Christians are, by and large, supposed to be a peaceful, helping and loving lot. That’s what Jesus set forth for us, that’s what the apostles and other early church leaders reinforced, and that’s often what we have drifted away from in favor of selishness, judgment, condemnation, violence and so many other negatives.
There are times we need to kick ass. Not often. But those times exist.
Because, on the other side from the angry, bitter, nasty Christians is the “all is love” camp where Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek carry the day in all interactions. (They forget that Jesus also whipped the moneylenders out of the temple with a heavy rope.)
Never lifting a hand no matter what, it strikes me, is as foolish as turning away from peace. To reject peace is counter to Jesus’ message and God’s will. But at the same time, to embrace peace to the point of stupidity is irresponsible when it put us in harm’s way for no good reason or when it causes harm to others.
Example: If you are being attacked physically, do you just take it? Do you passively allow yourself to be backed into a corner where you will get your ass handed to you, possibly meaning that you could be severely impaired, or possibly crippled and killed? What does this serve? Racking up medical costs, destroying your quality of life, keeping you from being able to support your family and be a part of daily family activities?
Are these good things?
Now, I realize we lift up many people both in the early church days and in modern ministries abroad who were (and still are) martyred. It is one thing to be killed or harmed in the process of doing good work and spreading the gospel. If you are set upon by a person or group determined to kill you, and there is nothing you can do, you will die most likely. If you are taken into custody by a government that finds your message annoying, you will possibly rot in prison or be executed. There isn’t much you can do. And that’s part of the risk of some missionary work.
But if someone, say, comes up to knife me because they don’t like the fact that I mentioned something about Jesus…or if it’s just some random thugishness for the sake of thugishness, I am not going to stand there and say, “Go ahead, kill me.” I am going to defend myself.
Nowhere did Jesus forbid us from serving in the military or in law enforcement, two areas where violence can and does occur, and killing too at times. He told us to protect the weak. We shouldn’t seek out violence, but sometimes it finds us. And even if you aren’t going to defend yourself, what if violence comes for your family or friends? Will you stand there and let them be harmed when you have a chance to strike out in their defense?
This is what Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12, verse 18: As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.
Violence isn’t the point of that passage. The message is a more general one about not causing or escalating strife if you can avoid it. But it is clear from Paul’s words that there are times when nothing you can reasonably do will keep the peace.
Violence should never be our first choice, but sometimes, violent means will be required to protect people or to protect ourselves. Within the law, mind you. We are expected to obey the laws of the land, and Jesus made that clear. So don’t start beating or killing people over the practice of abortion and justifying it with this. The law of the land doesn’t define a fetus as a fully living human being, and there is ample evidence in Jewish religious texts, which form the foundation for much of Christianity, that the life of the mother supercedes the life of an unborn child, so clearly, it’s not as cut and dried as so many pro-lifers would like to think. So as much as you may believe otherwise, you don’t have the right to take the law into your own hands and kill people or harm them over the pro-choice/pro-life argument.
Same with being a vigilante. It isn’t allowed. Don’t do it. Frankly, even if you are going after someone who has harmed you or someone you love. Violence in defense, sure, but violence in revenge, no.
And missionary work in other countries where the laws are against you? It is your right to do that, but you know the score, and you know the laws of that land are against you, so if you are caught, you need to be prepared to accept the consequences.
But self-defense when someone attacks you? Yes. Rescuing someone else from an assault or attempted murder in the middle of the street? Certainly.
Peace first and foremost. But intelligence, too. Logic. Wisdom.
I won’t seek someone out to harm, but if a person comes into my house intending harm, I will stop that person by all means necessary.
And I won’t feel bad about it.