The Active Nonviolence of Jesus: Home Security (8 of 12)

PART 8 OF 12

Home Security

BY HERB MONTGOMERY

“But now I tell you, Love your enemies.” —Jesus, Matthew 5.44Part 8

This week, I want to address the single greatest objection to the peace teachings of Jesus that I get. This question is raised almost every time Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence are beginning to be taken seriously. The question is:

What would you do if someone broke into your home?

Rather than beginning with the emotions of this worst-case scenario, I want to begin with the actual teachings of Jesus and work our way back out to its application this week. I believe that the answer is in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. I want to recommend that you go back and reread Part 3 as a foundation for what we are going to share this week.

I also want to recommend a very small volume that, in my opinion, is one of the best little books written on this subject: John Howard Yoder’s What Would You Do? It’s a quick read but one of the most excellent writings on the subject I’ve come across.

In answer to the above question, I want to make it clear that I don’t know what I would do until I’m faced with a situation, but I do know what I should do, and this is where we begin this week.

Whenever I have discussed this question, I have noticed that there seems to be a lot of binary thinking on this matter. I mean by this that, usually, someone perceives only two options: shoot the invader or do nothing. But there are a multitude of other creative, nonviolent options when one stops to consider what could happen. Besides this, studies also show that adding either a gun or an additional gun to such a situation statistically raises the odds that the outcome is going to be the exact opposite of what we would think. Things do not always go the way we plan; we assume that, if we pick up a gun, the outcome will be they lose and we win. But statistics show the exact opposite. However, nowhere did Jesus ever teach in Matthew 5 to “do nothing,” a passive response. Love demands that we do something to protect our loved ones, but it also dictates the form that something takes given that Jesus died for the invader as well, which makes him also a sacred creature in need of being rescued just as much as those the intruder is threatening. The intruder is simply a conduit. Let me explain.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6.12). This means that not only do those being threatened need to be rescued from this attacker but that the attacker himself is not the enemy either but a victim himself of the REAL enemy. He is in need of being rescued just as much as those he intends to harm.

To illustrate, Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of all the ways that racism affects racists themselves. He saw them, too, as fully and tragically human—God’s children—victimized by the evil system they perpetuate. He taught that every kind of evil cripples the persecutor as well as the victim. Both are dragged down by the same process. As long as that process continues, they are tied together. Whatever happens to one happens to both. And then he warned, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

I’m with Dr. King on this one. I believe that Jesus really meant it when He taught, “Love your enemies.” Too many times, we look at intruders as someone we don’t know, valueless, meaningless. But I want you to imagine an intruder standing in your home, pulling back the ski mask, and you realize that it is actually one of your own children. Would your feelings then be different? Would your response take a different form? Yes, you would still seek to stop him from hurting your other loved ones, but you would do it in a way that also preserved the life and, therefore, the hope of redemption for your child as well. You see, no matter whom the intruder is, this is still a child of God, someone Jesus died for, that you have been called to reach out to and try to save, too. What you would feel toward the intruder if he were your child is what God feels toward him since he is His child. God seeks to save both the victims and the victimizers in this war-torn world of ours. Let me share with you a few stories.

A Mennonite follower of Jesus, was once asked whether, if an intruder broke into his home and, for a split moment, laid his gun down, would he pick it up and use it? What would he do? The dear Mennonite said something that challenges me, too. He said that he would drop to his knees and pray because, through prayer, he would connect himself with Someone much more powerful than the intruder’s gun. It’s something to at least think about.

A pastor friend of mine also tells a story that I believe helps illustrate this as well. One day, on the streets of Toronto, while in conversation with another individual, he noticed an African American woman tear past him running as if afraid for her life. Moments later, a gang of “skinheads” went racing past in pursuit. My pastor friend immediately dropped the conversation and began chasing after them. The whole time, he was thinking, “I’m a pacifist; what on earth can I do once I catch up to them?” He rounded a corner and, right in front of him, was the woman, huddled on the ground, surrounded by the men, who were kicking her with blows aimed to kill. He did the only thing he knew to do. He hurled himself through the crowd and threw himself on top of this dear lady to place himself between her and her attackers. Then he shouted out something that today he says was probably the stupidest thing he could have said. He shouted, “I’m a follower of Jesus, so that means I can’t do two things!” They all stopped. Silence came over the group. My pastor friend then said, “I’m a follower of Jesus and that means I cannot let you kill her, but as a follower of Jesus, I cannot fight you back.”

