Image courtesy of Journeys with the Messiah Collection, https://journeyswiththemessiah.org.
I knew last month’s e-teaching would be controversial, because many good folks who love Jesus hold different views on the subject of nonresistance, war, and Christian participation in the military. Not everyone agreed with my teaching. (Surprise!) I received comments on both sides of the issue, and some that were in the middle. In light of those comments, I decided to write a follow-up, but first wanted to get some additional feedback. So I posed the following questions on my Facebook page, requesting response from pacifist friends:
Three questions for my pacifist friends: The original apostles are all at a church gathering along with their wives and children. A lone gunman enters and begins shooting everyone, starting with the children. What is (1) the application of Jesus’ commandment to “not resist an evil person,” (2) the application of His commandment to give the offender an opportunity to do twice the harm intended (as that IS what Jesus commanded….”turn the other cheek, go the second mile, give him your coat”), and (3) the application of His commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself?
I’ve hesitated for some time to write about a Christian viewpoint of military service, war and pacifism, due to the fact that the subject is so controversial. God-seeking Christians don’t all agree on the issue. I decided, however, that this might be a good time to broach the subject since, after my previous two e-teachings, I succeeded in persuading some readers to see the contextual errors of the Anabaptist interpretation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Christian pacifists are apt to cite Jesus’ words about loving our neighbors and enemies—both found in His most famous sermon—to support their convictions against military service and war. “How can one claim to love his neighbor or enemy and shoot bullets at him on a battlefield?” they ask. That straightforward reasoning has convinced many Christians that the military is no place for followers of Christ. Some groups and denominations even go so far as to teach that no one in military service can possibly be an authentic Christian because he so blatantly disregards Jesus’ most fundamental teaching.
So let’s begin by considering, within the context of all Scripture, the two commandments upon which Christian pacifism rests.
In last month’s e-teaching, I challenged a premise—held by Anabaptist and other holiness groups—that Jesus established new moral standards during His Sermon on the Mount that were higher than those found in the Law of Moses. The basis of that Anabaptist premise is the assumption that Jesus’ six “You have heard…but I say to you” statements are each examples of Him quoting a standard found in the Law of Moses followed by “a new, higher standard” that was, from that moment on, binding on His followers.
No doubt you’ve heard of Mennonites. Perhaps also of the Amish. Maybe even the Brethren and Hutterites. All fall under the heading of “Anabaptists,” who trace their roots to 16th century Germany and Switzerland. Their predecessors were part of what is known as the Radical Reformation, a response to perceived corruption in both Roman Catholicism and the expanding Magisterial (state-wedded) Protestant movement led by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.
The artist who painted this picture certainly didn’t “Get the Sermon on the Mount Right,” as Jesus and His Jewish followers would have had a little darker skin!
The early Anabaptists, like the early Christians, were pejoratively named by their persecutors, but in their case because of their distinct doctrine of re-baptizing adults who had already been baptized as babies. The word anabaptist means “one who baptizes again.” Anabaptists noticed that infant baptism, practiced by both Roman Catholics and the Protestants of their day, wasn’t found in the New Testament, and that the apostles seemed to baptize only those who were old enough to understand the gospel, repent of their sins and follow Christ.
I was going to write this month about someone else’s sins, but then, before I could throw the first stone, my conscience got the better of me. So I’m going to tell you about one of my own recent sins, and for two reasons.
First, anyone who serves in public ministry eventually becomes aware of the fact that there are people who think more highly of him (or her) than they should. This is especially true in these days of media ministry when folks don’t personally know those whom they are following, and an “image” can easily hide all the warts. When confronted with one’s admiring fans, one has a choice: Do I allow these folks to remain deceived, or do I shatter their false perceptions by letting them see what those who are close to me know only too well?
Although not a popular subject, most Christians who lean towards a literal interpretation of the Bible’s prophetic passages believe that Scripture foretells of an unprecedented, worldwide tribulation, one that will immediately precede Christ’s return. Descriptions of that worldwide tribulation can easily be found in the Book of Revelation, many of the Major and Minor Prophets, and in the teachings of Jesus. For example, during His Olivet Discourse, speaking about the time prior to His return, Jesus said,
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Matt. 24:21-22).
In my February e-teaching titled Three Questionable Beliefs Christians Hold Concerning Modern Israel, I attempted to show that, because God is a moral being, He has not always historically sided with the nation of Israel. A moral being cannot side with people who become immoral. And for the same reason, God never gave the descendants of Israel perpetual, unconditional, sovereign right to the land called Palestine. If He did so apart from moral considerations, He would not be a moral being. This is Bible 101.
Dear Beloved Readers, I intended to send a followup article this month to February’s e-teaching on questionable beliefs Christians sometimes hold concerning modern-day Israel. And I’ve been working diligently on that followup article over the past few weeks. Due to an exciting opportunity at Heaven’s Family this month, however, I decided to postpone that followup article until next month in order to send you the special e-teaching below. I will return to the subject of modern-day Israel in April. For now, I hope you will enjoy this month’s e-teaching and prayerfully consider participating in the opportunity mentioned at the end. Thanks so much, David
There is a biblical story set in Samaria, the capital city of Israel, during a time when it was surrounded by a foreign army. The siege dragged on for months, and food prices behind the city walls had skyrocketed. People were dying of starvation. Some of the Israelites resorted to cannibalism in order to survive the famine. The crisis had reached its tipping point, and death was certain, either from hunger inside the city or from the sword and spear outside.
Is modern Israel a divinely-favored nation? For many Christians, the answer is a resounding yes.
Why is that?
You might be wondering why I would write on the subject of polygamy. Let me assure you it is not because I’m advocating it for anyone or considering it myself. I think polygamists—whether they be ancient biblical characters or their modern counterparts—generally err on a grand scale. I also think, however, there are some good reasons to study what Scripture has to say on the subject. One is because it can teach us something about our own relationship with God. I hope to provoke your thinking, as always. But first, some trivia: