Put Down Your Sword

Put Down Your Sword

I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; (Psalm 44:6-7)

The gun showRelate: Like pretty much every day this week, Wednesday’s paper had an article about the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the separatists that are little more than Russia’s pawns. Unlike other recent articles, however, this one told of how Ukraine’s President was at a global “gun show” buying up weapons since the west is unwilling to sell to him directly. It is much more politically safe for the West to sell weapons to the UAE and let them turn around and sell them after a significant markup. Tempting as it is, I won’t follow the rabbit trails of on how many different levels this is just plain wrong.

ISISSurprisingly, there was no news in that same paper on ISIS even though on Tuesday they abducted at least 90 Christians from northern Syria demonstrating that the 1.5 billion total (8.4 million a day) the US has spent trying to bomb them into oblivion is not working. We keep throwing money and guns at a problem that goes much, much deeper than any military show of strength can ever resolve. Even as Kobani has been cleared out, Islamic State seems to be popping up from Libya to Pakistan and places between. Our efforts to stamp out a regional problem seem to have caused it to go global.

React: Full disclosure, I’m a pacifist. To a degree, I am. I believe parents could and should discipline their children in a structured and loving environment. I believe that physical punishment would be a much more efficient and effective form of punishment then assigning felons multiple years in prison. That said, discipline is supposed to be redemptive. Its purpose is to correct and restore. I do not believe that there is anything, ever, corrective or restorative in the taking of another life.

That said, I know and respect many who have served in their nation’s militaries. I know and love a good number of people who believe in some form of John Calvin’s “just war” theory. I don’t agree, but I respect and understand the reasoning behind their arguments. I believe I am right and they wrong, but I do not believe my opinion makes me in any way “better” of “more godly”. This is a very complex issue, there is scriptural backing for both sides, and everyone’s voice has a right to be heard.

Respond: So I would love to hear your voice. A few questions I would love to hear your views on (with scripture if you feel so inclined, even if your scripture is something other than the Bible):

1) Do you agree with some form of the just war theory? Why or why not?
2) Is the conflict against Islamic State a just war? Why or why not?
3) What about the Russia/Ukraine/Donetsk conflict?
4) Is there a better way to respond in these situations?
5) If you are a pacifist, how would you respond to IS? Hitler? Pol Pot?
6) If Jesus were here entering this discussion with us, what do you think He would say?
7) Who is our neighbor? Who is the enemy?

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22 thoughts on “Put Down Your Sword

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate when someone is honest about what they think. 1) I consider myself to be a just war theorist. As an individual, i think it is always wrong to maliciously take another life, but in the case of war (especially as we see in the OT), God commanded it against nations who blatantly ignored God and chose to be completely selfish nations. War as a means of peacekeeping seems justified so long as the end goal is the restoration of an oppressed people, who either belong to the state with whom the just warrior fights or who are under the foot of the state with whom the just warrior fights. Wars should never be justified by hate or intolerance. This is a huge topic, a topic on which many have written volumes, so I want to move on.

    2) Yes and no. I believe that radical militant Islam needs to be dealt with, else we will continue to see the brutal murder of innocence across the globe. While saying this, we must recognize that not all Muslims are radical militants and not all Muslims associate with ISIS. All Muslims do, however, belong to the Islamic State as prescribed by the Quran.

    3) I do not know enough about the R/U/D conflict to comment on it. All I know is that I do have a friend from that area and she is heartbroken about the conflict.

    4) Again. I do not know enough about these conflicts to know if there is a ‘better’ way. Though in the case of radical militant Islam, I am confident that war is the only way.

    5) If I was a pacifist, I would know that the just warrior was my only hope if I wanted to continue being a pacifist. (Okay, sorry. I couldn’t resist. I do respect the pacifist’s position)

    6) Difficult to speculate on what Jesus ‘would say’ in any given circumstance. I am not he. He did teach, though, that we should love our enemies and even serve them as individuals. This is why we should never wage a personal vendetta against any other person or group of people. While this is the case, Jesus still acted harshly toward some others, especially in the Temple Complex. This being said, it is always important to remember that Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb. He will not come as a military leader until later; but scripture does prophecy this.

    7) Good question. Perhaps, many times, my neighbor and my enemy bear the same identity. This is why I am always to love my enemies.