The group became confused. They then turned their venom on him, saying things such as, “Man, what are you doing? You’re a whitey!” Then they began to argue among themselves: “Do we kill him too?” The group began to argue until someone spoke up and said that this was taking too long, and, becoming concerned with their own vulnerability, they began to disperse.

Again, love demands that we do something, but it also dictates the form that something should take.

An Australian friend of mine, wrestling with this same issue, came to this conclusion: “God could have taken the Adversary out in the very beginning, saving millions from him. But God took a different tack. This, undeniably, is one of the greatest problems people have with God. Why did He not kill Lucifer? Why did He permit Lucifer to live? And though I don’t have all the answers, the fact the God didn’t just pick up the gun and blow Lucifer away, at the very minimum, speaks volumes to me.”

As we close this week, I want us to consider the story of Peter and his defense of Jesus, whom he thought was defenseless. His heart, being in the right place, sought to protect the One he loved, which wasn’t wrong by any means, yet the form that that protection took warranted one of the strongest rebukes given by Jesus to anyone in the gospels:

Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; No more of this!! 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?” (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18)

Someone may object, saying, “Yes, but Jesus was supposed to die! With us, it’s different!” But I would humbly remind us of the words of Jesus Himself. The cross was not something that Jesus was to die on instead of us. Jesus was not to be unique as the cross-bearer. He was simply the first, being an example that His followers were to follow.

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9.23-24)

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. (John 12.23-26)

“And whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10.38)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16.24)

He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.34)

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14.27)

As followers of Jesus, we are called, in all our doings, to lay down the sword and to pick up, in its place, the cross. We are living demonstrations of not the perpetrator-sacrificing love of God but the SELF-sacrificing love of God.

What would I do if someone broke into my home? I don’t know the answer to that and will not until it actually happens, but I know that, whatever I do, what I am called to do is to respond in a nonviolent way that seeks to save not just those who are in immediate danger but to save each person who is involved from being victimized by this event, those being threatened as well as the one who is the conduit of the threat. Some will say, “But we have no guarantee that will work!” Two things: picking up an additional gun doesn’t guarantee that, either. We think it gives us more of an advantage, but again, statistics show this to be utterly false, showing that what really happens is not an increase in the odds that things will turn out for the better but an increase in the odds that things will turn out much worse than they otherwise would have been. Finally, as followers of Jesus, we do not embrace non-violence because it always works but because non-violent, self-sacrificial love, even toward our enemies, is what we are called to and commanded by our Lord Jesus.

Again, there’s much to think about this week. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. We are called to protect our loved ones, but to, at the same time, recognize, the inestimable, immeasurable, infinite worth that every human being has in the heart of God, regardless of what they are doing at this present moment. They are someone Jesus died for. They are a sacred creature, whom we are called to save just as much as we save our loved ones. We are called to love both.

Next week, we’ll discuss two more objections together.

Keep living in love, thinking like Christ, living like Christ, serving like Christ, and loving like Christ.

I love you guys.

I’ll see you next week.

 

The Active Nonviolence of Jesus: Old Testament Violence (7 of 12)

PART 7 OF 12

Old Testament Violence

BY HERB MONTGOMERY

Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various forms by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by a Son [Who is] the exact image of God’s very being. Hebrews 1.1-3

This week, I want to share with you some thoughts that were revolutionary when they were shared with me. I have to admit from the very beginning this week, that these thoughts and way of interpreting the Old Testament are not original to me by any means, but were the common way the early church interpreted it; this method was rediscovered during the Second Reformation of the sixteenth century. But that’s a history for another time and place. This week, we are endeavoring to reconcile the God we see in the Old Testament with the God we see in the Person of Jesus Christ.

I also want to make it clear that I am one of those who deeply wrestles with much of what I see in the God of the Old Testament. I have, over and over, in the last twenty years, revisited the Old Testament God, trying to make sense out of Him. I have read book after book, but nothing seemed to quite answer it for me. But here is the rub: I really didn’t know what my problem was. It was vague and unidentifiable. For example, I’d read a book on this topic and say, “Well, that’s all well and good and all, but there’s something still missing. I’m missing something. That doesn’t seem to quite fix it.” Another example of this was in a presentation I made three years ago in Northern California for a week-long gathering of many different speakers. The title was Jekyll and Hyde. And while I was pleased with how the presentation went and truly believed everything I had shared and felt it came across simply and clearly, I walked away with that unidentifiable gnawing once again inside me, saying, “Yeah, but that still doesn’t quite solve it.”

