“They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.” -Revelation 12:11
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8:36
Happy International Peace Day, everyone. A day we should all celebrate. In part 5 of the review we looked at the difficult question of how to be or work with policing in a peace community.
Chapter 6 is a message easier for me to accept up front, and is a conclusion I have already drawn. Justin Bronson Barringer asks, “What About Those Men and Women Who Gave Up their Lives so You and I Could Be Free?” A question which he feels “seems an attempt to shame the one to whom it is directed as one who dishonors soldiers.” As if to say that the people who don’t love soldiers are the ones who want them to come home, not the ones who want to send them out to shoot and get shot on the sender’s behalf.
Barringer, like many of us, feels a great inner conflict, as he knows many in his family who have put on uniform and gun in the name of their country. This is why he begins by saying that he “respects and admires the courage it takes to be a soldier and the personal sacrifices they make.” He honors these virtues and those who display them, as we all should. A Christian never wishes to protest the return and/or burial of soldiers. Rather, we must welcome them home in loving arms. But no matter who we point to as our heroes in any context, Christians must first look to Christ and his disciples for inspiration into what true freedom is and how it is presereved. Given that principle, Bronson admits that our true freedoms come from nowhere but Christ, and that they are purchased by dying, not killing.
I’ve heard people use the line “soldiers died for your freedom to speak against war.” In fact, I used it myself once, when I was a child and spoke as a child. This is based on the assumptions that a) I asked the persons to kill/die, b) the only reason I’m speaking out is because they killed/died, and c) If I didn’t have the civic freedom to speak what I believe is true it wouldn’t be worth it to speak it. Bronson deconstructs this and other assumptions.
The freedom to speak and assemble in America: very good things. But if they are purchased in the wrong way, we do not endorse the purchase. If they are preserved through the wrong mechanisms, we do not endorse those mechanisms. We must remember that when you go to war, you are not just putting your life on the line. Your life is on the line in that situation because you are told to kill other men told to kill you because you’re trying to kill them. You are firing bullets as well as potentially taking them. The rationale for us today is that this is done to secure the freedoms to do and say whatever we want (so long as it doesn’t “harm” others), without being molested or persecuted for it. But if we open our eyes we know this idea is perverse. How dare I ask someone to kill people for me so I can live in a state where it seems speech has no consequences or relevance!
I appreciate the freedoms I have, but I do not endorse their price. If they be taken away, so be it. I have gained in Christ a freedom no man can take. If my faith is truly strong, I will live and speak the same Gospel whether I am in a fine house or a rotting jail.
The Gospel is clear that all men are destined to be servants of someone/something. If one serves the Lord, there is true freedom, because it is emancipation from selfishness, from sin, from being trapped and having no hope on earth. Any other offer of freedom ultimately ends in servitude to self, to an empire, to a machine, to Shaitan. Freedom in Christ “transcends circumstance,” in Barringer’s words.
What is true freedom? If we look first at the Gospel, Barringer says we see that it has nothing to do with “protecting our rights” (the language of rights is not the language of the Gospel), but rather being free to the choice to obey God regardless of the consequences man puts on us. “We are not free because of our passport or geographic location,” he says. We are free to submit under all authorities in all the places we go to, yet free to disobey them if need be because our citizenship is beyond all of them. We do not bear witness of Christ by killing, but by suffering. Christians do not kill to avoid suffering, but join in solidarity with the oppressed in order to liberate them, and even liberate the oppressors from their own rule.
In Christ, what is true freedom? Read Hebrew 11 and consider:
1. Speech—Not free to say what you want without consequence; Free to speak no matter what the consequence
2. Assembly—Not worshipping without arrest; worshipping willfully even under threat of death
3. Given—Not given by govt. or army; Delivered through service to the oppressed.
4. Culture—Not having the most power/loudest voice; Having the cross and bearing it.
5. Purchase—Not the blood of earthly soldiers; By the blood of the meek lamb, reflected in the blood of martyrs.
Once again, Barringer reminds us to love soldiers, for they are willing to lay down their lives for us. He is moved by the welcoming home of soldiers, and encourages it. However, he says, what if we gave nonviolent missionaries that same kind of passionate welcome? Why do missionaries sent to dangerous locales not get the attention upon their return that soldiers get? Their mission is far more noble. Courage, loyalty, discipline, sacrifice—these are all noble virtues that soldiers are asked to have that Christians must have. We must not dishonor those virtues just because we do not honor killing in the name of freedom.