  2. The conflict with the Islamic State group is as just a war as I can imagine, seeing as they practice slavery, all forms of coercion writ large, the oppression of women, the execution and persecution of those of different faiths or who otherwise disagree, totalitarianism, and are aggressors against Iraq, Libya and other places, and oh yeah, last and least, terrorism. That said I still fear pacifism may be correct (since I have supported this war, the first I have ever supported). It is worthwhile to note on the just war theory that through bombing, I believe we probably killed more civilians in Wwii than in iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and the war against Isis combined.

  3. Beejai,
    I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems with violence and hate, but I do believe this is “spiritual battle” and it can only be won on a spiritual plateau.

    “If my people who are called by name, would humble themselves and pray and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

    We must also remember that, “the battle is not ours, but the Lords.”

    This is not to say that we should physically do nothing, but we’re depleting resources in the Middle East fighting a battle we cannot win. There has to be a better way. I just don’t what it is, but I’m praying that God will reveal it to those in authority to do what many of us cannot do.

    If we seek His wisdom in all things, I believe the problems of the world will be solved and until then, we waddle in the messes we make when we think we know more than God.

  4. For me, the reason I’m not entirely a pacifist is that I believe there’s a difference between the responsibilities of a state and of an individual in protecting themselves. An individual believer is called to love and serve their enemies, not shoot them. But a state is only a thing because it’s composed of thousands or millions of actual real people, and a state has the responsibility to protect them. This sometimes means a soldier, sailor or airman being given weapons and orders to kill.
    Is the conflict against ISIS a “just war”? I don’t know that it’s really much of a war at all. It’s more like what the police do in bringing criminals to justice than anything else. And it’s complicated by the fact that most of the oppressive regimes in the Middle East that spawn this sort of extremism ARE the moderates. Promote regional democracy and you get extremism, because the people are more extremist than their governments.
    If we’re going to fight ISIS, we ought to deploy the resources to do so. If we’re not prepared to get into that sort of war, let’s not start building that tower.
    The Russia+pawns/Ukraine conflict is even more unclear. Russia is acting like a bully on the international stage, but so does every other country which reaches that kind of level of power. Does Ukraine have a right to exist as a nation? Most of the separatists and a good number of Russians seem to believe that the whole of Ukraine is intrinsically Russian. Then there’s the fact that the separatists are ethnic Russians. Do they have the right to become part of Russia like they want to? How far does this right extend?
    How much responsibility should we in the West feel to uphold one side of the other? If Russia swallows Ukraine whole, are we guilty because we did nothing to prevent it when we could have?
    What about other separatists in other parts of the world?

    In other words, it’s a big mess. I don’t know what ought to be done. I’m not even fully sure of what I would do if I were making the decisions.

  5. Beejai,

    As a Christian of only a few years, most of my focus so far has been on getting myself right with God, not whether or not the rest of the world is right with God. So the question you posed about the validity of Calvin’s just war theory is one to which I have to honestly answer, “I have no idea.” It certainly inspired me to do some research, thinking, and praying though.

    On the one hand, there are numerous Old Testament accounts of God leading the Israelites into battle, and even instructing them specifically to “put to the sword” their enemies – even their enemies’ children (Deuteronomy 20:13 & Samuel 15:1-3 are some examples).

    On the other hand, Jesus says very plainly how we are to respond to individual assaults in Matthew 5:38-42, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” In this instance though, Jesus seems to be speaking on the individual level of people who want to take advantage of, insult, or harass you – not of people who want to kill you.

    Indeed, in perhaps a more relevant passage, he instructs the disciples in Luke 22:36 to “…take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” Why would Jesus instruct the disciples to purchase a sword if not to defend themselves against assault?

    Thus, it seems to me, that perhaps there is validity to the just war theory. Do I believe that the Russia/Ukraine war and the conflict with ISIS are justified by the theory? No. I think hardly any steps have been taken to resolve things peacefully. Especially with ISIS, I believe that a violent response from the west is precisely what they’re seeking to further justify their actions and gain renown.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post. It is certainly a subject I shall have to think and pray more on!

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  7. 1) This is such a tough topic. I can’t justify the taking of a human life. Life is just too precious, I cannot create a person so I feel I cannot take a life. So I can’t agree with the war theory.

