Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, February 10

Continuing the guns-or-no-guns thing (yes, I know, that's wildly oversimplified), I'm looking at Matthew 10:17-23, Mark 13:9-13, and Luke 21:12-19. The first three gospels closely parallel each other, and these words of Jesus are (approximately) the same in all three. But each has a slightly different emphasis, and considering them in parallel might be helpful in exploring the question I've been looking at here.

From Matthew:
"But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you shall speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes."
Mark writes:
"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
Finally, Luke:
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all on account of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."
What, one might ask, does all this have to do with whether Christians should go armed? Directly, not much, I suppose. But it has much to do with interpersonal conflict: here, between the believer and his persecutors. This is just the sort of problem that, in Hollywood, would be resolved by gunplay, or at least some manly fisticuffs. You, Mr. Corrupt Official, want to arrest me -- who has done no wrong -- for my beliefs? Here, I've got a .45 caliber chill pill for you! You say you want to flog me? Have my Fists-O-Fury kung-fu knuckle sandwich for your lunch!

But that's not the response prescribed in these three passages. Instead, the believer is told to endure whatever is done to him, and is instructed not to plan a defense of any kind, but rather to expect inspiration from the Holy Spirit for his "talking points." In all three passages, it is patient endurance that saves the believer. And, to be sure, this salvation does not necessarily mean that he won't be killed; in Luke's version, it's very explicit that some will be killed. But it's equally explicit that, being killed, they still don't "perish," not a single hair on their heads. "By your endurance you will gain your lives," says Jesus, by which He must mean their real lives -- their eternal ones. Not even lawyering is allowed by His instructions: don't prepare a defense, just say whatever the Spirit brings to your mind to say.

Again, these passages by no means forbid the believer to bear arms; arms are not even mentioned. But, once again, to be armed is at best irrelevant to the patient endurance that Jesus calls for, and is likely to be a positive difficulty in doing what He says.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

1 comment:

akaGaGa said...

Fists-O-Fury kung-fu knuckle sandwich ??? How do you always manage to crack me up?

Tears aside, you bring up a good point. Jesus Christ is our Advocate. (1 John 2:1) Why would we think we could do better defending ourselves?

FYI, I read an old-fashioned book report about some missionaries who died in South America without defending themselves - but God still won. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/yzog9un