When should I take up the sword?

Author: Terry Dashner

When should I take up a sword?

Terry Dashner…………………..Faith Fellowship Church PO Box 1586 Broken Arrow, OK 74013

As a Christian is it ever right to bear arms against another human being? If called to war, should I object by the authority of the scripture that says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). If I follow the example of Jesus, should I ever raise a sword against another to subdue him? Before I answer either yea or nay, let me look again at the scriptures.

Through the years, I’ve wrestled with the teachings of Jesus regarding restraint against an enemy I’m supposed to love. What I’m going to share with you is what I’ve come to believe about Jesus’ teaching regarding my enemies.

Jesus was a pacifist, but He was not a push over. For example when he stood against the merchandisers in the temple, the Bible says that He “drove” them out. He was fearless. He was aggressive, assertive, and angry when He over turned the money tables and sent the merchants packing. John 2:14-16 says, “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.”

Jesus didn’t use swords, but some of His disciples carried them. In Luke 22:49-50 it says, “When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.” And then again in John 18:10-11 it says, “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

Obviously Jesus was not comfortable with zealots who wanted a fight, namely Peter and the sons of thunder; however, he did not prohibit them from carrying swords. Keep in mind that the Jews resisted Jesus’ claim that He was the Messiah because He did not fit their view of what the Messiah should look like or act like. They thought the Messiah would come and lead them against their enemies by military conquests. Jesus tried to instill into his disciple that He was not come to lead them into conventional warfare but to lead them into spiritual victory over their sins. (He didn’t get through to them because they packed swords anyway.) He didn’t pick up conventional weapons because He had not come to fight a conventional war against Rome. He was sent to fight and defeat Satan by His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. And this He did without conventional weapons but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now with that said, let me share what I’ve come to believe about taking up arms against my enemies.
I may exercise one of three responses to my enemy’s actions. One, I may legally defend myself against bodily injury by the use of force necessary to neutralize the enemy’s threat or his aggressive actions. Or secondly, I may ignore him and hope he goes away. Or third, I may place my life in his hands and accept my fate.

The third is the highest response I can display toward my enemy, but it is not the easiest. Why? To place my fate in the hands of evil will either enslave me or kill me. Granted the action may stun my enemy and affect his heart in a positive way. But it is costly on my part. Pacifism is very powerful. Jesus did not resist His accusers by violence, and His death changed the course of human history. Martin Luther King Jr. detested violence and changed American history. Many great men and women of history took a non-violent stand against evil and the good eventually won out. Pacifism is powerful, but it is costly. And not everyone can pay the cost it demands.

The second response is ignoring your enemy. The Apostle Paul told the early church to live in peace with all men—IF POSSIBLE. Sometimes it’s possible and desirable to pursue peace with the enemy. I may sacrifice a little for the sake of peace and reap positive consequences. In this regard a treaty or contract is valued. This is sensible, but it is not always practical. Sometimes my enemy won’t leave me alone and forces my hand to war. This leads me to the first response I mentioned.

As a Christian I should never condone violence. I should never pick a fight. And even when pushed, I should seek the high road and pursue reconciliation, even if I’m in the right. The Christian thing to do regarding an enemy’s reproach is to reach out to him. Bless him. Pray over him. Do good to him; however, if he should resist my efforts to love him then what?

I should let my conscience guide me and wisdom control me. But my enemies will never enslave me nor will they murder me because fear of them or intimidation by them paralyzed me. I will act some way to my enemy’s saber rattling. Either I will turn the other cheek, offer terms of peace, or give him the fight of his life. Whatever course I choose, it’s my choice by the grace of God. And if God is with me, I will not be defeated.

Keep the faith. Stay the course. Jesus is coming again. This time He’s coming like a lion.

Pastor T. dash

About the Author

Pastors a small church in Broken Arrow, OK. Retired from law enforcement. Served honorably in the United States Navy during the Viet Nam era.


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