Two years ago, I remember sitting on a plane reading Paul Copan’s book Is God A Moral Monster? and feeling the exact same way. There is a lot that’s good in the book; some thoughts were new to me, but I still sat there feeling like it didn’t really solve things for me.

Then, last December, sitting at a restaurant, having lunch with a pastor friend of mine (Dr. Gregory Boyd) in St. Paul, not the answer, but the problem I had been having became clear as sunlight to me. I remember sitting there with Greg, the two of us talking about this very topic we are discussing this week, and Greg said something that made my years of wrestling click! I didn’t have the answer yet, but, for the first time, my problem made sense. All these authors I had been reading did an excellent job of trying to soften the picture we get of the Old Testament God. They had invested page after page of writing and intellectual energy trying to reconcile the Old Testament God with “justice” to make Him look fair, so to speak, righteous even, or right. And while I admire their efforts to make the God of the Old Testament look less ugly, they really weren’t solving MY problem with Him.

You see, there is a world of difference between reconciling the God of the Old Testament with justice and reconciling the God of the Old Testament with Jesus.

My problem was How do you reconcile the picture of God we get from the Old Testament with the picture of God we get in the Person of Jesus Christ? What I was about to discover over the next few months, after defining my actual problem, was actually the way the secondary reformers solved the same problem in the sixteenth century, and, much to my surprise, a rediscovery of the way the early church reconciled this difference too. And this is where we pick up this week’s focus text:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son [who is] the exact imprint of God’s very being. Hebrews 1.1-3

Now, I want to look at this concept in general terms first and then we will apply it specifically to the current subject of Non-Violence or the Peace teachings of Jesus. There are three terms we need to become familiar with: 1) Concession, 2) Accommodation, and 3) the Ideal.

Let’s talk about concession first, and I’ll try and keep this brief. Imagine with me that I am a missionary and I have just landed in an undeveloped area of this world with a few unique characteristics. First, the people there have never seen a white person before. (Imagine them poking my skin repeatedly). Second, they are cannibals (which may be why they were poking my skin: checking my tenderness, come to think of it). And, lastly, they had some unique beliefs. They are a very violent people who worship their dead ancestors, and once a year, they offer in sacrifice a new-born baby in a religious ceremony in honor of their dead ancestors. Now, here is the challenge: I am a follower of Jesus and I am going to try to win them to following Jesus too. However, I can’t just bulldoze over their existing culture. I have to work slowly with these people. If I were to push them too far and too fast, I would wind up losing them and maybe even end up on their plates. So, what should I do? What would you start with first? I don’t know about you, but the first place I would start is to try to get them to offer an animal instead of those babies once a year. (With the intent that I would eventually get them away from even doing that!)

But, while I’m working on that, I’m going to have to concede, or ignore, those other things. What would be supremely unfair is if someone were to make a judgment about what I believed, based on the time I was working with this barbaric culture. It would be a gross misrepresentation of who I am. I actually do this on a regular basis. When I get to a church for a weekend event, I have to size that church up rather quickly, decide what areas to leave alone and what areas God would have me address that weekend. Some fish are bigger fish to fry than others, and I’m there for only a short time. Where am I going to do the most good in the shortest amount of time? But, for someone to assume that I believe everything that church believes just because I didn’t address something would be a grossly unfair assumption. This leads me to my point.

The God we see in the Old Testament is making concession after concession trying to reach the people of the culture of the time. God does not start with an ideal and speaking condemnation toward us for not measuring up. God does not start where He wishes we were, condemning us for what we are not. God starts where we actually are, and then speaks hope while patiently and graciously loving us into becoming what we can be.

On top of all of this, you have to add the reality that these people God was working with had their own misconceptions of what a “god” should be. Not understanding what strength really is, if God showed up looking like Jesus, they would have seen this as weakness and followed after a different God instead, such as Baal, Dagon, Chemosh, Astarte, etc. Israel struggled with this enough as it was. God has to move them slowly to try to effect change without it being too much too fast, and losing them. It would be grossly unfair to define what we believe about God’s ideals from this era of the scriptures. It would be fair to see in them how far God will go to meet us where we are. That is beautiful!

