Major Harold Baugh, former Commanding Officer of the Fargo Salvation Army, was a wonderful friend to me and my wife until he passed away in 2019. His wife, Major Aleene Baugh, also our good friend, experienced a great miracle.
The Salvation Army has annual meetings for officers of the Salvation Army. Major Aleene’s daughter and her husband are also officers of the Salvation Army. One winter, Major Aleene was traveling to Indiana from Fargo to watch her grandchildren while her daughter and her daughter’s husband attended the officer’s meetings.
As she traveled through Wisconsin it began to rain and a thick layer of ice coated the highway. As Major Aleene came over a hill, suddenly her car began to fishtail. Major Aleene prayed asking God to send his angel to help her.
Suddenly her car righted itself. She looked up and could see an angel’s wings, one on either side of her car. The angel guided her car to the bottom of the hill where a family was stranded with their car in the ditch. Her car gentle rolled up and stopped. The family joined her in the car. The angel guided her into to town where she left the family.
She continued on her journey with the angel guiding her car until she had passed through the rainstorm.
Many of us have experienced miracles.
The Case for Miracles
Lee Strobel has written an excellent book about miracles. The Case for Miracles, A journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural, Zondervan, 2018.
Mr. Strobel explores the evidence for and against miracles.
In preparation for this book, Mr. Strobel commissioned Barna Research to conduct a national scientific survey to find the opinion of Americans about miracles. Among the fascinating findings of the survey, Barna Research discovered that 94,000,000 Americans have personally experienced a miracle from God.
Also quit interesting is the fact that only 67% of Americans believe miracles are possible, but among well educated medical doctors 75% believe miracles are possible. 55% of US physicians have seen results in their patients that they would consider miraculous. Page 31.
Dr. Michael Shermer
Lee begins by interviewing atheist, Dr. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine. Dr. Shermer discusses his spiritual journey and why he does not believe in miracles.
Dr. Shermer was once a Christian who no longer believes. He tells how he became a Christian and why he left the faith. Dr. Shermer bases his skepticism about miracles on the writing of David Hume. Mr. Strobel reports in detail his interview with Dr. Shermer.
Dr. Shermer claims we do not have scientific evidence that miracles happen when people pray. Pages 35-69
Dr. Craig S. Keener
Next Mr. Strobel visits Dr. Craig S. Keener. Dr. Keener has written a 1172 page book about Miracles. In his book he documents many miracles. Lee Strobel lists many of them in “The Case for Miracles.”
Dr. Keener does not find David Hume’s arguments against miracles convincing. Dr. Keener dissects Hume’s arguments against miracles and shows they are lacking. Keener claims and demonstrates that Hume’s arguments are based on presuppositions and circular reasoning. Pages 83 – 88.
Dr. Keener documents 350 cases of blindness miraculously healed. He records Cataracts and goiters- instantly and visibly healed. Paralytics suddenly able to walk. Multiple sclerosis radically cured. Broken bones suddenly mended. Hearing for the deaf. Sight for the blind. Voices restored. Burns disappearing. Massive hemorrhaging stopped. Failing kidneys cured. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis – gone. Life given back to the dead, even after several hours.
Dr. Keener provides expert and corroborating evidence. Page 95
Dr. Candy Gunther Brown
Strobel interviews Dr. Candy Gunther Brown. Dr. Brown has studied miracles from a scientific perspective. She discusses clinical studies that indicate prayer increases the likelihood of miraculous healing.
Dr. Brown visited Heidi and Rolland Baker in Mozambique and studied healings that were taking place as these two missionaries prayed for the sick. Page 121.
Tom Doyle, Missionary
In his interview with Strobel, Doyle shares that many Muslims have come to faith through dreams and visions of Jesus. Often these dreams will reveal facts that the people receiving the dreams could not have known. Jesus will often tell the person dreaming to speak to specific people and as a result of these encounters, many become Christian.
Dr. Michael G. Straus
In Strobel’s interview with Dr. Straus, Straus discusses the fine tuning of nature and the miracle of creation. Straus also discusses the implications of the expanding universe. Page 163.
