War

Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust.

Psalm 144:1-2

War.  A terrible concept.  Hell visits Earth in battle.  Men kill.  Men die.

What is the Psalmist saying though here?  He isn’t exalting God for keeping him out of war, but for preparing him for it.

In that day, wars were fought up close and personal with sword, spear, ax, and club.  They were fought at throwing range with slings and javelins.  They were fought at slightly longer ranges with bows.

Wars were dirty business, just as they are today.  They required athleticism, just as they do today.  They required mental discipline, just as they do today.  They required a stout heart, a steady hand, and a discerning judgment, just as they do today.  Those truths are eternal and they hold true whether we are speaking about physical human war or spiritual war, like those we fight continually day-to-day just living on this Earth.

I know that I have been particularly laser-like in my focus on the current push for greater gun regulation.  I also know that it is a temporal issue, not an eternal one, but I also know that the Psalmist (whom I presume is David, the man after God’s own heart) wrote this Psalm.  I firmly believe that scripture speaks on multiple levels and while it is able to be interpreted that we also must not ignore the plain speech.

I hope that the next time you read scripture, you are shown not only the hidden deeper meaning to it, but also the bold plainly written one right in front of you.

If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

Luke 22:36, NIV

He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Luke 22:36, KJV

Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.

Luke 22:36, ESV

He that hath none, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword.

Luke 22:36, 1599 Geneva Bible

et qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium. (roughly translated: and who does not have, sell your tunic and buy sword.)

Luke 22:36, Vulgate

 

Lord, make me fast and accurate.
Let my aim be true and my hand faster
Than those who would seek to destroy me.
Grant me victory over my foes and those that
Wish to do harm to me and mine.
Let not my last thought be if I only had my gun.
Lord, if today is truly the day that you call me home,
Let me die praising your name and in a pile of empty brass.

 

 

What More Can We Do?

I have tried to focus on persecution this week and hope to have sufficiently shined a spotlight on how the modern church is not immune from persecution, but rather that it has evolved and adapted to attack the church effectively, but not necessarily violently as is the most easily recognizable form of persecution.  I think this is an often neglected topic because of how depressing it can be to see fellow believers, fellow humans, suffering at the hands or words of other human beings who either believe in a different religion or none at all and choose to attack the faithful.

As a man who lives in the freedom and liberty of the United States, I have the opportunity to look out at the world and see these atrocities, and like Peter, am prone to think first of the “sword” rather than God when I hear of them.  Rather than trusting God and having faith that His will is being played out, I think of protecting those that cannot protect themselves.  While this is not Biblically wrong as we are called to offer ourselves as a shield of protection for those that are unable, my myopic view fails me often.  I, aside from prayer, cannot impact what happens in Nigeria, Iran, or Malaysia any more than they can directly impact the persecution that may befall believers here in the United States.

I want to bridge the gap from the spiritual to the practical now.  Prayer is the best weapon to combat persecution as we hope to turn our persecutors into believers themselves and may need to suffer in order to accomplish this goal.  That is great in theory, but from a day-to-day perspective, we need to heed other teachings of Christ as well.

Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Luke 22:36

And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Luke 22:38

We are not called to sell our lives cheaply.  We might be a speck in terms of all things, but we are precious to God, which means we should consider ourselves as precious to Him.  This is where the concept of moral, lawful, and rightful self-defense originates.  Christ did not preach pacifism, nor militarism, but something contrary to both.

So back to the upper room, when Christ asked if there were swords present.  Christ, as God incarnate, knew there were swords there.  Now you could extend the story out to include the events at Gethsemane when one of the disciples used, presumably, one of those swords to sever the Priest’s servant’s ear so Christ could admonish them for it, but if you look at the context of the command, He is directing them to arm themselves if are not already armed.  By indicating that two swords were enough for their small group, you could also extend that out into modern thinking as not a force of arms (which would be the case if all were armed), but rather as a deterrent against force.

Now let’s take this scenario and fast-forward it to the modern day.  Your church is a ripe target for persecution in the form of a religiously-targeted attack.  When I wrote this, I cited statistics which show that religiously-targeted attackers are on the rise in the United States and violent crimes within churches as an whole are on the rise as well.  We need to be aware of this growing threat to our fellow believers and take deterrent measures, as I explained above.

Credit: Oleg Volk

What those measures are lie with you, your family, and your church.  Some may carry concealed as they are permitted, some may elect for pepper spray, some may reconsider where they attend church based on the neighborhood, some may ask their church to consider starting a security team or if there is already one in place.

Christ called the believers in His time on Earth His flock, implying sheep.  He is the Good Shepherd.  To steal a Toby Keith lyric, “when the wolf growls at the door” sometimes you need a sheepdog to scare the wolf away.

This mindset may be uniquely American, but by virtue of being an American and having the liberty to be that sheepdog for not only my family, but also my church, and the community at large, I can look out at the world and recognize the very real threats.  The very real persecutions just waiting to happen, but they will not happen needlessly or without cost.  We should not sell our lives cheaply for our faith.  The price for our lives is high, it is Christ’s blood.

Deterrence is the art of producing, in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack.

Sterling Hayden

 

Threats

One of my favorite talk radio hosts has a phrase he often uses: liberals love democracy until the vote doesn’t go their way.  To add substance to this quote, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s debate, a number of tweets flooded Twitter calling for assassinations of Governor Romney or riots should he win the general election come November.

While I take these threats with a grain of salt, I refuse to walk through life with blinders on.  There will be violence in that event.  It may not visit my neighborhood, or even my county, but I would rather be prepared for such an eventuality and not need to rely on my preparations.  I love to wade into the cultural war going on between right and left, good and evil, capitalism and communism, etc… and I sense a palatable amount of vitriol on both sides over this upcoming election.  This country is being divided into two camps.

There is little middle ground between the two, so the culture of animosity has grown since roughly the halfway point of the Clinton presidency by my personal estimation to what you see today.  I don’t believe that the conservatives will riot as they are… you know… conservative.  That usually means that they are more restrained (this is a generality and there are sure to be some examples where it is not true).

At this point you probably wonder why this matters.  If the chance is fairly low in your estimation, why bother talking about it?  Because I love my wife and my kids and I would be negligent in my duties as a husband, father, and protector of my family if I didn’t constantly have a keen eye watching the borders of my personal kingdom.

Whoa whoa whoa… kingdom?

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26

Man was made in the image of God.  God is the King of all creation, therefore we are charged with being kings as well.  We are kings over all of creation by design.  We have more specifically been charged to protect our wives and children though.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Ephesians 5:25

One of the attributes of a good king is that they constantly are on guard against an invasion or an attack.  Those that submit to the king rely on the king to guard their lives and to protect them from all aggressors.  So you can say that I am being paranoid, or you can think hard about your role within your family.  You can be a loving father and husband, but failing at one of your principal duties to your wife and children in that they are protected by you.

The next question you might be asking about now is: how can one man protect his family from a riot?

You took seriously this instruction from Jesus right?

“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

Luke 22:36

There is one other thing to consider though… even armed, against a riot, I don’t stand a chance alone, but if I ally myself with other similarly minded men… kings… then together we can defend our families.

Image Credit: Oleg Volk

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