After reading your thoughts "On the believers use of forcible resistance” I am thankful as always for your thoughtful efforts in assisting the Lord’s people in discerning what is pleasing to him. I do have questions concerning your view of the Old Covenant law code. It has been my experience that God’s people have an annoying habit of “cherry picking” those parts of Moses that support the viewpoint they are espousing while ignoring vast portions they have no use for. For example, is it sin to wear garments using fibers from different sources or for a husband to lay with his wife while she is menstruating or to sell your daughter as a slave? You cited a few verses from the OT to support the use of force in defending the helpless. In my mind there is no qualitative difference between a man picking up a tire iron and slaying a would be assailant in his home to protect his family and a man who in order to save innocent lives takes it upon himself to bomb an abortion clinic, and yet we label the first man a hero and the second a deranged monster. It seems to me that if it is good to have a handgun on hand to defend my loved ones it is even better to have the latest and most deadly military hardware available. You and I both know of Christians who reason this way and I think it’s perfectly consistent of them. Does every Christian man have an obligation to obtain a third degree black belt in the martial arts or risk being accused of negligence in taking proper measures to protect his family? Regarding the OC law, wasn’t Jesus deliberately advocating disobedience to the law when he countermanded the command to take an eye for an eye? I’ve heard many Bible teachers justify the use of lethal weapons of defense because of the Lord’s instruction to the disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword. Your thoughts? My own personal conviction at this point is that Jesus has completely fulfilled the law and from now on we are to read it and apply it as those who are dead to it and betrothed to another (Christ). The law is useful only if read through the "Jesus filter”. We are under his law exclusively and it is engraved on our hearts and minds and not on paper. I believe we will inevitably abuse the application of OC laws and principles w/o the Spirit imparting his wisdom on how we are to use it. W/o the Spirit of Christ enabling us we can do nothing. The God breathed holy scriptures have only the power to kill unless they are being wielded as the instrument of the Spirit of Christ. Your fellow student of the scriptures, Alan
I do not find the dilemma of how to decide what should or should not be observed in the Old Testament Law to be a great one. Jesus spoke of certain parts of the Torah as the "weightier matters of the law" and identified them as "justice, mercy and faithfulness" (Matthew 23:23). It is a poor Christian who neglects to practice, and to meditate upon, these weightier principles.
According to Jesus, the "not-so-weighty matters" of the law included the payment of tithes—which were the primary means of support for the entire temple cultus and its rituals. Laws of cleanness and uncleanness, of pilgrimage, and of sacrifices would fall into the same category, being relevant only to the ritual practices of the Old Covenant temple system.
Justice, mercy and faithfulness, by contrast, are universal values by which all nations and individuals will be judged. This contrast was made earlier than Jesus' time, by Old Testament prophets (e.g., 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:12-17; Micah 6:8; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16-17).
The mixing of fibers in a garment, and the avoidance of sex with a menstruating woman would obviously fall into the ritual category, since they have no bearing on such weighty matters as justice, mercy or faithfulness.
On the other hand, laws defining duties of respect to parents, forbidding murder, adultery, theft and false accusation against a neighbor (for instance) would fall within the "weightier" category by the same standard of measurement.
As for the selling of a daughter into slavery, it is an irrelevancy with regard to Christian duties since the institution of slavery does not exist in Christianized lands, and there was no law in either testament commanding such.
Does a head of household have an obligation to be armed? I suspect not. However, he may find it useful to have, if not a gun, at least a baseball bat, a shoe or good set of strong muscles in the event of encountering a violent criminal who intends to physically harm those under his care. This, too, would be a matter of justice—one of the weightier matters of the law.
Jesus is much misunderstood, I believe, concerning His stance on non-resistance. No one can find a place where Jesus modified, or even spoke of, the classical obligation of fathers to defend their families against aggression, or of good citizens to defend victims of oppression. The verses most frequently cited to make Jesus an advocate of complete non-resistance are those in Matthew 5:38-42. If we wish to discover through proper exegesis the intentions of Jesus in uttering these words, we should observe, at the very least, the following:
1) That the passage, like much else in the Sermon on the Mount, employs some measure of hyperbole. Going two miles with a soldier who compels one to go one mile is not literal. It would be even more in keeping with Jesus' purpose to go as many miles with the man as may be to his benefit—or to go less than a second mile, if the soldier only wants to go one mile. Also, the command to give to everyone who asks involves hyperbole in that there are cases in which a petitioner should certainly be denied (as in the case of foolish and harmful requests made by children, or a request of an addict to buy him some heroine). In the following chapter, not letting "your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (certainly a non-literal image), and restricting all prayer to a prayer closet (thus forbidding public or corporate prayer) would both be examples of hyperbole. It is not always right to literally "turn the other cheek" to a persecutor, lest we make Jesus a contradicter of Himself when He said, "If they persecute you in one city, flee to another" (Matt.10:23).
2) That the instructions, in every case, involve accepting wrong to oneself—never standing by to watch wrong be done to another. There may be justice (even mercy) in allowing yourself to be slapped a second time, or to give up your cloak as well as your coat, or to go additional distance in the aid of an enemy, because you involve no one in harm or inconvenience than yourself. It is neither justice nor mercy to idly allow innocent parties, whom you would naturally be expected to protect, to suffer harm at the hands of a criminal aggressor. Jesus never forbids such resistance—probably because it would violate the weightier obligation of a man to his neighbor.
I don't think Jesus spoke against the legal sanctions of "an eye for an eye..." This rule was never intended for private citizens to avenge personal wrongs. It belonged to those laws guiding magistrates in the administration of civil and criminal penalties for injury complaints. I am persuaded that Jesus was teaching that the disciples should not avail themselves of every opportunity to be legally vindicated.
As it turns out, Jesus never sat among magistrates discussing the pros and cons of criminal justice codes. We don't know that He would have any interest in telling magistrates to do the things that He told His disciples to do. It is doubtful that Jesus thought societies would operate better without criminal justice systems (Paul certainly didn't think they would—Rom.13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14). It strikes me as unlikely that Jesus would advocate a judicial policy in which the judges simply turned the other cheek, releasing convicted, violent criminals back, unpunished, upon the hapless public.
In telling His disciples to turn the other cheek, He was telling them that they should absorb such injuries, rather than to retaliate through the courts (where "an eye for an eye" would be the proper rule adhered to). I believe His instructions in Matthew 5:38-39 could be summarized thus: "When wronged, you shouldn't avenge yourself, nor take the matter to the judges to vindicate you in your disputes. Love your enemy. Absorb the injury." This is precisely what Paul would, later, also advocate (1 Cor.6:6-7).
"An eye for an eye..." is a perfectly just criminal justice motto. Jesus never indicated that secular courts, which are charged with the protection of the innocent citizenry, should be less than perfectly just in their pronouncements against violent criminals. However, speaking to disciples, as private citizens, He urges them to aim at being more than just—which is to say, merciful—toward those who are hostile toward them.
As for Jesus' instructions to "buy a sword" (Luke 22:35-38), it is obvious that Jesus was not speaking of arming oneself for self defense—nor forbidding it. I believe He was addressing an entirely different question.