Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Non-violence, Camp and Baseball!!! ("What will be God's if all things are Caesar's?")

Recently I have been really thinking about the idea of violence... or rather, non-violence. I am no where near being absolutely positive about certain aspects of this subject. The reason I bring it up is because people don't think about it; at all.

I am not asking people to be plagues by the Lord with thoughts that would keep them up all hours of the night (like myself). I am asking for the words to wash over you, even if it is just a water balloon breaking. This subject goes very deep.

Two conversations have stirred this desire in me. The first was at camp with my youth. We were laying in our beds at night discussing every nerd topic under the sun. But every once in a while, one would blurt out something absurd about our president. I ignored it until it got to much and then, without lecture, asked questions. "Why do you think that?" "Where did you get these ideas?" In a moment of truthfulness (which was hard to come by this week as my boys broke everything breaking in the cabins and wouldn't fess up) they would say things like, "I was raised that way." "This is what my parents say."

I understand that kids repeat what their parents say, and in politics it is probably more so. That isn't what surprised me; it was their honesty and their willing to check it against the loving words of Jesus. We quickly moved from politics to ethics. Though some try to confuse the two, ethics cannot be mashed in political party platforms. We started looking at Jesus' and the New Testament's teaching about violence because they were so interested in fighting and war and killing and wrestling. We looked at Matthew 5, 1 Peter, and Romans. We followed them to their logical conclusions which are that we cannot put to death anyone for any reason. The kids then asked a pertinent question that even I have been to afraid to ask. They, in their infinite wisdom said, "This stuff is awesome, how come the church doesn't teach this?" The emotions raged through me, for truly I don't know.

Today I went to a baseball game with some great people. I went wearing all A's stuff but rooted for the Giants the whole time. The conversation had turned to violence after talking about the attempts at diplomacy being practiced by the current administration. Some felt it was good, some suggested we preemptively nuke certain countries. I quickly turned the conversation to Jesus' words of nonviolence and love. The two who have not been around me very long to hear me try and bounce these ideas off of were completely taken aback. For as long as they have heard the words of Jesus and even had aspects of them memorized, the still had only thought long enough about them to dismiss them. One even jokingly confessed that if Jesus really did preaches and modeled complete nonviolence, then there was an area of contention between them and Jesus.

My own battle is that I tend to extreme very easily. So I am looking up "Just War Theory" (which is believing that scripture allows for just war) and trying to figure out where it came from or is allowed. I cannot. People will quote me the Old Testament all day long, but when Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said... But I tell you..." he is not merely adding on to the old law but changing to something completely different. The Old Testament no longer applies in areas where Jesus gives us new, more loving teaching. So when he says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies..." He is bringing about a kingdom and paradigm revolution that changes everything, especially how we are to see these new things.

The early church fathers had, I believe, the best view and ideas about Jesus' peace and nonviolence. They would say things like:

  • Hippolytus (approx. A.D. 200)
  • "The soldier of the government must be taught not to kill men. If ordered to, he shall not carry out the order, nor shall he take the military oath. If he does not accept this, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. The believers who wish to become soldiers shall be cast out, because they have despised God."
  • Tertullian (wrote between A.D. 195-212)
    • "For what difference is there between provoker and provoked? The only difference is that the former was the first to do evil, but the latter did evil afterwards. Each one stands condemned in the eyes of the Lord for hurting a man. For God both prohibits and condemns every wickedness. In evil doing, there is no account taken of the order, the commandment is absolute: evil is not to be repaid with evil."
    • "Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? Shall he who is not to avenge his own wrongs be instrumental in bringing others into chains, imprisonment, torment, death?"
  • Julian
    • "I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight.
  • Origen (approx. A.D. 250)
    • "We have come in accordance with the counsels of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take sword against nation, nor do we learn any more to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader."
  • Athenagoras (approx. A.D. 180
"We cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly."

  • Testament of Our Lord (approx. A.D. 220)
    "If a soldier or one in authority wishes to be baptized in the Lord, let them cease from military service or from the post of authority. And if not, let them not be received."
  • Lactantius (early 4th century)
    "The Christian does injury to no one. He does not desire the property of others. In fact, he does not even defend his own property if it is taken from him by violence. For he knows how to patiently bear an injury inflicted upon him." "When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare."
  • Tarachus (3rd century)
    "I have led a military life, and am a Roman; and because I am a Christian I have abandoned my profession of a soldier."
  • Justin Martyr (approx. A.D. 138)
    "The devil is the author of all war." "We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ."
    "We who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one - all the world over - changed the instruments of war, the swords into ploughs and the spears into farming instruments, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, and the hope which is from the Father Himself through the Crucified One."
    "We who hated and slew one another, and because of differences in customs would not share a common hearth with those who were not of our tribe, now, after the appearance of Christ, have become sociable, and pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate us unjustly, in order that they, living according to the good suggestions of Christ, may share our hope of obtaining the same reward from the God who is Master of all."
May we see that violence is never acceptable and that it so permeates our culture that logically we can reason it but it so tears the heart of God. May we love and pray and help even our enemies.May the church find a renewed love for Jesus and his words. May we have peace!

Blessings and Peace!

3 comments:

  1. Jaymes, I love that you are willing to stand for peace, for the peace of Christ in the face of the peace of the US. Guns and bombs will never bring about the peace we need.

    I will be praying for you and your conversation with the youth you disciple. This is a tough conversation, especially when you challenge parental theories, but a conversation which must take place.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement and love in a negative and violent culture. May we all learn something from the words of our Lord and the church fathers.

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  2. Jaymes! Thank you for continuing to post what is laid upon your heart. It's so good to hear your opinions and realizations, especially as you interact with the youth.

    This post has particularly helped in strengthening my understanding of my own position of peace and given me some of the words of God and our church fathers to better explain my position.

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  3. Thanks Nathan for commenting. Not for the praise so much but making it that much more like I am not alone. These are hard teachings that need to characterize the body of Christ...

    Bless you and Jason both!!!

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