Detective J. Warner Wallace
Strobel discusses the miracle of the Resurrection with Detective J. Warner Wallace. They discuss subjects such as eyewitness testimony and dealing with gospel discrepancies.
Dr. Roger E. Olson
In his interview with Strobel, Dr. Olson discusses reasons why we do not experience miracles. Dr. Olson asks, are we embarrassed by miracles? Page 213.
Dr. Douglas R Groothuis
Strobel ends the book with a chapter entitled “When Miracles Don’t Happen. Dr. Groothuis’ wife lives with great chronic pain. Traditional medicine cannot deal with the pain. Dr. Groothuis has prayed many times for her healing. And yet she still deals with pain.
Dr. Groothuis discusses the historical and scientific evidence for miracles. He quotes Joseph speaking to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
When we are suffering God may intended it for good but that may be a small comfort in our pain. Why doesn’t God always perform miracles?
Groothuis defines miracles as outside the normal course of events. They’re a supernatural exception to the way the world usually works.
Over the years when I have asked many people why they think violence by Christians is acceptable, often they say the proper translation for Exodus 20:13 is “Thou shalt not murder.”
Murder is a legal term. People who use this argument are implying that killing is wrong only if the earthly government ruling the area where they live makes that form of killing wrong. If the government tells us killing is OK at certain times, then it is OK at those times.
Translating Exodus 20:13
The plaque of the 10 Commandments on my wall says “Thou shalt not kill”. Some versions translate the verse as “Thou shalt not murder.” I do not know which is correct.
If “murder” is the correct translation, whose law has the authority to justify violence.
Jesus changed Moses’ law of “an eye for an eye” to “turn the other check.” Jesus demonstrated nonviolence. I find nothing in the teaching of Jesus to justify violence. It appears the teaching and commands of Jesus would require that we do not kill anyone. If you think I am wrong, please comment below and explain why.
Christians who approve of Violence
If we look at the actions of Christians who approve of violence, we see that they demonstrate by their actions their belief that the law of the country in which they live is the final determining factor on when we can accept violence by Christians.
For example, in World War I, many British and American Christians believed it was acceptable to kill German Christian soldiers and civilians. German Christians thought it was acceptable to kill British and American soldiers. These Christians felt violence was right because their respective government said it was right.
After a peace agreement between World War participants had been signed in 1918, Christians in the United States congress thought it was acceptable to kill Germans by starvation by refusing to sell them wheat. Because the US Congress refused to sell wheat to Germany, nearly a million Germans starved to death. The resulting animosity towards foreign powers opened the way for Hitler’s election.
In World War II many British and American Christians believed it was acceptable to kill German Christian soldiers and civilians. German Christians thought it was acceptable to kill British and American soldiers. Many German Christians also thought that it was acceptable to kill Jewish Civilians who were citizens of Germany.
During the Reformation in Europe, cities and states made laws outlawing certain theological stances and mandating the death penalty if someone believed in that theological stance. Many Christians felt it was acceptable to kill Christians who disagreed with them on theology because their cities or other legal jurisdictions had outlawed the disputed theological stance. The result was the bloody 30 years war.
Who Is Our Authority?
The question is who has the authority to overturn the commands of Jesus? Did Hitler have the authority to command his troops to kill Americans in opposition the teaching and commands of Jesus? Did Congress have authority to command the US military to kill Germans in opposition to the teaching of Jesus? Do Church leaders have the authority to overturn the teachings of Jesus?
Some Catholics claim the Magisterium has that authority. Protestants often defer to theologians such as Augustine of Milan, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. These people are human agents. Church leaders do not have the authority to change the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus is building his Kingdom on earth. We are members of that Kingdom and that Kingdom is a higher authority than earthly empires such as Rome, Great Britain and the United States.
If it were possible for the earthly kingdom to legitimately exercise the final authority, then military action, abortion and euthanasia would be OK if the government says it is OK.
I believe that man does not have authority to change the teaching and commands of Jesus. Jesus is our King, Our President, Our Prime Minister. Only Jesus has the authority to change the Law of Moses.