    2) I cannot blame all muslims for the actions of a sect within their group so I don’t think the conflict against the Islamic State is just, however, dealing with ISIS and radical groups, I honestly think that the way to deal with this is to pray and to love. To forgive and rejoice that those being persecuted will receive their reward in heaven.

    3) I don’t know enough to comment on this.

    4) I feel a lot of civillians are dying in the way we are responding to this at this time. I think we should seek God’s guidance on how to deal with these situations. The truth is they cannot eliminate Christianity, no matter how hard they try, people have tried, time after time. God will see to it that they be brought to justice.

    5) I often think about this, without the involvement of the Alliance, it is entirely possible that the world might be controlled by Hitler at this time. I do not however believe that this was God’s will for the world. As a pacifist, I really honestly don’t know. The only I can think of, is to pray.

    6) I honestly don’t know. In the past, there have been many wars that God led the Israelites into. At the same time, we are called to love our enemy, can we love them by killing them?

    7) Our neighbour I believe is anyone we come in contact with or come across, or are in a position to help. The enemy is someone who is actively opposed to something or someone.

  8. We could take up the case with each other. We could get our opinions heard whether they are intellectual, physical or ethical. We could take it to discussion. We could take it to war. But what if we each took up our questions with the Lord? Would He guide us and direct us safely to His side?

    Questions are good, finding out what others think too may help. Could we all find our way into His presence to let Him tell us Himself where to place our attention?

  9. I am neither a pacifist, nor a Christian, but I would like to see a concerted effort towards global demilitarization. A pointer to how this could be achieved is the way that certain types of weapons (chemical, biological) have been banned, and others (nuclear) restricted. I’m not fooling myself that this is likely to happen quickly. Perhaps on a timescale of a century we might see some progress.

  10. Clarification – when faced with an enemy such as Islamic State, I feel that an armed response is morally justified, and possibly the only moral response. What I would like to see is a future where groups like IS are unable to get their hands on weapons, because the world has been largely de-weaponized.

  11. The holy bible does lead and JESUS CHRIST does tell to put down our sword or like guns and trust him without violents where does it say that? well in the gospel in says love even your enemies and do right to those who persecute us it says to even turn the other cheek to people who may be violent against us a bit about this i was very much a street fighter for years i just happened to be in the wrong places the wrong time many times i won battles other times if the lord did not save and heal and help me i be dead many times over thanking him now now i have more lives then many cats ha ha then one day after been converted to christianity never looking back to today one day i was attacked by a very big man in the mob he had a billerd cue was to attack me and attempted to do so meenwhile i said i gonna obey JESUS CHRIST EVEN TO DEATH so i shaped up to fight him as he attacked timing it every times i did not just turn the other cheek but in obeidence to JUSES CHRIST i turned my whole back to the fight lifting up my hands praising JESUS CHRIST singing the song out loud CALLED in the name of JESUS WE HAVE THE VICTORY i thought all 3 times i be martyrd for the word of GOD and my name which was the biggest street fighting name at that time in melbourne will now go down yet i refused to desobey JESUS CHRIST suprisenly insted of been killed as i thought i would be the person runs in the shop so i sent him a letter by his freinds mobsters saying the reson i did not kill you is because i love you the next day i went for a run and saw him up the road full of tears the lord said see themis you bought the lost soul to me he has now repented and truthfull he now attends church services anyway JESUS CHRIST also says put on the armour of GOD well how do these 2 scriptures do not controdict themselves you say? well it meens to fight only evil spirits in the name of JESUS CHRIST by praying to cast them out of people to hell perdiction it does not meen to fight people as it also says we fight not against flesh and blood but against the powers of evil we of course fight this war with by in through JESUS CHRIST which is the only battle i have ever fought since i gave my heart to him JESUS CHRIST ye in his name winning each battle to victory that is JESUS CHRIST is victoriouse here not me because for without him i could not do a thing.