Now let’s talk about accommodations. There are seven areas I want to quickly note that help us see how God sometimes accommodates where we are at, temporarily. We’ll take our time with the first, which will enable us to quickly understand the remaining six at a glance. This first one is the polygamy of the Old Testament. To be perfectly clear, God’s ideal for marriage is revealed in the Genesis Narrative. But what happens when you find yourself in a culture that is extremely patriarchal and chauvinistic, where women are little more than property? This is evil, but you must slowly bring these people to see how evil it is so they themselves turn from this evil. But, add to this the fact that this culture is also very barbaric and war-mongering, and through the repeated violence of war, there are many more women than men. The only way for these women to survive in this culture is to be connected to a man (either a father or a husband). Yes, our ideal is that a marriage consists of only two people, but if something isn’t done quickly and temporarily, mind you, countless women will be forced into slavery or prostitution to escape the poverty of begging. So, what do you do? Polygamy is evil, but do you allow it for a time, temporarily, knowing that even though it’s not ideal, for the time being, it is the lesser of two evils?

This brings me to my point on accommodations. God is accommodating. Unlike ethical principles, which are always abstract, universal, and idealistic, God always perfectly tailors the ideals of the ideal to the complex uniqueness of each individual’s non-ideal life situation in the present. We live out this image of God by following God’s example by loving people where they are in the complexity and uniqueness of their non-ideal situations and without judgments. This is not relativizing morality. On the contrary, it is recognizing the difference between God’s accommodating will and His ideal will. God’s ideal will is what God wants, given a perfect situation. God’s accommodating will is God’s will, given the situation we are in, which is anything but perfect. We follow God’s example in this when we hold the ideal, subservient to love. Morality is absolute, but only God can direct us to apply the ideal in a particular non-ideal situation.

We see God doing this over and over again in the Old Testament. Starting with polygamy (Exodus 21.10), slavery (Deuteronomy 23.15), Israel having a King (1 Samuel 8.22), the Nationalism of the Old Testament (verses “All People”), all the way to the Law itself, with all its punishments and rewards (Deuteronomy 28, see also the presentations on our Website entitled Intrinsic or Imposed and No Longer Under The Law. When we, as parents, lay down the law for our children we know that this is a way of relating to them that is only temporary and we hope they learn the lessons before they reach 18. As a side note, if you were to ask my nine-year-old to write my biography, it too would look a lot like the Old Testament. But if I were to ask her to rewrite my biography when she reaches 40, I’m quite sure she would paint a more complete picture of what I really am like as a person. Some might even say that I had changed between the two writings, when, in fact, it was not a change in me that took place, but a maturity that took place in my daughter who was writing. See also 1 Corinthians 13.9-10 and Hebrews 8.13).

The Patriarchy of the Old Testament is like this as well. Compare the Patriarchy of the Old Testament with Jesus’ treatment of women according to first century Jewish standards, and the result is breathtaking (See Luke 10.38-41, This passage challenges the role designations for women in the first century; the role of disciple and future minister of Jesus’ message is more critical than that of homemaker and hostess, and is also open to women. People normally sat on chairs or, at banquets, reclined on couches; but disciples sat at the feet of their teachers. Serious disciples were preparing to be teachers—a role not permitted to women. (The one notable exception in the second century was a learned rabbi’s daughter who had married another learned rabbi; but most rabbis rejected her opinions.) Mary’s posture and eagerness to absorb Jesus’ teaching at the expense of a more traditional womanly role (10:40) would have shocked most Jewish men and Jesus affirms Mary as belonging there (See also, Galatians 3.28).

Here is the point of it all for this week: Strip away all the concessions and accommodations of the God of the Old Testament, and you get a God who looks like Jesus.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son [who is] the exact imprint of God’s very being. Hebrews 1.1-3

We must be careful here. It would do us well to remember what happened when God, in the person of Jesus, showed up to His people in the past. They were so invested in the concessions and accommodations that when they ideal showed up, the difference was so stark and so intolerable, the cognitive dissonance was so great between what they believed God to be like and what He was really like, they could not take it, and they crucified Him.

This is where it applies to our topic in this series. When you look at the violence of the God of the Old Testament, you have to ask yourself, Is this a concession, an accommodation or is it God’s ideal? I’ll give you a text that I believe gives us a hint.

But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. Exodus 23.29-30

God’s ideal for the Canaanites was not a violent loss of life, but simply relocation, with no loss of life. I don’t know what happened between Exodus 23 and the time of Joshua, but I have to, at the very least, allow this to confront my deepest assumptions about the violence I see in the Old Testament. Again, strip away all the concessions and accommodations, and you get a God who looks like Jesus, who, rather than demanding the death of His enemies, allows them to put Him to death in an effort to actually save them.