Sometimes I err in my thinking. I was not wearing a mask when I went to public places. I thought I’m not afraid to die and besides it’s inconvenient.
But then I was thinking today. If I understand correctly we are protecting those we come into contact with rather than ourselves when we wear masks. If we are one of the lucky ones who can contract the virus and suffer no symptoms and if we run around without masks we could be endangering the lives of our friends and neighbors!
How disrespectful is that?!
Perhaps we have a perfect opportunity to live for Jesus by wearing a mask in public?
It seems to me that your case doesn’t actually need to be argued tooth and nail. I think the prima facie case is very strong. The few bits of the Bible – of Jesus story esp – where there are nuggets to question, seem to be very easily overwhelmed with PEACE and nonviolence with very little argument. (Could just be me, but I really think IF you want to argue for violence as a Christian, you have your work cut out for you!)
At the very least, violence is tempered by Jesus – even in the prima face case – almost to the point that it has no oxygen. I note that the Bible, not the NT, not Jesus, not Paul… ever forbids slavery. I am mindful that in the not too distant past, slave owning Americans made a lot of that in support of their position on the one hand in in keeping their slaves obedient on the other. AND I believe that was a blatant abuse of Scripture to do that. But of course, it is not forbidden.
However, in the letter to Philemon, one of the places where this issue comes most into focus, slavery, though not prohibited (and possibly endorsed in a strange way) is nonetheless utterly and completely defanged. The only thing left of it is the right to submit yourself to OTHERs. A BOND SERVANT, as Paul and others describe themselves, is a slave set free who turns to his master and claims he will remain a slave for life. There is NOTHING left of the notion that you can subjugate others into service to you, but you CAN humble and submit yourself to slavery to others… in a sense.
That is NOT the way Americans have abused the institution or the Scriptures with regard to it in the past, but that is, in my view, all that is left of it to be had. AND, I think if you feel differently, you have an uphill fight to argue otherwise. The Prima facie case is this… and in fact is so thoroughly ingrained in American Christianity NOW that I think MOST of us believe the Bible prohibits slavery.
IN THIS WAY, I think the violence is very much like the slavery thing. Not the same thing at point for point, but in the big trends, the shape of each issue seems quite similar to me along these lines.
On the other hand, I think there are political pressures and heritage and fears which cloud popular Christian thinking about violence (and other things) to the point that there isn’t really a true “right to life” case left alive in America. There is anti – abortion, of course, but even that is so tempered and boxed in that it almost is silly now.
Soooooooooo many of the same people who oppose abortion (on what grounds?) get all hawkish about war. And in recent days have begun to marginalize pandemic precautions (and thus protection of life) to the point that LIFE isn’t even the issue on the surface of the matter. It’s about $$$ dollar signs. We think Mammon grants us life, not God. And this shows by looking at the lack of a rear guard on this topic. (I haven’t even mentioned the death penalty.)
Where is all the concern for a right to life when we aren’t specifically talking about abortion???
I think you give too many of us too much credit. We don’t think violence is okay because of Augustine or Luther. We think it’s okay because mom and dad, grandma and grandpa think its necessary, because Uncle Ed died Tet Offensive and Uncle Jack died at Normandy and they were fighting Nazis and Godless Communism because God blessed America and because… sadly… the pastor at our church NEVER ONCE even made token mention of the nonviolent tactics you described in a recent post which, though risky, often produce better results AND peace than do violent conflict. We have no imagination for it.
(In case it’s not obvious: I have a desire for MORE and RICH conversation/discussion. )
I walk away from a blog/post like this and frequently spend hours or days (sometimes more) thinking and rethinking about the things said here. Processing…
As I alluded in my previous comment (I think) but since then I have been thinking more on it, we are not actually looking all that deeply into the Bible or into the church fathers/reformers (teachers) for our discipline. Certainly not for things like Christian nonviolence/peace-making.
I have a terrible time find it again even on Google, but I have seen (as have you, I bet) footage of the priest blessing the troops ON THE landing craft as they approach the beaches of Normandy. I find that to be such a deep irony (to put it nicely). It’s shocking! How did we get HERE??? And this image is now nearly 80 years old. How many of us have seen it? And did ANY of us see it critically OR JUST as one more coopting of patriotism?