As Christians, our understanding of death and violence must be rooted in the Cross:
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross.” -Col. 2:15
The cross, an instrument of execution—instead of being used by Jesus to deliver freedom, he submitted to it to deliver freedom. In doing so he disarmed all power and authority in this world. He embarrassed those who celebrate power through military might. He beat them. By having a well-trained army who bravely take lives? By enduring death and coming out alive. By resurrection. By life everlasting.
Because of this, Barringer asks this of us: “Please do not kill for me.”
I have to say that I ask the very same of you. I am fully aware of what that means, what prestiges and securities and wealths and liberties I may lose as a result. But none of them are to me worth killing another human being over. Not one. It is because of Christ that I see this. You may tell me of the consequences, and if they come, so be it. The kingdom loses nothing. Not if it’s saints are true.
What are your struggles with this? Does your participation in military, or the participation of a friend or family member in military, affect your understanding? How do you reconcile this with what you know of the Gospel?
Do you feel adequately able to discern between a Christian against war who loves soldiers and a disrespectful protester? If they look the same to you, why is that? What knowledge or experience would change that for you?
What freedoms are most precious to you, and why? You may be willing to die for them, but are you willing to kill? Who are you willing to ask to die and kill for you? If you are asking them, why are you not asking yourself?
Happy Peace Day.
[the next chapter is on nations turning the other cheek]
This entire post is difficult to take seriously considering this author once said to me, and I quote, “I never asked you to fight for me. And I do intend to offend you.”
Very Christian, indeed.
Because this commenter has brought in a conversation not part of this post, I will elaborate. I did indeed state that I did not ask you to fight for me. That much is true and I stand by it. Such a statement should not be offensive. In the chapter 6 review of the book I am discussing I reveal why Christians should not find this offensive.
However, when it is necessary, I do intend to offend people if it is the only way to shock them into reconsidering their commitments and opinions. Jesus did the same when he knew he would agitate some of his hearers. He offended the sensibilities of the Pharisees on numerous occasions, when he could have just given a mild answer.
I agree that such a statement was very Christian indeed. It is not easy to swallow, but it is Christian indeed.
Also, to further elaborate, in the previous chapter review post I made it clear that there are variations of approaches to using nonviolent policing. I made no motion to argue that the only nonviolent option is verbal chastisement, though even robberies have been stopped by such a thing because the robber was so surprised and shocked, even offended, perhaps, by such bravery from one who had no weapon of defense.
I also want to clarify that I am not writing this as someone who “just hasn’t seen how bad it is out there” and is “afraid to get dirty”. That is one of the arguments I have heard made against the argument of nonviolence. It is a fallacious counter. Nobody is a “bigger man” because he would rather choose a violent path, and nobody is a “lesser man” or “scaredy cat” because he would rather choose a peaceful path. Jesus chose no violence when he went to the cross. I would not dare call him a lesser man of cowardice.
I also do not presume to know more about warfare than those who have been directly a part of it. I am drawing these conclusion from scripture, not from direct experience. I am fully aware of the concept of me being able to sleep peacefully as a result of the actions of others, but that does not mean that those actions are always just, nor am I obligated to endorse those actions if I am willing to accept the consequence of no longer being safe.
Also, In my personal experience no policemen or soldiers have treated me unkindly that I can think of. So I am not making my argument from a limited personal experience that was negative either.
Brother, you presume too much when you say we need to perfect policing toward a nonviolent, communal means. I understand this was mentioned in your last chapter review, but since you mentioned it in your second response I thought we’d discuss it. Police (and remember, I’m the one of us who knows from first hand experience) use nonviolent methods to enforce the laws everyday. Now, to be fair, I know you’re not saying that police are all corrupt skull crushers, but I thought it necessary to point this out.
I’m interested, Caleb. What would you do if you were witnessing a bank robbery in progress, or taken hostage, or you’re in the theater that fateful night in Aurora? Do you call the police knowing that violence may be necessary to protect those innocent people to are the victims, or do you try your non-violent experiment?
I am glad to see that you got my messages yesterday. I’m sure it was not without help. However, I stand by what I said about out-thinking your common sense. I do not mean to offend you by this but I truly don’t believe you know how bad it can be out there. And I agree, just because a man is willing to do violence does not make him a “bigger man,” however, it is my personal conviction that the bigger man will always defend the helpless in their time of despair.
