Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christians and World (5.3)

Today's snippet from the second Paul book:
Interspersed in Paul’s comments about how believers should relate to each other are comments on how they should relate to those outside the church. What Paul says in Romans 12:18 is some of the best advice you could get on the subject: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The problem of course is that it is not always possible to live at peace with others. If someone else wants to pick a fight, then you simply cannot live at peace with them. It should be possible for you as a believer to live at peace with anyone through the power of the Holy Spirit. But because others often do not feel the same, sometimes we just have to walk away, or endure, or perhaps even go to war.

This last comment is a matter of debate among Christians. In our human mind, it seems impossible to picture a world where war or self-defense is not a necessary evil in some cases. Can I not shoot an intruder intent on killing or raping my spouse or children? Can a nation under attack not fight back or can a nation not come to the aid of another country in dire need? Common sense tells us that fighting in these cases is a lamentable but virtuous thing to do.

At the same time, the biblical case is not nearly as strong as some imagine. Jesus’ teaching in particular leans toward the pacifist—do not fight back—and some of the things Paul says in Romans 12 sound a lot like some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). For example, Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:14-15). This verse covers several elements in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. “Blessed are those who mourn” (5:4). “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness… Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (5:10, 12). Jesus goes on to say, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (5:39).

Some thus suggest that Paul is alluding to Jesus’ teaching when he says not to curse those who persecute you. Paul goes on to say, “Do not repay evil for evil” (12:17). You are not to get revenge for the bad things people do to you (12:19). Rather, Paul says to let God take care of it. “Leave room for God’s wrath,” Paul says. God is the one that gets to avenge wrongdoing. It is his to repay (12:20). We, by contrast, are to feed our enemy when he or she is hungry. We are to give drink to our enemy when he or she is thirsty. We are to “overcome evil with good,” while to respond to evil in kind is to be overcome by evil (12:21).


Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Sermon on the Mount has been understood many ways, but I don't dare "inform" you of that :). But, what my concern is that this view is a sectarian view of Christian faith.

Should Christians ignore what is wrong in the world, because to do otherwise would engage them in "the world"? This is what some think.

Or should Christians think that their life is not valuable or important, so they do not act as if it is valuable. They do this by "jumping in the dark" as to faith. Faith is "more important" in this way of thinking.

No, I think that the real world and one's personal individual life are both important to value. Otherwise, we become irrelavant to the real world, or we allow evil to prevail by "giving our lives over to whoever is "the determining force".

I think all humans are to be relavant and self-determining.

JohnM said...

Sometimes we have to enforce the law too. " force" (attibuted to George Washington). Force means violence, carried out or threatened. Government is not a necessary evil but a necessary good and it is God's will for our good that there should be government. Understanding this may or may not tell me anything about whether or not I personally and privately can fight for any reason, but I do conclude violence is not categorically wrong.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I do believe that government is to protect its citzenry. This is why the President pledges his oath to uphold the Constitution. Enemies, then, have to be treated as enemies, with care and caution.
(The SOM would have us "turn the other cheek" and let power over-ride, which is not practical in the real world, but good government does not do this.)

In regards to "government's good", government is a necessary evil, (I don't think government is 'good" except in the negative sense as it pertains to citizens. Postive government is intrusive and invasive, and this is what countries do to protect their interests against their enemies) that it, to defend its citzens from those that do not respect our lives or our liberty.

Marc said...

I'm beginning to think that the "lamentable" evils of things like Just War and of Eternal Conscious Torment maybe aren't as necessary as we think.

Jesus' followers would have drawn the sword but Jesus forbade it. The greater good was through the evil but, and here's the big BUT, the victim was willing.

Cross Theology does not say we must not defend, with violence if necessary, the victims of injustice. It is a call to Christians (only) to willingly submit to violence afflicting us.

Thus it is wrong to dismiss liberation theology in the name of the cross. We cannot tell "the least of these" to go through injustice and pain in the name of Jesus unless they already are Christians and choose too. Rather we should bear their burden and resist injustice in Jesus' name.

Can anyone imagine Jesus telling a blind person to "put up with it"?

We really need to see the distinction between the Church and the world with the former called not to privilege but to service of the latter and the latter not damned if it does not become the former.