I never heard anyone question it. Not in school, not in church, not even at home with family.
But there is more.
I was being hypothetical when I made mention of Uncle Ed and Uncle Jack. And I left a lot simply alluded to and not specified. But I have a young cousin we lost in Bagdad too. He was a baby of the family. My LITTLE cousin. Was a precious little boy. I have pictures of him as a baby in his high chair making a mess of his spaghetti-O’s.
There are no pictures of him after the IED.
A flag draped, CLOSED coffin.
And full honor guard and military honors.
Now… back up just a minute.
Both my little cousin AND I were raised as sons of Gospel preachers. We were raised in the same faith heritage. Part of the same family. Not to say we were in perfect lockstep on things pertaining to Jesus, but hey… pretty homogenous.
My little cousin had older brothers. Then there was me, the boy in my family. I don’t recall ANY of us growing up with overly patriotic asperations. Patriotism was there, but we were not one of those flag waving families. None of us in law enforcement. None of that. Patriotism, to my way of seeing it, was a small part of our lives, but Jesus was the main thing.
But then my little cousin, after 9/11 felt the urge to join the fire department. However, he wound up going off to Christian college where he could play football. But the pull remained. And then Nick Berg was beheaded by extremists and broadcast for the world to see. Suddenly my little cousin enlisted.
He stated that he needed to do something. He couldn’t just sit back and watch. The world needed saving, and his Christian faith called him to get his skin in the game.
I get it. I think I understand that.
However, for him somehow taking up a cross and following Jesus was eclipsed by taking up an M-16 (or whatever equivalent they issued him) and run out to save the world.
There are so many theological issues in the webwork of theology and worldview being tugged out of shape in that. It’s not JUST a matter of nonviolence. Where is the power of God vs. the works of the flesh in this? He didn’t stop to ask as he rushed headlong to Bagdad to save the world for Jesus.
But once he was sacrificed to the god of war, the military showed up at his mama’s house with a notification, and full military honors to help her mourn. AND all the 21 gun salutes, the rocket’s red glares, and shined shoes and white-gloved marching bands came together in a deeply emotional moment to legitimate this sacrifice.
… to LEGITIMATE this sacrifice…
ANY suggestion at all that somehow his death was vain is such a deep insult to the injury that my aunt will shut you out of her life and go grieve her loss with a military honor guard there to legitimate her loss.
And in the meantime, my uncle continues to preach for his church.
What Gospel do you think he preaches?
My whole family is but one cog in this systemic gear, but my story demonstrates a LOT I think.
I have no doubt my family was always politically conservative, but conservative politics has become a rabid dog in the last 30 years too. And my aunt has nothing to do with me, a fellow conservative, anymore. I don’t tow that line. I say things that would question that sacrifice and whether it serves Jesus. And in my view, she is now HARDENED.
Christians disagree strongly about whether or not Christians should join the United States military.
Many pacifists and just war advocates think Christians should not join the US military. Some feel it is OK to join the military if for example they are in a position that does not carry weapons. Other Christians feel any position in the military is OK if a person is obeying the commands of those in authority over them.
I think this post gives us good reasons why Christians should never join the US Military.
To Join the military Christians must disobey the Teachings of Jesus.
I am not aware of any teachings of Jesus or early church leaders up until Ambrose that would allow Christians to use violence.
Jesus taught and the early Church writers wrote many statements claiming that violence by Christians is wrong. They also demonstrated that they believed this by their actions.
If we are true followers of Jesus, living for Jesus will be our number one goal.
Does the Government have the Responsibility to Control Violence?
Some Christians claim that if the government asks us to participate in actions that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus we must obey because the government has the right to ask us to do so.
These Christians sometimes claim that the government has the responsibility to control violent people. Normally Romans 13 is used to back up this claim. However, Romans 13 does not say that we as Christians can participate in this violence. The passage actually asserts that since governments participate in violence, God will use those evil governments to control evil people. Romans 13 does not even claim that governments have the right to use violence. Only that God uses them as agents.
