Last night I was a part of an intense conversation about the use of lethal violence and when I would feel justified in using it. I shared how profound it was to me that when Peter cut off the servant’s ear in the garden of Gethsemene, Jesus healed his enemy’s ear. What an example how how we should respond to violence. He even said that if he wanted, thousands of angels would be at his disposal to defend him. But he was a different kind of King from a different kind of Kingdom. If Jesus wanted, he could have conquered our sin and death through force and through violence. I think that he came to show us that evil (in every form) loses. In the words of Dave Johnson: “Life wins, love wins, and God wins.” That is how the kingdom of heaven works.
So that brings up thoughts on the death penalty for me, thoughts on how I would react to someone who broke into my house, thoughts on how we respond to nations and people that threaten our country.
First of all, I need to say that I don’t think that I have a “right” to anything as a Christian. My allegiance is to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven alone. Derek Webb (www.derekwebb.com) puts it this way:
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a king & a kingdom
As Americans, we love to talk about our rights. We have a Bill of Rights and we make sure that everyone knows it. We are entitled to say what we want, to go to church where we want, own property, defend ourselves with a gun, and the list goes on. But as a Christian, I believe that I need to lay down those earthly “rights” in order to live by a higher standard. How many times did Paul say that we are “slaves” to Christ? SLAVES? The thing I know about slaves is that they don’t have rights and they don’t get what they want. My whole perspective changes when I see myself as a slave to the life and teachings of Jesus:
Love your enemy…
Love your neighbor as yourself….
Sell everything you have and give it to the poor…
And the list goes on- ways in which we should give up what we want, give up our rights, and give up the things that we think we are entitled to.
Do you hear about “rights” or “entitlement” or anything of the sort in the words of Jesus? It seems to me that its all about putting others before yourself, in everything. The pursuit of selflessness.
If you have some arguments on how we have rights as Christians, let me know. Otherwise I’ll move on…
So if I don’t have any right to property, protection, or even human life as a Christian- how should I respond to someone who threatens me or the ones I love, in any given context. If I truly believe that life wins, love wins, and God wins- then how should I react? I believe that violently taking someone’s life is exercising evil. Even if its defensive, especially if its preemptive.
Some say would say that if there was a room full of people and someone walked in with a gun and started shooting everyone, then it would be okay to kill that shooter. But would Jesus condone that? Not a chance in my mind. Look at how he reacted to the Romans. They were responsible for the death of at least thousands of Jews through violent oppression and terrorism. If Jesus would have just called upon his angels and overthrown the Roman Empire, he would have saved countless lives (especially Jewish lives if we consider the destruction of Jerusalem shortly after his death). But that’s not how God works.
So I’m thinking that violence, especially lethal violence is never justified. You can’t fight fire with fire. Fighting evil with evil is doesn’t work. The Kingdom of God overcomes evil with love every single time. I think I’ll post more on this issue. I think there is a lot to say about God’s view towards criminals (murderers and rapists) like, I think he actually loves them. And if God loves them, I should love them, and if I kill them for my own benefit,
am I loving my enemy?