by Jon Kauffman
Recently I attended a seminar. During the question and answer time, I asked 2 questions:
I said, John 20:21-23 says: 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Question one: if a Christian does not forgive a non-Christian, does that mean that the non-Christian cannot be forgiven?
Question two: Many Christians approved of the US military killing many more people in the Middle East in (revenge?) Can any of those people Middle East be forgiven?
In reference to the second question, one of the seminar leaders said that Christians had the responsibility to follow the authority of the state.
Who is the final authority for a Christian? Is it the state?
Do we have the authority to follow the leadership of the state when the leading of the state conflicts with the teachings of Jesus?
As Christians, I believe that our allegiance belongs to Jesus. Our responsibility to obey the state ends when their request conflicts with the teaching of Jesus. We must refuse to do anything that is in conflict with the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus, The Kingdom of God and the State.
Jesus began his ministry by rejecting government as a solution to build his Kingdom and ended his ministry rejecting government.
Jesus overcame the temptation of using the state to build the Kingdom of God when the devil tempted him in the desert.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:8-10 NIV.
Jesus rejected using the state to build the Kingdom of God when he tells Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18: 33-37 NIV
Refusing to Bow to the State.
Peter and the other apostles said we must obey God rather than men:
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29 NIV
Weapons of the Kingdom of God
Paul tells us that the weapons of the Kingdom of God are not the same as the weapons of the world.
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. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5,6
Rebelling Against Government
In Romans 13, Paul says Christians are subject to the governing authorities. Nowhere does Romans mention that Christians should participate in violence. Quite the opposite. Many Jews, including some of Jesus’ disciples prior to the resurrection, wanted to violently overthrow Rome.
Paul says in Romans 13 that whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against God. Rome treated the Jews far more unjustly than England ever treated the American colonists. Paul told the Christians not to rebel and yet there are some Christians who use this passage to justify Christians participating in war. Some of these same Christians also believe the 13 colonies had God’s approval when they rebelled against the English!?
Some use Romans 13 to suggest that we are required to give the state great authority. However leading up to Romans 13 is Romans 10:9.
Romans 10:9 says: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If Jesus is Lord or (King) or (President) is it even possible to consider the worldly government (USA) (Great Britain) (Russian) etc. is in any way a higher authority than Jesus?
How Jesus Treated Enemies
In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus showed us how to treat our enemies.
The centurion was an enemy soldier. It is quite possible the centurion was one of the soldiers involved in killing Jews on crosses. Romans used the cross to keep the rebels in line.
When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, this is like an American Christian supplying Osama bin Laden with a dialysis machine in 2002. Or an American doctor helping a close adviser of Hitler using his medical healing powers during World War Two.
Position Of The Early Church On Violence
Even after Constantine came to power in 306 AD the 300 Bishops in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called Christians to leave the military and this was the official view of the Roman church at that time.
“Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years.” Excerpt from Cannon 12 of the Council of Nicaea.
Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.