Using violence is wrong even for those who are not Christians. Jesus wants everyone to become his follower and live a life of nonviolence.
Perhaps Christians can find ways to control violence without using violence?
The early Christians refused to worship the emperor and they refused to participate in violence. Should we as Christians ignore the teaching of Jesus and the example of the early church only because the government or the military tells us we should.
How Do Government Officials Know they are Doing What is Right?
The next paragraph in Romans, verses 13:8-10 tells us.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10 NIV
If we are in the military or government when we become Christians, it seems obvious that Paul expects us to follow the teaching of Jesus and “Love your Neighbor as yourself.” While serving in a government or military position.
The United States military is concerned only with crushing and destroying the enemy as defined by US foreign policy.
The Jews considered people such as the Samaritan woman and the Roman Centurion to be enemies. Jesus taught and demonstrated that he considered them to be neighbors and he loved them. How can we do less?
Isis and Boko Haram soldiers are our neighbors. As Christians, our job is to love them into the Kingdom of God, not to kill them. Chinese, Iraq and Iranian Christians are our brothers and sisters. Our job as Christians is to protect them and lay down our lives for them, not to kill them. Jesus said, Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.
We are like the Roman Soldier when we join the military, we kill people that Jesus loves. Our enemies are like the Jews and other conquered people in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus.
We live in the United States. The country with a crushing and violent military, like Rome. Like Rome, the US has a mighty empire and countries all over the world contribute to the wealth of the US empire.
Is it possible to join the United States military and love your neighbor?
And what is the responsibility of Christians concerning violence? Romans 13 says that Christians should not participate in violent rebellion.
Some Christians claim that the colonies were justified in fighting Great Britain for independence. Before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means. Page 6, “Nonviolent Action,” by Ronald J. Sider.
If the 13 colonies could have been freed with patience and nonviolent negotiations, why did they fight and kill? Is that like Jesus?
Our military perpetrated great injustice against Native Americans when our government stole their land.
Great Britain ended slavery through nonviolence. If it had already been demonstrated that slavery could end by nonviolent action, why did Americans use war to end slavery?
How different would our nation be if it had been brought about through nonviolence?
We Must Not Steal
Paul had a big thing against stealing.
In Romans 13, Paul quotes the 10 commandments saying, “You shall not steal.”
In Ephesians 4 Paul gives us instructions for Christian living: 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:28 NIV
The US has sent the Marines to Honduras and Guatemala to protect US banana companies and ensure cheap bananas for the US on the backs of the poor in these countries. There are many more examples where the US has used the military to steal.
How can a Christian join the US military without participating in stealing? Perhaps Paul expects those Christians who are in the military to leave and take up work with their own hands?
Did the Doctrine of Discovery Justify Stealing the Land from the Native Americans?
We had the Doctrine of Discovery. The military conquests of the United States are based on the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny.
“It started with the early explorers. They were accompanied by priests with the goal of bringing Christianity to the New World from Spain in 1492. The Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” issued by Pope Alexander VI a year later, played a central role in the Spanish conquest of this New World. The document supported Spain’s strategy to ensure its exclusive right to the lands “discovered” by Columbus. This philosophy has become the primary world view of colonization, domination, exploitation, and Christianization of the world by people of Western European origins for the past 500 years. At its core is the claim that all land not settled by European Christians is available for their development and settlement, and that those people currently living on and using the land have no claim of ownership or rights of use.
Even as late as 1823, this “Papal Bull,” called the Doctrine of Discovery, was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions. Chief Justice John Marshall justified the way in which colonial powers laid claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign nations. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring indigenous and aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governmentsinto the present.” 1.
The Catholic Church affirmed the Doctrine of Discovery through a papal bull, the protestant churches affirmed the Doctrine of Discovery through their actions. Did this make it right?
Worshiping the Emperor
The early Christians refused to worship the Emperor. Today some Christians put the commands of the state above the teaching of Jesus. Are we worshiping the wealth, the security and the power the state gives when we without question follow orders? How are we different than Romans who worshiped the emperor?