You see, the early church saw these differences between Jehovah and Jesus. But rather than throwing out the concessions and accommodations, they kept them, recognizing them for what they were and held Jesus to be their more complete standard of living. We must remember that the early church viewed everything in the scriptures now through the lens of the person of Jesus Christ. They were not called “Biblians” or “Scripturians,” but “Christians.” This should speak volumes to us today. How do you know when something in the scriptures is a concession, an accommodation, or the ideal? This is why the entire volume of the scriptures must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, everything from Genesis to Revelation must be studied in the light streaming from the Cross. If it doesn’t look like Jesus, then it’s not the ideal; we can assume it’s a concession or an accommodation of God, not showing us a complete picture of what God approves of or desires, but rather a beautiful picture of how far God is willing to go to meet us where we are at and patiently and lovingly grow us into people who look like Jesus, talk like Jesus, understand like Jesus, serve like Jesus, live like Jesus, and love like Jesus. The moral standard for a follower of Jesus is not the Old Testament, not even the ten rules that are the foundation and heart of the Old Testament. Rather, the standard of morality for the follower of Jesus is actually something which doesn’t contradict those ten rules but is infinitely more complete and full. It’s actually Jesus Himself. That’s why they are called “followers” of Jesus.

Let’s close this week by looking at two words, a concept really that Paul uses over and over again in the New Testament. What are these two words? Shadows versus Reality.

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ . . . is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. Colossians 2.17 & Hebrews 10.1 (See also Hebrews 8.5)

What is a shadow? It’s the absence of light. It’s darkness. But it’s darkness in the outline of its reality. It’s darkness in the shape of what it’s supposed to resemble. It is not the reality itself, but simply darkness in the shape of the reality. Paul is brilliant here. This, I believe perfectly, illustrates exactly what the Old Testament is. God took the darkness of cultures He was trying to reach in the Old Testament and shaped them in such a way that we get an outline of Him, but not a clearly discernible or even always accurate picture. Shadows, although they tell us something of the reality, can, many times, be distorted, even misshaped. And how do we begin to see the difference between what is something’s shadow and what is it really? We have to look at the reality itself. Take a sunflower, for example. The shadow may make us think the flower is actually taller than it really is? How do we know whether that is the case or not? We have to look at the actual flower. In the Old Testament, we see God taking the ugliness of the culture He was trying to reach and shaping into something that vaguely resembled Him. How do we know what in the “shadow” is a distortion and what is real? We have to have to look, actually, at God Himself! And where do we see God Himself, not in shadow form, but in reality? Where do we actually see God? In Jesus Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Colossians 2.9

Again, for the last time:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways [polytropos – many forms] by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son . . . [who is] the exact representation [or image] of God’s very being. Hebrews 1.1-3

It is also interesting to note, especially in the context of this series, that when pacifism began to be abandoned shortly after Constantine became “Christian,” within Constantinian Christianity we see a clean departure from the teachings and person of Jesus in the writings of the church’s theologians and scholars. Figures from the Old Testament such as Joshua and David (the violent warriors of the Old Testament) become the church’s heroes and the justification for its new “justified violence” theory. Jesus ceases to be the central figure, and becomes slowly marginalized and pushed to the sideline. Where has this gotten us? Richard Dawkins (a self-proclaimed atheist), ignoring the picture of God that we get from Jesus and strictly taking his impression of God from the Old Testament, I believe, is a clear example of what happens when we give the Old Testament more weight, more credence, greater value in shaping what God is really like than the person of Jesus:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” ? Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

We must let this confront us. Is Evangelical Christianity’s current approval of violence based on and justified by arguments taken from Old Testament stories, or rather, the clear teachings and example of Jesus?

No one has ever seen God [even in the Old Testament], but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1.18

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14.9

This series is a call to all of those who claim the name of Jesus to actually return to what Jesus actually believed about the character of God and Jesus’ teachings and the example of how we are to live. Again, when it comes to the pictures of God, including the violent ones, that we get from the Old Testament, we must ask ourselves, looking at those images of the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus Christ, whether those stories reveal an accurate representation of what God is really like or whether they are Divine concessions and accommodations. The authority for moral behavior for a follower of Jesus is actually Jesus! His commands, His teachings, His example. Followers of Jesus are called to view God as Jesus revealed Him and to think like Jesus, serve like Jesus, live like Jesus, love like Jesus, to be “Jesus” to the World around us. Something “better” than the Old Testament has arrived. It’s the person of Jesus Christ.

Keep living in love and loving like Jesus. Now, go build the Kingdom.

I love you guys.

I’ll see you next week.