  12. If I may offer the perspective ( or ramblings) of a wife who’s husband is an infantryman, and a Christian:

    ISIS uses the Quran as a front to commit atrocities that a vast majority of Muslims find revolting. They use faith as a disguise to kill, rape and pillage. If we were to be as they are, then their Quran states we are obligated to be at war with them, as they have taken something sacred and defiled it. As a Christian I am taught the Old Testament is a means to show the world they are imperfect and without order, that it is impossible to live perfectly as the 10 commandments state….Thou Shall not Kill, etc. The New Testament is to show that God gave humanity himself by way of flesh (Jesus) to redeem us, and by His grace, to save. Jesus didn’t come for the well but the sick. Jesus quoted his father (God) and references the Old Testament to show its validity as well as his own, and to say it still stands, but by grace our imperfections are forgiven. Thou Shall not Kill.
    As the wife of an infantryman…I lean on God far beyond the above words, knowing my husband, who is a Christian, became GI to fight for those who could not, no matter their creed, color, faith, status. He did things as a younger, invincible man that he wouldn’t today. The price he has paid (in my loving opinion) is far more than he should have. Emotionally, physically. I see very little to gain by sending troops to foreign lands to be killed by an enemy we can’t and won’t defeat because we have a moral standard, and they have one goal…to die a martyrs death.

    As a human I fear the possibility of a third world war…by all standards, we are there. We stood by while report after report came in about the atrocities the nazis were committing against Jews, disabled people, anyone different. How far off is ISIS? Must we wait until the entire Middle East belongs to them, the west crying out for help, before we take courage? Before we trust God that our fight is for that of humanity, and step into the ring?

    • With regards to a third world war, by all standards we are nowhere close. Now I am the first to say that some of the atrocities committed in some of the global conflict zones are horrendous. They are evil. I will do all I can to speak out against them and I have very recently visited one of them myself. But if you were to add up all the casualties from pretty much any of these conflict zones over the past five years, they don’t even come close to the casualty counts of even one of the battles on the Eastern Front during world war two. If you were to tally up all the munitions expended by all sides in Syria this year, it wouldn’t come close to the shelling experienced on any given day in the trenches of France during World War 1. The killing of Assyrian Christians by ISIS if horrific and needs to be stopped. But that count comes nowhere near the millions of Jews killed by Germany or the millions of Armenian (and Greek and Assyrian) Christians by the Turks under the cover of WWI.
      The comparison of the two is both disingenuous and in my opinion disrespectful to both sides of that comparison.

      • I believe you mis understand, or perhaps I worded things incorrectly. I believe that, the way in which Hitler slowly and methodically started isolating, belittling, and terrorizing the Jews, as well as others, long before the world became involved is absolutely what ISIS is doing now. No I do not think at this moment we in world war three, but if we do not act and see the threat for what it is…we will be.

        Hitter placed orders that death sentences would be carried for anything from arson to sabotage. Public arrested were to show Jews and non Jews who were different they were to feel worthless or be made worthless. By 1934 he had ordered mass sterilization. Concentration camps were being built long before we knew they ever existed. ISIS videotapes themselves arresting and brutally murdering on a regular basis. They have wiped out villages based on the ideal that they are no useful, so they must die. They pose a threat they must die. They have camps that they use to train your children to hate, to kill. Yes there are obvious differences. Hitler had a country, which he slowly molded into what he saw as the answer. ISIS has territory, and Internet access, and followers we know nothing about until they kill someone on our soil.

        In no way would I ever intentionally disrespect the those that lost their lives, their family, or those that fought to protect and rescue. World war to is the greatest failure of any time, and it became so because the world didn’t listen sooner. Because we ignored the signs, some of which we see with ISIS. We failed to see the Nazis as the threat they were.

        • Again, I fully believe that ISIS is an evil that must be stopped. What they are doing is nothing short of Satanic. But nearly equally as great an atrocity that is happening simultaneously is how Russia is using the “fight” against ISIS as a cover for their propping up the equally evil Bashar Assad regime at the fatal expense of groups like the Free Syrian Army and how Turkey is using the “fight” against ISIS as an excuse to push their pogrom against the Kurds beyond its own borders. As long as we continue to call ISIS the 21st century version of NAZI Germany, we are politically powerless to stand against *all* the evil in every form throughout that region. What we do not need is more guns and bombs but rather more light, more truth, more accountability, and more love.

        • I do agree with you that others are using the concerns of ISIS in the Middle East for their own personal gain, absolutely. Unfortunately love does not always do what it should and that’s when humanity needs more.

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