Jesus is Above Every Power
Contrast the teaching of Jesus with the teaching of Moses.
Jesus taught us the way of nonviolence. Turn the other check.
Moses taught us a way of revenge. An eye for an eye.
Jesus demonstrated nonviolence. When he had the power to rescue himself, he died on the cross and when he has the power to rescue us, he tells us we must take up our cross and follow him.
Are we too weak and feeble to lose our wealth and comfort and suffer like Jesus by taking up our cross and following him?
Jesus has great power and rose from the dead. He does not need violence to rule the universe. Paul said:
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. Ephesians 1:18-22 NIV.
If Jesus told us not to participate in violence, should we obey him? Why should we join the US Military? Isn’t Jesus God? As God, doesn’t he have the right to change the law of Moses concerning the way his people interact with their enemies?
Do I Need to Check out my Potential Employer?
I wrote “My Ethical Dilemma: Letter to Pope Francis.” I asked the question, Should I pay Taxes? Professor Ardell Caneday of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, Professor of New Testament Studies and Greek replied with some excellent advice.
“You are not accountable for how governing officials use the tax dollars that you pay whether at a municipal level, a county level, a state level, or a federal level. Those who govern are accountable for their implementation of tax dollars.” Professor Ardell Caneday.
If Professor Caneday is correct when he says that those who govern are accountable. In the same way, I believe if we take a position that we know participates in injustice, we are acting contrary to the teaching of Jesus. We know that it is well documented that the military participates in injustice, murder and stealing. If we join the military with that knowledge, are we accountable for the injustice? Will Jesus be pleased?
If we take a position with a company that supplies military weapons, we know those weapons will very likely be used to perpetrate injustice. Are we accountable for that injustice? Will Jesus be pleased?
Protecting the Innocent.
Some positions in government protect the innocent. For example, EMTs, firemen and social workers are not required to kill people. Their job is to help people. It seems to me that these are positions that Christians can and should take as a line of work.
I am not sure how it is possible to follow the teaching of Jesus and join the US military.
A Christian recently said, “we would hardly expect to hear the apostle Paul use the term “soldier” in a complementary manner in his letters if serving as a soldier was contrary to God’s will (Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3,4).”1
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. Philippians 2:25, NIV.
3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2, 3,4, NIV.
Soldiers of Jesus.
By reading these two passages in context it is clear to see that Paul considers his friends to be soldiers of Jesus. If Jesus is our commanding officer, we must follow the teaching of Jesus.
How did Paul understand the teaching of Jesus? Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians 10 that Christians do not use the weapons of this world. We use spiritual weapons to defeat rulers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil. Using the above two passages to defend violence by Christians contradicts Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6: 10-12
In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul makes clear that Christians do not use weapons of war that the world uses.
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3,4.
Fighting for the Kingdom of God
Fighting a war for an earthly kingdom is insignificant compared to fighting one battle for the Kingdom of God. Our enemies are not flesh and blood.
If Jesus is our commanding officer, then praying for your neighbor or your own child or your enemy has more eternal significance than fighting in a worldly war.
If Jesus is our commanding officer, feeding the hungry, providing clothing for the naked and helping to rebuild houses destroyed in war has more significance in the eternal perspective than fighting as a soldier to protect kingdoms of this earth.
Paul Loved his Enemies
The Epistle of Philippians was written in 62 AD. Paul was in prison. Nero was Emperor. Christians were dying at the hands of Roman soldiers. Roman soldiers had killed Jesus. Roman soldiers were enemies of Paul. Paul was showing great love and patience to enemy soldiers. He did not kill them.
It is possible to show someone great respect, even if you disagree with their actions. It is possible to speak in a complementary manner of your enemy. Enemy soldiers had similar discipline, bravery and diligence required of a soldier of Jesus.
Fighting for a worldly kingdom such as the United States is clearly contradictory to what Paul thought were the teachings of Jesus.
The Philippians and 2 Timothy passages are very weak arguments if someone wants to use them as justification to join the US military. A military that kills Christians, civilians, women and children and impoverishes people in foreign lands.