Herb

 

The Active Nonviolence of Jesus: The Church & The Empire (6 of 12)

PART 6 OF 12

The Church & The Empire

BY HERB MONTGOMERY

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Well it’s been a whole month since our last eSight/podcast in this series, and I’d like to thank each of you for your patience during the month of July. We spent the first half of the month without electricity and the entire month without Internet or phone service, due to the storms that tore through West Virginia on the first of the month. It’s been quite an adventure around here, but we are finally getting back on our feet. Thank you sincerely for all your prayers and support during this time. (The length of this week’s eSight I’m sure will make up for the lack of eSights for the entire last month. Please be prepared, this week’s eSight is rather lengthy, but it needs to be to help us get our minds wrapped around why Paul wrote Romans 13.)

Last night I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend on how Jesus’ peace teaching has revolutionized their life and transformed their picture of God. If we understand Jesus’ peace teachings correctly, they also revolutionize our understanding of the purpose of the Cross. The Cross was not about Divinely demanded violence, but God’s non-violent response to the Devil as well as our rebellion, which defeated the real Enemy, established God’s Kingdom here on earth again, and provided the means whereby we might be healed and restored from the whole experience. We are going to be closing this series with these thoughts so I won’t jump ahead to explaining them now. But we will get there. And in order to get there and to correctly see what Calvary was truly all about we must first get our heads around what Jesus’ peace teaching actually were.

Our passage this week is a passage with no small challenges. Parallel truths must be held in tension in order to come to the conclusions that Paul intended here in this passage. We must also be careful not to read our own agendas or nationalism into the passage, but to allow the passage to speak for itself, giving us Paul’s intended agenda. The problem Christians were facing in Paul’s day was that Christians were being forced to pay taxes to Rome to fund activities that went against their consciences or what they believed to be right. (Tax dollars funded Rome’s killing of Christians, Rome’s merciless slaughter of its political enemies, and Rome’s permissive stance toward infanticide.) How did Paul counsel them to react? This is why Paul wrote Romans 13.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1)

Then Paul launches into why followers of Jesus are to live lives that are “subjected” to whatever kingdom of this world they find themselves in, even when they conscientiously disagree with what that particular kingdom is doing.

For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:6-7)

I want to be clear from the very start of this section that to call Rome “God’s Servant” would have been extremely offensive to some Christians during this time. We must remember though, that just because someone or something is “God’s Servant” or has been “established by God,” it does not mean that God approves of everything this “agent” does, or that this agent always follows God’s will.

An example of this is found in the history of the Church itself. The Church (universal, not denominational) is established by God and is also one of God’s servants on this planet, BUT the Church’s history is chock full of times when the it has repeatedly strayed and done things that were anything but God’s will. You see, just because something is God’s servant or is established by God and given some authority over a certain domain, that does not negate free will. (By “free will” I simply mean the ability to make choices other than what God desires. I’m fully aware of the philosophical debate currently revolving in our culture around deterministic causes, influences, and how “free” the human will really is. I am simply using the term free will to refer to the ability to choose between “this or that.”)

Let me give another quick example of a kingdom of this world that was God’s agent, or servant, and yet exercised its free will to do something contrary to God’s desire.

But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster. (Zechariah 1:15)

The context of this passage reveals how God used the nations surrounding Israel in the Old Testament to teach stubborn Israel how to influence society through “coming under” the nations they disdained, by taking away their “power to rule over” others. (see also Luke 22:25-6). Zechariah clearly states that these nations took it, though, too far, unleashing violence and destruction much more severe than what God intended. Therefore, they, too, were now going to receive God’s judgments.

We must understand this balance between Divine “agency/establishment” and the deep disapproval and rejection by God when these agencies act deeply contrary to what God established them for. Otherwise, we back ourselves into corner where we have to embrace things such as the horrors of the holocaust by Hitler and the Nazi Party as somehow an extension of God’s activity, rather than being able to rightly identify a renegade free will that is grossly abusing the governmental authority God gives to kingdoms of this world.

We must remember, when Paul wrote this, he wasn’t writing about some nation somewhere that doing things according to Biblical principles. The governing authority Paul was referring to was Rome! The very Rome that had crucified Jesus, and was now killing Christians, too!

But how does this apply to us today?

What we see in Romans chapter thirteen is that God has established two agencies in our current reality with two different roles:

1) kingdoms of the world

2) Christ’s Kingdom, which is “not of this world.”

As subjects of Christ’s Kingdom, we are called to live lives in submission to whatever kingdom of this world we find ourselves living in, realizing that even though we are not citizens of that kingdom but of a different kind of Kingdom, we are still to submit to whatever powers that be that exist in the kingdom of this world we find ourselves living under.

