Non-Violence and Self-Defense 2

As promised, a continuation of yesterday’s dialogue.

One response to my thoughts from yesterday:

I respect your service to this country, and I appreciate your ability to think through situations that are potentially crisis situations – as the military does train their personnel to do that. I appreciate your planning.
When considering your answer, I will have that understanding in view. Prayer is good and ought always to be utilized.
You start with the idea that you own nothing worth anyone’s life. Since your life is not your own, and the loved one beside you has his (or her) own life…
Your material possessions are modest. There is more wisdom to that than most realize.
Your third line of defense is commendable, but you know, Nick, avoiding confrontations at all cost are not always options we can choose one from (just as you have recognized in your fourth line of defense). Sane people do not threaten people; wise people do not take that which belongs to another. Whenever criminality is involved, moral restraint – to some degree – has been set aside.
Your fourth line of defense is commendable, but you have recognized that in some situations forceful resistance is proper.
The ideologically driven aggressor may not give you his intent in his aggression and violation of your property (no matter how inexpensive you may think it is). If the aggressor attacks you, and you do not respond with in kind resistance, I would disagree with such a response, but I can respect it. However, if that aggressor violates a loved one I will exercise your #4, even if the aggressor is attacking because of his hatred of the Lord Jesus. I concur with your last statement, but I will not allow, willingly allow, the violation of another without an attempt to stop it – even if it requires violence. I can do so in good conscience.
Nick replies:
I appreciate your respectful and brotherly response. I respect the voice of your conscience, even though mine disagrees. Paul did not fight back against either the Roman authorities or the Jewish mob, both of whom were ideological aggressors who attacked both his own person and the people he loved (perhaps even his family, considering the violence against him by the Jews in Palestine).The Lord Jesus allowed ten of his twelve closest companions to be murdered.


I will (God grant me the courage) place my own mind and body between my loved ones and any aggressor. But the kingdom of God does not operate according to the ways of the world, and Christ is not glorified by violent resistance to his enemies. There are worse things than death.

I plead with you to reexamine the New Covenant commands and examples with reference to violence. We are torn in different directions, brother. I fear that my plans, in their current form, are still not sufficiently modeled upon the lives of the Lord Jesus and his earliest followers. I am still humbled by the examples of the children at Columbine and the response of the Amish community to the attack on their school-children.


From another participant (call him Tennessee):

I’ll admit to being deeply confused about this subject. I was raised as a conscientious objector for religious reasons. That will likely always be my personal conviction. I have every intention of raising my sons with the same conviction. I don’t force it down others’ throats, but I also do not hesitate to confess my convictions and explain them. However, I am not as clear cut in that as I used to be. After reading the late bro. Foy E. Wallace Jr.’s “The Sermon on the Mount and the Civil State,” I couldn’t help but agree with some of his points. Others of his points, though, are rediculous and were answered by greater men (IMO) even before he wrote. I’ll go on about that a bit below, but the specific question is self-defense. I’m absolutely positive that I would defend my wife and children against an intruder in my home or an attacker on the street. I don’t really know for certain that it would be right, but I know that’s what I would do. Asking someone what they would do in such an emotional situation is not the same as asking them what they think is right to do. I’m not certain how to apply the turn the other cheek passage in every instance of life, and appreciate any guidance that can further aid my understanding. It’s much easier to apply to me, but when my wife and kids enter the picture it gets harder to see clearly. In the book “Difficult Passages of the NT Explained,” ed. by the late bro. Winkler, I generally agree with bro. Jackson, but Shelley’s arguments about love coming to the rescue are also compelling, at least on an emotional level.

It is obvious that the Lord wants us to be peaceful. It is obvious to me that the world’s pagan means of solving conflict (war) is absolutely innefective to solve problems long-term. On the personal level and national level, and every level in between, paying back blow for blow only ensures that the strife will never end. If all of God’s people simply refused to be violent in any situation, we might have to endure some tough things at first, but I believe through providence the end result would be a much more fully converted world. God will not let his people be utterly destroyed.

Some questions I would like to add to the mix: I readily admit that it is good and right for a civil government to execute justice (even “violently”) upon criminals, but does that mean that a government has a right to wage war against another? If so, why? Does a government have a right to bring justice (via war) against an “evil nation?” If so, on what basis do we judge when a nation has become accountable to another? If it is indeed right for a government to wage a “just war” against another, how can a Christian be certain that it is indeed a just war and that he is not being deceived by politicians with evil motives? If the brother can be certain that the war is just, to what degree can he obey orders to use modern weapons that kill numerous non-combatants? Can a Christian accept the world’s view that “collateral damage” is just an acceptable fact of war? What if both countries in a conflict see their causes as just and proclaim “just war?” Can a Christian kill a brother in Christ who is fighting in another country’s army? Take, for instance, the American Civil War. thankfully most of our brethren in the south were conscientious objectors and did not participate, but there were many on both sides who claimed to be Christians and slew their brethren for the sake of civil kingdoms, thus magnifying the civil state over the church. The war wasn’t all about slavery, and both sides saw their causes as just. (sigh) Brethren I just want to be right, I can’t mix myself up in all of that with a clean conscience. I’m interested in your input.