Though the lack of Sunday worship services during Lent makes it feel less real, today is Good Friday. As we remember Jesus’s great sacrifice for humanity this Easter weekend, I wonder how the church will stand against injustice as Jesus did. Whether we choose to be counter-cultural or comfortable will determine our ability to follow Jesus, make disciples, and transform the world (The Great Commission).
God spoke to me this morning
As I type this rough draft on April 6, 2020, I just finished my prayer + Bible reading time. [See last week’s post to learn more about how this looks.] In my prayer, I specifically asked God to “speak to me in ways I can understand, which is mostly through what I read.” Also, I had this vague, nagging feeling that a post idea was on the tip of my fingers as I prayed; I even paused and blinked…
Ephesians 6 discusses spiritual warfare. In the spiritual war we Christians are called to fight, our spiritual battles make the physical warfare of World War II and the Cold War look like insignificant skirmishes.
Jesus used nonviolent warfare to defeat sin, disease and death on the cross. He asks us to take up our cross and follow him.
How did Jesus fight? Jesus used spiritual warfare.
Yes, Jesus fought spiritual warfare by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God. But Jesus also taught that through spiritual warfare we fight earthly violence and injustice through nonviolence by turning the other check.
Ron Sider has shown that nonviolent action can defeat great armies, brutal dictators, and unjust governments. His book is “Nonviolent Action, What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried” By Ronald J. Sider, Brazo Books, 2015
Jesus witnessed nonviolent action defeating evil. Shortly before his ministry began Jesus saw Jews defeating Pilate nonviolently. Jesus certainly heard of this incident. It is possible that he witnessed the incident or perhaps he also participated.
Dr. Sider says, “In AD 26, Pontius Pilate, the new Roman governor of Judea, outraged the Jews by bringing into Jerusalem military standards emblazoned with the emperor’s image. Since the military standards with Caesar’s image violated Jewish teaching, the religious leaders begged Pilate to remove the ensigns from the holy city. What happened is best told by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus:
‘Hastening after Pilate to Caesarea, the Jews implored him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to uphold the laws of their ancestors. When Pilate refused, they fell prostrate around his house and for five whole days and nights in the great stadium, and summoning the multitude, with apparent intention of answering them, gave the arranged signal to his armed soldiers to surround the Jews. Finding themselves in a ring of troops, three deep, the Jews were struck dumb at this unexpected sight. Pilate after threatening to cut them down, if they refused to admit Caesar’s images, signaled to the soldiers to draw their swords. Thereupon the Jews, as by concerted action, flung themselves in a body on the ground, extended their necks, and exclaimed that they were ready rather to die than to transgress the law. Overcome with astonishment at such intense religious zeal, Pilate gave orders for the immediate removal of the standards from Jerusalem.’” Sider, Page 4.
Examples of Nonviolent Action
Ron Sider gives example after example of nonviolence resistance defeating evil and tyranny.
One of the earliest examples of nonviolent resistance occurred in Egypt 3000 years ago. When pharaoh demanded the death of all baby boys, the midwives refused to follow orders.
According to Edward Gibbon, Pope Leo the 1st confronted and defeated Attila the Hun. Leo the Great was involved in successful nonviolent negotiations with Attila the Hun.
Before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means.
In 1861, after a successful nonviolent campaign of Hungarian citizens against Austria, the London Times said, “Passive resistance can be so organized as to become more troublesome than armed rebellion.”
Leaders of nonviolent resistance include America’s Martin Luther King, Jr, India’s Mahatma Gandhi, Poland’s Lech Walesa, Philippines’ Cory Aquino, and Brazil’s Colonel Candido Rondon.
Professor Sider reviews the nonviolent revolution in India the changed the attitude of the people of India and 16 years later lead to the end of British rule in India.
“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Sider discusses how Martin Luther King fought racism and bigotry to fight segregation, Jim Crow and injustice against the black community in America.
Many wanted to rebel violently but King continually preached nonviolence. When discussing the oppressed use of violence King said, ”The shores of History are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that chose violence.”
During World War II Norway, Sweden and Denmark used nonviolent resistance against Hitler.