(It would be helpful at this stage if you are unfamiliar with the terms Intrinsic or Imposed to go back and listen to the presentation Love Me or I’ll Kill You in The Jesus Dialogue series on our website.)

The role of Christ’s Kingdom and the role of kingdoms of this world are radically different. The role of those who are part of Christ’s Kingdom is to put on display the beauty of God’s radical, other-centered, self-sacrificial love, continuing the work that Christ Himself began. The role of the kingdoms of this world is best understood by the “imposed” paradigm. In the Old Testament Israel played the roles of both agent of imposed consequences and instructor of intrinsic consequences. This produced a very unclear, confusing picture of who God is and what He is really like. In the New Testament however, these two roles are separated. Those who claim to be members of Christ’s Kingdom are to live lives that point others to a picture of God that looks like Jesus. They are also to understand that the role of any kingdom of this world is NOT to reveal the truth about God, but rather to serve as a temporary accommodation (using the sword), being the lesser of two evils, to keep, through imposed law, those who are NOT members of Christ’s Kingdom from self destruction! In other words, their role is to keep humanity from killing itself off through the rampant violence and oppression of the strong against the weak. Some kingdoms of this world do it well. Some kingdoms of this world miserably fail. But none, even America, do it perfectly.

As a tangent, this is why I, personally, can agree that war is evil, and that followers of Christ, as members of His Kingdom, are NEVER to participate in war, and yet I must be extremely careful to not become obsessed with what any kingdom of this world is doing. When did Jesus ever concern Himself with how Caesar ran Rome? It (and America too) was a kingdom of this world, and Jesus knew He had a very different agenda from Rome. (This will become increasing clearer as we look next at Paul’s words about taxes.)

In other words, our goal is not to reform whatever kingdom of this world we find ourselves in. Our role is to live lives of radical, other-centered, self-sacrificial love, non-violent love, putting on display the beauty of what God is really like as seen in the person of Jesus, realizing that we are part of a very different Kingdom which seeks to make a difference, which seeks to influence society, by very different methods. We are called to influence society, not by legislative “power over” but rather through the power of “coming under” others, with humble servant love, and to change society through non-violent power of humble servant love

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-7, emphasis added.)

Let’s get back to our original passage. Paul then concludes all of this by saying:

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:6-7)

This is in perfect harmony with what Jesus also taught. Note the question and then Jesus’ answer.

“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” . . . He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Luke 20:22-5)

Neither Jesus nor Paul endorsed everything those taxes were supporting or funding. But still they said, “pay your taxes.” The focus of a follower of Jesus is not to withhold taxes as a means of forcing political reform. To reform how Rome did things would be short-sighted, as both Paul and Jesus rightly understood and taught. Rather, they both chose to focus on influencing and changing society through a radically different and more effective method instead. Both said, “Let me show you how to live in a way that will bring the end of all kingdoms of this world and their replacement by a radically different kind of Kingdom.”

This affects one’s view of patriotism too, which we will address shortly as well, but please notice the difference. As followers of Jesus, we do not pay our taxes because we are Americans, but rather because we are followers of Jesus and as our Lord, He commands us to pay the taxes due to whatever kingdom of this world we find ourselves living under. Pay your taxes! But live radical, other-centered, self-sacrificial lives of non-violent, humble servant love, which, when the principle of the mustard seed is understood correctly, will be the undoing of whatever kingdom of this world you find yourself in. I’ll say more about this in a moment when we talk about Constantine, but first I want to address five related applications to this.

1)The Current Health Care Debate:

I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m not going to give you my political opinion on the current health care debate. I want to simply point out a few balancing considerations. First, as followers of Jesus we are members of a different Kingdom. We need to be careful not get all worked up because we are invested in what is happening to “our country.” America is NOT “our country.” It may be, in your opinion, the best kingdom this world currently has to offer. But it’s still, at best, a kingdom of this world. You belong to a different Kingdom as a follower of Jesus, a kingdom that is not of this world. And even if your tax dollars are going to fund health plans that support abortions, whether you agree with this or not, we must remember that in Jesus and Paul’s day, taxes went to fund things that were directly opposed to the values of Jesus’ Kingdom too, such as killing Christians, and the militaristic enlargement of Rome’s boarders. But both Jesus and Paul still said, even though those taxes are going to pay for things that go against what you believe to be right, pay your taxes, and then live a life of love that will bring about the replacement of this current kingdom of this world with a radically different Kingdom. (

