Word Problems

Jesus Driving The Merchants From The Temple

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” and “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:38-39 & 43-45

That’s just a small excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – and I have seen it posted in social media more times in the past few days than I have ever seen before. The posts are all related to the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh attacks in Paris that at last count took the lives of at least 129 people. The posts I have seen pointing to these 5 verses are Christians condemning other Christians for calling for counter-attacks on terrorists. The most recent one I read was another pastor friend of mine on Facebook who said in part, Christian charity is to offer forgiveness instead of retribution, care instead of cruelty. Christian charity offers the other cheek, not a fist or a drone… The world would be a vastly different place if instead of more violence, western Christians responded to these recent attacks with an outpouring of love, with medical aid and food for Isis…

I’m sorry… but that pacifistic view is naive and misguided and such a ridiculous misinterpretation of “Christian charity.” And truthfully – my friend was talking more about Christian Pacifism than Christian Charity… But the problem is that Jesus was not a pacifist and He was not calling you to be one either.

1. Jesus was not a pacifist and He did not call you to be one. A pacifist is defined as being a person who believes war or violence of any kind is unjustifiable. That was not Jesus. If he was a pacifist, if he taught pacifism to his followers how can anyone explain Luke 22:36-37? And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” I don’t know of any pacifists who would ever have the need of any weapons of any kind nor would a pacifist ever condone and certainly not instruct others to buy a weapon. Jesus wasn’t calling them to declare war – but he was calling them to be prepared to defend themselves. They lived in a dangerous place at a dangerous time.

2. Jesus was not a pacifist because God is not one. If you are a believer then you  know the Trinity describes the one-ness of God The Father, Jesus The Son and The Holy Spirit… three in one, one in three. They cannot contradict one another. They exist in perfect agreement all the time. Jesus said it this way in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” All throughout Scripture God showed the world that He is not a pacifist… He gave the law that allowed for war and called for the destruction of people who embraced the evil one. Jesus and God cannot be contradictory to one another.

3. Jesus’ instruction to “turn the other cheek” in Matthew 5 is not a call to pacifism. Notice how Jesus says specifically, “…if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” This is where people misuse and abuse Scripture and it irritates me. Do you think Jesus described which cheek gets slapped for just meaningless detail? Of course not. This was a cultural reference. Slapping someone on the right cheek was not an attack – it was an insult. It was the same as them today calling someone a string of derogatory names, essentially challenging them to retaliate. Jesus was not talking about not defending yourself or your family or a friend or a stranger even from a physical assault/attack … Jesus was calling us to not be goaded into childish retaliation to provocations.

4. Jesus was not a pacifist because pacifists won’t use force. Read John 2:13-16 and you’ll find Jesus making a WHIP and driving a bunch of religious hypocrites out of the temple.  Specifically it says, “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. ” I had a pacifist one time try to explain to me that Jesus only used the whip on the livestock. Sorry… but that’s not what it says. I think some folks left that day and had to go put some salve on their lash marks.

5. Jesus can’t be a pacifist because He is the “same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 tells us that. And it’s especially that “forever” part that squelches the pacifism nonsense. Do yourself a favor and read Revelation 19. It’s all about when Jesus returns to Earth. I don’t think pacifist is any stretch of anyone’s imagination as to what that chapter is about or how Jesus will return. Revelation 19:11 – Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

Terrorists will not be won over with acts of love. Evil must be overcome – even if it requires deadly force because the innocent should be protected at any cost. Romans 13:1-4 says  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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 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. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 

For me… I am so thankful to live in the United States of America that is defended by men and women in our nation’s military and police forces with more courage, honor and integrity than the world has ever known. I pray for them and for their safety in their resolve to rid the world of enemies who desire to inflict evil atrocities on the innocent.

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh oppose peace and they defile innocence. They butcher men, women and children. They live in hatred. They have chosen to sow the wind and so they will reap the whirlwind. They have ignored God’s warning about His wrath. They are doing wrong and giving them a hug is not going to convince them to do right.

Follow Jesus’ command… pray for our enemies… pray that they abandon their evil pursuits… pray that they choose peace instead of war… if someone insults you, don’t insult them back… let love guide your daily life. But don’t mistake those callings to be instructions to not defend yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your country and the lives of innocent people everywhere. Be strong and courageous if confronted with an opportunity to stop evil from advancing. Bear the sword when required and do so knowing and believing that being peaceable does not require you to not defend yourself or the innocent and it definitely does not require you to be a pacifist.

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Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are ever in the area – stop by and say hello! Weekend service times are Sundays at 9:30am and 11am!

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