Nonviolence toppled two dictators in Central America in 1944.
Mahatma Gandhi used nonviolence resistance over 15 years to give independence to India from Great Britain.
Witness for Peace Teams (WFP) accompanied poor Nicaraguans and reported torture and atrocities committed by the Contras in 1985. WFP volunteers worked attempting to bring about a peaceful resolution between Contras and Sandinistas and to stop the flow of arms to the country. WFP volunteers stayed in villages where the Contras were using American weopons to attack and torture citizens. The Contras would not attack when Americans were present for fear of losing the supply of weapons from the United States. When the Contras changed their strategy and began murdering farmers living in the countryside, WFP volunteers visited the sites, documented the violence, and sent reports to the American media.
Dr. Sider discusses many cases of nonviolent resistance by the citizens of Eastern Europe; Poland and East Germany, that helped bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union.
In Liberia the women of the country used nonviolent resistance to bring about the fall of a brutal dictator and bring an end to years of fighting.
Even Muslims know true followers of Jesus fight nonviolently. Christian nonviolent protesters fought side by side with Muslim nonviolent protesters in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
“The Muslim Brotherhood’s well-disciplined members and organizational structure helped to sustain the revolution. The most inspiring show of cooperation and national solidarity occurred between Christians and Muslims, who often have clashed in lethal violence. When security forces attacked Muslims with water cannons during prayer, Christians encircled them to protect them. An imam is reported as saying, ‘Look around you; do you see it is the Christians who are protecting us: Do you know why they do this? They are following the teaching of Jesus. It is because they have Jesus in their hearts.’ Muslims also protected Christians as they celebrated Mass in the square.” Sider, Page 137.
Fighting non-violently is not for fools or cowards. It can be very dangerous and many have died through non-violent resistance.
Several colleges are teaching tactics to win nonviolent battles. This education needs to greatly increase.
Several organizations are sending out volunteers to fight nonviolently today.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently sending teams to Columbia accompanying farmers and miners caught in the crossfire of decades of war.
In Iraqi Kurdistan CPT is partnering with mountain village and shepherd communities that peacefully resist displacement and destruction caused by cross-border military operations.
CPT volunteers are supporting Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it. Documenting human rights violations in occupied Palestine. Partnering with local Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers and educating the international community to help create a space for justice and peace.
Peace Brigades International is currently maintaining a presence of volunteers in Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia and Nepal.
Witness for Peace (WFP) works primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean countries with a mission to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.
Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) is a Muslim organized using Christian Peacemaker Teams as an example. They work especially in Iraq and seek to demonstrate nonviolence in practice by doing such things as physically interposing themselves between warring parties, but also by acting as intermediates and negotiators.
What if thousands nonviolent Christian volunteers showed up whenever violence and injustice take place? What if 10,000,000 Christian volunteers were willing to go anywhere in the world and fight as Jesus fights? Anyone can use nonviolence to fight injustice. 10 year old children and 90 year old men can participate.
These peacemaking organisations are looking for volunteers to participate in peacemaking activities.
Christians, Muslims and Hindus can all work together to bring about peace and justice nonviolently.
Why would Christians use Violence?
Why would any Christian fight in a US military that killed 1.2 million innocent Japanese in World War II and used drones to kill children in Pakistan during the war on terror? Especially when nonviolent battle to bring about peace and justice is much more effective and much less expensive in life and coin?
Why would Christians use the world’s violent ways when Jesus taught a way of peace and nonviolence?
Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:25 and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.
I get up to coffee and headlines. As put, that is normal for me, but of course the headlines are not normal; they are numbers of infections, numbers of deaths, and two dozen stories all related to those two numbers with hardly a word about anything else. Both the national feed and the local dwell on these, almost exclusively. The weather is perhaps the only news item which makes practically no connections to the numbers.
Babies had me up at 4am. I went to the kitchen to prepare a bottle of formula, and I could hear the wind howling and the chimes on the porch chiming, and I feel COMPLETELY ALONE in this, but I immediately thought about my street friends.
This will be headlines in two hours, but for them it has been daily life for the last two hours.