While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
(Matthew 26:47-56 ESV)
As Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. After studying Matthew’s gospel for almost a year we might be inclined to think that the perpetrator of this impulsive act was Peter. And we’d be right [John 18:10].
But just as Jesus did on other occasions when any of the disciples did or said impetuous things, He rebukes Peter telling him to put his sword back into its place. Violence was not Jesus’ way while He was on earth. And it still is not His way today [2 Corinthians 10:4].
Christianity has never helped its own cause when it has engaged in physical warfare. Any time that it has used violence it has done more to damage to people’s perception of Jesus than to help it. Every war fought in the name of Christ has been a contradiction to Jesus’ approach to life and His commands to His followers. Even to this day, for example, skeptics point to the Crusades – which took place almost 1,000 years ago – as a reason not to believe. Whatever short-term gain the Crusades may have made has been wiped out by the long-term harm to people’s eternities they have caused.
Jesus’ arrest was a sham; He had done nothing wrong [John 19:4,6]. Yet even so, He does not accept vigilante justice on His behalf. Besides, as Jesus points out, those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Those people who commit violence against others, even for the sake of a noble and just cause, are acting against God’s laws and against the laws of human government as well. Therefore they run the risk of having to pay for their actions with their life (i.e. death penalty).
The battle we fight is not against flesh and blood but against the evil spirits who entice and tempt people to reject Jesus [Ephesians 6:12]. Jesus’ kingdom is not here on earth; it is in heaven. It is not a physical kingdom; it is a spiritual one. Therefore any earthly-fought “holy war” is unholy.
Besides, man’s power – even with modern weaponry – is futile compared to the legions of angels God can send to earth to fight on His behalf [2 Kings 19:35]. God does not need our help. It’s arrogance to think we are physically or mentally powerful enough to defeat His enemies. As further proof of this, Jesus restored the soldier’s ear [Luke 22:51].
We defend and promote Christ not by force but by our lifestyle. When we live the way God commands us to live – in submission to Him as Jesus demonstrated in Gethsemane – people will take notice and their objections will be defeated.
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