But maybe youre saying to yourself, “these are all instances which have nothing to do with defending the Gospel! Im talking about using violence to defend Christianity!” regardless of the qualifiers, I think to base your argument on scripture at all is a fallacy, considering as soon as Christ (whom you pointed to previously as being completely non violent) picked up that whip in the temple and began driving the money changers out, chose a violent solution to a religious problem. I suppose according to the author of this book (and by you, who further advocates this belief) Christ sinned because he chose a violent path?
To say that all violence is a sin because Christ went to the cross nonviolently you completely negate the reason why, and instead assign your own reasoning. Christ went to the cross saying his kingdom was not of this world to do what he had been doing his entire ministry–correcting a misconception that he would set up an Earthly kingdom. Not to teach a pacifist mindset. If you choose to live your life in a pacifist manner then that’s fine. I’m not arguing that you’re sinning by living as a pacifist. However, I am arguing that you can’t cast that scruple onto all men.
So, the bottom line is this; did Christ sin when he chose violence that day in the temple?
I am not saying too much when I say we need to move toward a more nonviolent, communal policing. If you know they use them everyday, then you know there is potential to use them more.
If I am witnessing a bank robbery, I may not be able to call the police. They may try to shoot me if they see my phone. If I was in the Aurora theater, I would have been very confused at first, and trying to hide myself from the bullets when I realized what was going on, and by then even if I tried calling the police either someone else may have or it would be too late. When something like that happens, the police can’t show up for at least a few minutes anyway. Perhaps I would call them, hoping they could resolve it peacefully. Police forces are known to employ negotiators.
I don’t know how bad it can be out there from experience, but I know from retold experiences, statistics, and dramatized accounts (even when they’re fictional or unrealistic, they portray reality somewhat). I do believe that a “bigger” man will defend the helpless. But there are many ways of doing that.
It is interesting that you bring up Christ in the temple. I promise that this is handled in chapter 12 of the book. I do know that how we depict this scene when we choose to depict it violently is not what the language of the passage in its historical context tells us. So, no, I do not thing that Christ sinned because one cannot prove that it was a violent path. And if he did choose a violent path, when certainly he could have chosen a peaceful one, then do you begin smacking and whipping people when they come into your church with false doctrine or any other sin? I know that you do not.
You are right that Christ went to the cross to demonstrate that his kingdom was not of this earth. When you say that he did not do it to teach a pacifist mindset, it seems to me that you are separating the two. If the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, then it does not defend itself in the ways that the world does. I do not understand how this is negating his reason. Rather, I see these reasons as a whole reason. Christ not only went to the cross nonviolently, but lived nonviolently his whole life, including in the temple incident.
Because the book progresses in such a manner, we are about to get into the second half, which deals less with cultural and hypothetical responses and covers more responses made from pulling out various scriptures. The second half will examine these scriptures in their context and discuss how this relates to Christian nonviolence.
Also, I want to reiterate what I said earlier, that there are various kinds of “pacifism” or ways of committing to peace and nonviolence, and that I am not at the point yet where I am certainly implying a complete scruple that violence should never be used by any Christian in any way at any time. I am merely asking that we “perfect”, or improve our nonviolent responses.
Mike, I have two questions:
1. Why do you refer to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as a violent act? How can it be considered violent if he did not harm anyone?
2. Do you think that the scriptures appeal to “common sense” or that God shows people a better way than “common sense” (Pr. 14:12; 1 Cor. 1:18-29)? If the way of the cross truly is pacifism, then why would it worry you if such foolishness did not appeal to “common sense?”
Andrew-To answer your first question, I go to John 2:15, “And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;”
Do you think he made the scourge of small cords for no reason? Furthermore, it says within the text itself he made the scourge and, “he drove them all out of the temple…” and THEN mentions how he also drove the animals out as well. If I were to make a small scourge and use it to drive you out unwillingly of your local convenience store, did I just act violently toward you? C’mon, Andrew. Common sense, my friend.
Furthermore, he flipped the tables over which is an act of violence–regardless of whether anyone was “hurt” or not. Both with the scourge and by flipping the tables he struck out violently. Also, I read the account of this incident in all four of the Gospel accounts and not one of them say nobody was hurt. You just read into the text that nobody was hurt in order to support your belief that it wasn’t a violent act. Please notice, however, that I am discussing whether this is a violent act, and not whether it was “justified” or “righteous” anger. I am not one who accuses the Christ of sinning. However, I will not iesogete the text for my own preconceived notions, either.
