Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pacifists Up In Arms, pt. 2

Last week I wrote, “Make no mistake, dear reader: being murdered for no good reason is not at all the same thing as dying for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.” 

In other words, I distinguish between being killed because one is Christian and being killed because one is hapless. This distinction prompted a dialogue concerning whether or not a Christian may defend himself when being persecuted for Christ. 

My friend’s words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading. 


“In your opinion is it ok for a Christian who is being persecuted to defend himself?” 

This would depend on the nature of the persecution, and who is doing the persecuting.

That being said, I make a distinction between being persecuted for the Gospel and a criminal breaking into my home for no other reason than to steal and/or kill.

“Why is being murdered for Christ the exception to the rule and what passages does one appeal to for this? I am interested to hear your thoughts when you have time.” 

If you're speaking of being murdered for the Gospel, I'm not so sure there is an "exception." (Persecution comes to the Christian in many different forms and thus defending oneself should be appropriate to the situation.) 

I don't think there are didactic passages of scripture which teach that a Christian should passively allow himself to be murdered for the sake of the Gospel. 

Now, there are narrative portions of scripture which describe martyrdom. But what are we to learn from them? (We must be cautious when reading narratives to not wrongly base doctrines upon them.) 

James was killed by the State. Stephen was killed by the Sanhedrin mob. Paul was often physically abused by local authorities or mobs. It's difficult to see how these men could've physically defended themselves in such situations. 

Hence, I don't think we should extract a moralism from the above narratives (all from the book of Acts) that the Christian should not defend his person (for whatever the reason) if the Christian can reasonably do so.  

Furthermore, I see nothing in the didactic offerings of the Gospels or the epistles (or any other books of the Bible) which indicate that a Christian should not defend himself from physical harm (for whatever the reason) if he can reasonably do so. 

For instance, a pastor imprisoned by the government in Iran for his faith can’t do much about it. However, if that same pastor is released by the government and then three weeks later is accosted by two men on the street because they know he's a Christian—I see no biblical reason why this man of God should not defend himself to the very best of his ability. 

Let me give another example of what I mean by not "reading too much into" narratives: Jesus was silent before Pilate and Herod. He said next to nothing in His own defense during His "trial." 

Does this mean the Christian must not defend himself in court? 

Certainly not! Paul the Apostle defended himself in court on several occasions. He was anything but silent! 

Was Paul "wrong" for not "following Jesus' example"? I don't think so. Paul was defending himself in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Christians today have the same biblical right, and I would go so far as to say the same biblical duty, to do as the Apostle Paul.  

We should defend ourselves—in all circumstances—in a reasonable and appropriate manner.

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