IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Andrew Campbell, who gets a free book for his trouble.
Here’s his question:
I know you answered a question for a guy a while back about guns and personal defense [Christians, guns & self-defense]. Why does Jesus tell his disciples to buy swords if they do not have one?
Here’s the verse Andrew is talking about:
“If you don’t have a sword, sell your coat and buy one” (Luke 22:36, NIRV).
If you’re a gun-loving, Second Amendment-worshiping Christian looking for a Bible verse to hang your gun on, this is not the verse.
Not if Bible experts correctly interpreted what was going on there.
Jesus spoke those words to his disciples at the Last Supper.
In my reading, I haven’t come across any Bible expert who argues that Jesus was actually telling the disciples to arm themselves. Instead, scholars insist that Jesus was using figurative language to tell them they were about to face some pretty tough times ahead.
There are context clues.
Before Jesus delivered this one-liner, he set it up with something like this, which I’m paraphrasing:
“Remember when I sent you out on a preaching mission the first time without a wallet, a bag, or even a pair of sandals? You’d need anything did you? ”
“No we didn’t,” they replied.
“Well, this time you’re going to need everything – all the spiritual resources you can muster.”
That’s essentially the message scholars say Jesus was trying to deliver.
Sadly, his symbolic reference to swords confused the disciples. They seemed to think he was talking about literal swords, and that he wanted them to take inventory of how many they had.
So the disciples said, “Lord, here are two swords” (Luke 22:38, NIRV).
Jesus replied, “That is enough.”
He wasn’t saying “That is enough swords.” Not as the Bible scholars read this passage.
Jesus was saying, “You’ve got to be kidding. You still don’t get it? I’ve had all I can take. That’s quite enough. Let’s go.”
They left for the Mount of Olives, where the temple police arrested Jesus.
When Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of an arresting officer, Jesus healed the man’s ear and snapped at Peter, “All who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NIRV).
I’m thinking we probably shouldn’t look to Jesus for permission to kill others or even to defend ourselves.
Jesus was a pacifist.
That’s a matter of biblical fact: “Do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39, NLT).
Jesus practiced what he preached.
So did Christians in the early centuries. They were pacifists, too.
That’s a matter of historical fact. And it’s the reason so many Christians died as martyrs.
Their willingness to die for the faith is one reason Christianity eventually won over the Roman Empire. Christianity became the preferred religion of Rome in the A.D. 300s. And Rome is where the pope lives today.
Pacifism is a hard teaching to embrace. Counter intuitive. And absolutely the reversal of our survival instinct.
But it does appear to be what Jesus taught, and what the first three centuries of Christians practiced.
Here’s the moral of this story, compliments of the late Johnny Cash:
Don’t take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don’t take your guns to town.
That was Billy Joe’s mama talking to him, as the story unfolds in the song.
Billy Joe didn’t listen to his mama.
He got himself dead.
Other than killing, what’s a gun good for?
For a pacifist, it’s pretty much good for nothing.
Except for hunting, perhaps. I think even Jesus would be okay with that.
We know he fished.
I agree that Jesus wasn’t telling people to literally get ready for a bloody fight. But Jesus was anything but a pacifist.
Sure, he said turn the other cheek — but in the context not getting overcome with a drive to avenge every injustice.
But Jesus got right in the faces of hypocrites and self-righteous people, and he bore no remorse for chasing money changers out of the temple with a whip. He encouraged boldness and a righteous fight, and he would never stand for the way modern Christians let people walk all over them.
Stephen M. Miller
Jesus did get violent that one time at the Temple. But even that was against the best advice he gave people. And it was reserved for people inside the religious movement. I don’t see any examples of him treating religious outsiders that way.
I think he’d be less upset about Christians getting walked on than he’d be about Christians trying to impose their beliefs on others through boycotts, picketing, and legislation. He seemed to be for people making their own decisions without being pressured, which is why he told his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and leave any homes that refused to welcome them and their message.
However, I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong many times before.
Thanks for the great answer, I enjoy your question of the weeks. Though I don’t always agree 😉
Stephen M. Miller