Tag Archives: non-violence

Jesus says to buy a sword?

Bo Sanders has a great post on the (seemingly) conflicting sword passages in the New Testament over at Homebrewed Christianity, which, by the way, is the world’s best theology podcast. For instance, check out any of these selected episodes:

Back to Bo’s post. Most interesting is the third part in which he explores that curious passage in Luke 22 in which Jesus actually commands his disciples to buy swords.

35He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”

They said, “No, not a thing.”

36He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”

38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

Bo offers two interesting and instructive readings of this passage. The first one is his:

It takes strength to turn the other cheek. If you don’t have the ability to retaliate … it is just being a doormat or victim?  That is how I have always thought about it.

In that perspective, I have read Jesus’ odd command with Peter in mind. I see that fateful night where Jesus tells him to ‘put away your sword’ and later tells the authorities ‘if my kingdom was of this world my followers would fight.’ The implication is that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and so his followers don’t fight.

The sword for the disciple, then, is…a powerful option to be resisted in favor of a preferable option that is less obvious because it is less forceful.

The second is from Ben Witherington:

What is the meaning of this little story, taking into account the larger context of Jesus’ teaching? Vs. 37 is the key where Jesus quotes Is. 53.12—“he was numbered with the transgressors”. Jesus is saying to the disciples—you must fulfill your role as transgressors of what I have taught you!!! They must play the part of those who do exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught them in the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples become transgressors by seeking out weapons and then seeking to use them. This much is perfectly clear from the context for the disciples then go on to say “look Lord here is two swords”. They already have such weapons and Jesus responds in disgust to the fact that they are already transgressing his principles of non-violence by responding “that’s enough” (of this nonsense).

You can read the entire post here.


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Don’t Ask (for permission, and) Don’t Tell (me you can’t preach)!

I don’t generally rant, so just indulge me for a moment…

When did Christian clergy become such wimps?

I just heard this story about military chaplains who fear that a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would affect the way they do their jobs. These evangelical chaplains fear that if the law is repealed, the military would no longer protect them when they assert their conviction that homosexuality is a sin. Seriously? Is that the kind of limp, conviction-less clergy we’re producing these days? What happened to the real preachers? The prophets with a fire in their bellies and the faith of the Apostles, that led them to a martyrs death for proclaiming “Jesus is Lord,” when Cesar had already laid claim to that title? And you didn’t hear the Apostles whining that the Roman army wasn’t protecting them, did you? What about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown in a blazing furnace, or Daniel locked in a den full of hungry lions, because they wouldn’t abandon their faith and bow to the idols of the empire? People like that don’t lament that they “can’t freely express their faith”—they give whiteness boldly in the face of the empire, and then live (and sometimes die) with the consequences. Look at William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Desmond Tutu. These men didn’t ask for permission to hold their convictions. They proclaimed the gospel of freedom even as it brought them into conflict with their governments. They were beaten, imprisoned, even killed, and they endured it gladly for the sake of the good news they were proclaiming. I can almost hear those whinny, feeble, little military chaplains now: “but I might lose my job.” Give me a break!

Now, frequent readers may find it surprising that I seem to be encouraging Christian clergy to take a harder line on their opposition to homosexuality. But please don’t misunderstand, that’s not what I’m saying. In fact I’m not taking up any position on homosexuality, or the homosexual’s relationship to the Church or the State, (not in this post, anyway). For the record, I agree with Stanley Hauerwas’ observation that “gays as a group are moral superior than Christians as a group” (not to say that these groups don’t overlap at all), because gays at least managed to get themselves kicked out of the military in the first place. If Christian chaplains are going to start worrying about sin in the military they would do well to reflect Jesus’ command not to “resist evil with evil” (Mt 5:39), but to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27-28) Or his advice to Peter: “Put away your sword! For whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.” In other words, while these military chaplains are trying to “remove the specks from their parishioners’ eyes,” I’m more worried that they are clumsily banging them over the head with the “planks” in their own. Perhaps military chaplains will indeed have to choose this day who they will serve—God or country—not because gays serve openly in the military, but because one cannot bear the weight of both the cross and the sword.

But I digress…the point I am trying to make is that the choice  between serving God and serving country, that these chaplains “are being forced to make,” is simply not a choice for the Apostles, prophets and true preachers of the gospel. They don’t ask for permission or protection from the government, but often find themselves in opposition to the powers, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. They stand unyieldingly on their convictions and proclaim the gospel with boldness. And they do not cry about what fate may befall them as a result of their proclamation, but scoff in the face of incarceration, torture, death, lo, even a slight reprimand at work!

Toughen up preachers!

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