In regards to your second question, it is loaded and you know it. The Bible appeals to man’s “common sense” in that it teaches that all men need a savior and Christ is available to all men, but those passages you refer to are speaking about those who reject Christ–not all men. Please notice in 1 Cor. 1:18 Paul quotes that passage to say, “…unto those that perish….” as well as uses the qualifier “but” which leads to the statement that unto us that are saved it is the power of God. Some men will use their common sense to recognize that what the Bible contains is truth and is applicable to them and their lives, while the foolish reject the preaching of the cross and it’s salvation therein.
All of this is true, unless of course you believe that man cannot understand the Bible without direct operation of the Holy Spirit to explain it to them. Do you?
If the way to the cross truly was pacifism then it would worry me because then we’d be partakers in a religion that would be contradictory to itself in that we would worship a God who uses violence (albeit always justifiably so), who calls us Christians which, in the Koine Greek means “Christ like,” and then says we could only be saved if we act in a manner contradictory to how he acted himself. This would make Christianity no different than Islam where Mohammad had “special privileges” that are condemned for the average adherent to Islam.
If pacifism truly was the way to the cross then what happens to repentance and baptism as mentioned in Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16, etc? Is it replaced by your new doctrine? This is another reason why I would be concerned by your foolishness–That someone else may get caught in the snare of this false doctrine.
Caleb–Thanks for the response. I think you have persuaded me to at least read the book. Whether I agree with it in the end or not is neither here nor there, but it is obvious that I am passionate about this issue and should therefore know what is being said–on both sides of the discussion! If I could, I would hit a “like” button to your response because it helped clear up a major point of contention for me in that I believed you to be saying there is never a time when a Christian can be justified in using force or violence. I will say that I believe a Christian should use restraint when dealing with violent issues and should be even more restrained than the rest of the world, but I still believe that violence can be done and still be in harmony with Scripture. The Christian police officer/soldier does not sin if he is required to do violence on behalf of his job. After all, the government does not bear the sword in vain, does it? Who then, would you rather have executing such serious manners? Which is why I brought up Christ in the temple who, I believe, used justifiable force to cleanse the temple. I doubt those men were going to leave such a profitable business willingly, as I’m sure you recognize this fact as well.
And on a side note, please allow me to apologize to you about my crassness in my previous post. Proverbs 15:1 is in effect from now on. 🙂
Have you looked up the Greek word for whatever English translation happens to say “scourge?” You may be interested to find that the word means “a length of rope or cord.” He could have merely whipped it as one shakes a rod in anger, or even used a rope and tied it off in order to lead people out much like ropes were used to herd the animals into the temple, which would make it a very subversive symbolic act.
Also, one of the Gospels tells us that when he saw what went on in the temple he went away and returned the next day. He meditated on it and planned a response. This does not prove he was nonviolent, but shows that he was not reacting immediately to the situation, but went away and prayed about it, indicating that he likely felt it was better to do so.
His flipping of the tables was an act of violence against matter, but not human life. It was his temple, and therefore he had every right to destroy any property in it. He even had the right to destroy people, but did not. The chapter I will review in a couple weeks deals with this more deeply.
Those men might not have wanted to leave the temple willingly, but when the tables are being overturned and “this crazy guy” is, say, undoing the ropes and using them to herd people out, all it takes is a few to make the rest say, “this is nuts. I’m up and leaving.” One sometimes only need make a commotion to make people leave, especially if deep down they might really know they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. His actions may have touched right on the chords of shame they had not felt in a while. At least I hope so.
Even so, supposing we can say for certain he did actually hit a couple guys, it cannot even then be proved that it was brutally violent, but maybe like a father would strike a child for discipline.
I do not think that asking us to be Christlike and therefore nonviolent contradicts Christ. God the Father used violence, but God did other things we are not called to do. He asks for worship; we should not. So we are not to be godly in that sense.
And of course your apology is accepted. And although I stand by my affirmation that sometimes we need to “offend” one another (that is, stir up one another’s occupations with our opinions) at times, I apologize for how it came across.
Here is the post about the cords in the temple. Sorry it came so late after this and our discussion.
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