After this event there was both a local and national revival of Church Security Training. In listening to many speeches given by politicians, clergy, and other leaders they suddenly gave the view that the Churches are no longer safe places, and are considered “Soft Targets” for criminal activity.
While I was listening to this rhetoric, I was pondering the ignorance of the speakers about violence in churches. Since the foundation the Church has always been under attack. If you read the book of Acts of the Apostles you can see this for yourself. In many countries there are churches and church members who have been violently attacked especially where Christianity is the minority religion. There are web sites like Voice of the Martys (http://www.persecution.com/) that give testimony about current attacks in these countries. According to some gathered statistics gathered by experts there have been over 971 criminal incidents in churches in America from 1/1/1999 to 2/15/2015. There have not been that many terror attacks in this same time period. Where there are people there is going to be crime.
The point is we have witnessed these crimes in Churches, schools, malls, parks, restaurants etc, and you can probably expect more of them as the population continues to rise and morality declines.
Every time there is a mass shooting in America the two sides of the gun debate come out. One side saying we need more guns in America, and the other side saying we need less.
There was a Church security class held in Charleston and the speaker who was a former security agent and a current minister gave tips on things the churches could do to better protect themselves, and this issue of having armed disciples in places of worship came up. Here is the passage that the speaker used as his justification for allowing guns in church.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. LUKE 22:35-36
Someone else in the audience said with great assurance that this same biblical passage was the basis for the second amendment of the US Constitution. There are better and longer historical evidence to support that this was borne out of the recently fought American Revolution and not biblical text.. This is why the amendment speaks of militias. It was the Supreme Court that interpreted this to mean that all citizens have the right to bear arms. However, I’ll leave this to my readers to research this for themselves
But the question remain ..did Jesus advocate the use of a sword for self-defense purposes (Luke 22:36-38)?
When we think about the teaching for Jesus, we know of their emphasis on obedience to God, love, forgiveness, and “turning the other cheek.” However, did Jesus really want his disciples to arm themselves with swords? Putting this into biblical context, this passage was given during the last supper where Jesus knew that his time to be crucified was coming and he was preparing his Apostles for their next mission apart from his physical presents. We also must remember that to best understand biblical writings you need to read the whole story as when these were penned, they were written in continuous narrative form, and did not have chapters, verses and punctuation. However, when we read this passage in the natural it appears that Jesus is instructing His disciples about future hostility they would face (2 Corinthians 11:26-27) and encouraged them to sell their outer garments in order to buy a sword . Here the “sword” (Greek: maxairan) is a dagger or short sword that belonged to the Jewish traveler’s equipment as protection against robbers and wild animals. Is this really what Jesus was talking about?
There are followers who easily say “yes… you have a right even as a disciple of Christ to defend yourself. There are Bible passages which give clear pictures of the Israelites having to defend themselves against attackers. You read this for yourselves in the book of Nehemiah, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, and others.
There are also followers on the other side who would say “no”, and they can also point out an equal number of bible verses about faith, and God being the protector. They also point to passages to the Sermon on the Mount and other passages that Jesus spoke. These disciples of Jesus believe it is always morally wrong to injure other humans, no matter what the circumstances. And the same principles supporting belief carry over to acts nonresistance–the belief that any form of self-defense is wrong. This view is usually based on the exemplary life and teachings of Jesus Christ. These are also recorded in the Book of Acts.
Perhaps for the disciples in this camp self-defense may actually result in one of the greatest examples of human love. Christ Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:14). When protecting one’s family or neighbor, a Christian is unselfishly risking his or her life for the sake of others. Jesus also said as recorded in Matthew 16 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Could it be that perhaps the sword that Jesus wanted his disciples to carry was a spiritual one and not a physical one. In Ephesians 6:17 The Apostles Paul penned “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” and the writer of penned this “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If you read the Gospels it appears that the word of God is the only weapons the Disciples of Jesus used.
The answer to the question “Did Jesus really want his disciples to arm themselves with swords?” Is for you to decide. There are disciples in both camps. Let me conclude with other things for you to consider. Jesus instructed his followers with wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit whose function was not only to empower them for their mission, but to bring clarity of Jesus teachings. In reading the epistles of the New Testament, you will note that none of the disciples ever use a physical sword in their encounters with hostilities, including the Apostle Paul. I do know how the Romans would have reacted if the all of the Jesus followers were seen carrying weapons. History makes it very clear how the Roman Empire dealt with perceived threats. For my final point, in the Book of Revelations it illustrates that when Jesus returns he is seen as a Warrior complete with a sword to purge evil. Was this a physical sword or a spiritual one?
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