And another point of view (Illinois):

I have read some of those authors you have mentioned, but I must admit I disagree with many of their conclusions, particularly those who go so far as to claim we as Christians cannot even participate in elections.  I can understand one wishing to be a pacifist, but I believe that if one is truly going to be a pacifist then one has to disassociate oneself entirely from any type of military or police protection and from receiving any governmental benefit.  Paul did not even do that.  And for someone who supposedly is used as the model of a Christian being a pacifist, and for the most part I would agree that Paul is, Paul did not have any problem using his various citizenships to his advantage on occasion.  He also did not seem to want to distance his readers from making a military connection to service to Christ, even if it was a spiritual service.  But it would seem to me that logic would conclude that had pacifism been what is being taught then it would be ludicrous to use military imagery at all.  But I conced this is a weak point.
I doubt if any of this is out of the box thinking.
I do not buy into the dismissal of the examples of Cornelius and the Philippian jailer as soldiers converted to Christianity as irrelevant, either, the argument being that they were not Christians becoming soldiers.  If a Christian cannot be a soldier, then a soldier cannot be a Christian.  I believe these examples are relevant mainly because if pacifism was a requirement, then it is a requirement for all people, period, regardless of their current profession.  Cornelius and the jailer would not have been repentant, then, and they could not have had their sins washed away while remaining in their unrepentant state.  Just as a homosexual or prostitute is not repentant if he or she is engaging in homosexuality or prostitution and we would not accept them as a brother or sister in Christ while they were engaging in these sinful behaviors, both Cornelius and the jailer would have had to have ceased their sinful behavior immediately and entirely before they would have been baptized for the remission of sins.
Secondly, I do not know if this qualifies as out of the box thinking or not, but Romans 13:1-7 seems to me to have bearing on this discussion:
LET EVERY person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
If God raises up nations, authorities and governments as His servants, which is what Paul calls them above, then He also allows them to protect themselves and their citizenry.  If a nation has a draft, according to Paul we, Christians, would have to submit to that law and be drafted, otherwise we would be sinning by resisting the authority whom God raised up, which Paul says means we would be resisting God Himself.  In the United States, we do not have compulsory service, so a Christian does not have to worry about this.  Even when there was a draft our government did recognize an individual’s right to be a conscientious objector, once again removing this as an obstacle.
Now back to Roman 13 again and how I believe even further it is relevant in showing that Christians are not commanded to be pacifists.  We have seen how God has authorized the existence of governments and authorities from the passage above.  We also see from the above passage, particularly verse 4, that God authorizes the use of force in government.  Someone has to dispense that force, and we know that God is not a respecter of persons, which means that the Gospel plan of salvation is offered the same to all people everywhere.  If Christians are forbidden to be soldiers then God would be a respecter of persons by also authorizing certain of the people to be engaged in a psotion that is sinful in and of itself, and removing them as a group from receiving the gift of His grace and salvation.
Either later today or tomorrow, I will share my response.
in HIS love,

About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 5 September, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jesus didn’t command us to be pacifists? Just what do you think love your enemies means? If Jesus just meant personal enemies, he would have said so! Jesus lived in an occupied country. The Romans were the enemies of his people and yet Jesus said to go the extra mile when the centurian asks you to carry his burden. Jesus also said that many would call out “Lord, Lord”, but if he had not done what Jesus taught, Jesus would not recognize him! Being a soldier and a Christian are not compatable, which is why there was a host of martyrs in the early church who died for their faith instead of for the emperor. In short, you risk your salvation if you go to war. Is that too harsh? Its even worse if one is killing others in Iraq, a war that does not even fit under the Just war ethic, since it was not a war of last resort or self defense. Bush’s 1% doctrine can at best be called evil and satanic. All soldiers who make a claim on Jesus Christ, please, please ask for the grace to be peacemakers instead of war makers, the grace to have Jesus as your commander in chief and not “W” or any future president of the U.S. W and Dick Cheney will only lead you to hell.

  2. Hi John Coffey (Like the drink, only not spelled the same)!

    Whoa! Take a deep breath, push away the energy drink, and settle down. Welcome to Fumbling Towards Eternity, where we try to avoid screaming and yelling and partisan politics (unless that party is the kingdom of God).

    Also, please recognize that this is an ongoing discourse. We will get to the more obvious passages soon enough.

    Also, being a soldier and a Christian was compatible for Cornelius and for the Philippian jailer, and for the members of the Praetorian Guard whom Paul converted. Your blanket statements do not do justice to the complex tapestry of Scripture’s narrative.

    The Iraq war is a deeply complex situation that goes back decades. Under Just War theory, one might say that the first conflict never ended, because Saddam Hussein never capitulated to the terms of surrender of the international community. One might therefore say that the United States was justified in holding him and his regime accountable for their rejection of the demands of that community.

    I am not blind to the counter-arguments — but neither have I drank the radical liberal Kool-Aid that demands that Sen. Obama charge Pres. Bush and VP Cheney with war crimes if he is elected President.

    Killing to bring about some semblance of peace is a terrible fact of life in a time when the kingdom of God is still in conflict with the kingdoms of this world.

    Please remember your passionate commitment to pacifism when you reach for the telephone to dial 911 if you ever have an intruder in your home.

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