Followers of Jesus in the first century were highly subversive when it came to Rome, even though they were also submitted. Even the terms “Gospel” and “Savior of the World” were Romans labels that were typically applied to Caesar. Jesus’ followers took these and applied them to Jesus instead. Today, we too must remember, the last great hope of this world is not America. The last great hope of the world today is the person Jesus Christ)

2) Abortion:

Again, I’m not going to give you my political opinion on this either. But I must confess that I love the way Mother Theresa responded to abortion. She didn’t seek to change society through legislative “power over.” Rather, she went to women who did not want their babies and asked if she could raise them. I’m not saying sit back and do nothing. I’m simply saying that we should never for a moment think that the Kingdom has been advanced by how we vote. Christ’s Kingdom was not advanced by getting Rome to pass certain laws. Christ’s Kingdom isn’t advanced through how we vote but through how we bleed. If you want to take a strong stance against abortion, then by all means, do it, but do it through the ways of the Kingdom. Go out right now and find an unwed mother who is scared to death, and instead of judging her, put your arm around her and tell her you’ve got her. She is not alone. Invite her into your home for the next nine months and tell her you’re going to walk through this with her.

During the next nine months, if she invites you in on the subject, then by invitation only, you can give her your opinion on what she should do. And if she decides to keep her baby, then you either help her find a good home for the child to be raised in, or you dedicate the next eighteen years of your life helping her raise her child. I know, it’s a huge investment to live your life in a Kingdom way. I know it’s easier to vote. But again, the Kingdom is advanced, not in how we vote, but in how we bleed. The Kingdom advances through radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love. First-century Christians understood this. They did not lobby Rome to outlaw infanticide. Rather, they hung out under bridges actually catching the babies families were throwing into the rivers. Were they deeply concerned? Yes. Did they act on that concern saving countless lives? Yes. Did they do so by petitioning Rome to change Roman laws? No. They understood that when Christ’s Kingdom partners with a kingdom of this world as a method of furthering its values, it simply ends up in the Church becoming the State’s whore. (See Revelation 17)

3)Voting:

Am I saying “don’t vote”? By all means, no! If the kingdom of this world that you are living under asks your opinion on how they should do things, by all means, give it to them. But don’t allow yourself to think you have advanced Christ’s Kingdom by giving your opinion on how a certain kingdom of this world should go about doing things.

4) The Economy, Gun Control, Gay Marriage, Prayer in Schools . . . and the list goes on and on:

I want you to imagine Peter (the sword wielding, political zealot) and Matthew (the Jewish tax collector for the Roman version of the IRS) sitting down by a fire one night and having a conversation about the policies of Rome and how faithful and godly Jews should respond. This would be the equivalent of inviting a passionate Democrat and a passionate Republican over for a dinner and striking up a conversation about politics, on steroids! But both Matthew and Peter saw themselves as brothers, and fellow followers of Jesus, members of a radically different Kingdom which made their political disagreements irrelevant. The danger is when someone thinks that just because they are a follower of Jesus, that makes them somehow a political expert and that their position is the “Christian” position and that if you disagree with them on how a certain kingdom of this world should do things, somehow you are less a follower of Jesus than them, less a member of Christ’s Kingdom then them. We may feel very passionately about political opinions, but we must be very careful NOT to attach Jesus to our political agendas. To do so only damages the Kingdom we should be most concerned with and passionate about.

5)War

Paul’s words in Romans 13 should not be used as a blanket endorsement of everything any kingdom of this world does. It didn’t mean a blanket endorsement for Rome, and it doesn’t mean so for America. Too many times, I hear those who believe in justified violence using Romans 13 to justify being America’s loudest cheerleaders when America goes to war. No. What Romans 13 is saying is to live submitted, and even if you don’t agree with everything your tax dollars are paying for, pay your taxes. Nowhere in Romans 13 does Paul encourage us to join Rome in picking up the sword against Rome’s enemies! Within the context of Romans 13 (Romans 12), Paul actually says just the opposite.

Romans 12:17-21—Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So what do we do if we are forced into military service by the kingdom of this world we are living under if it should go to war? The answer to this isn’t simple, but one option, if it is available, is to register as a non-combatant. I know many vets who are my heroes who were pacifists but served in the military as medics. I do want to say here again that the Christian pacifism is very different than political pacifism. We are called to, as far as possible, live peaceable with all. I have a dear friend who was a medic in Vietnam who, every time I talk about Jesus’ peace teachings, becomes uncomfortable because he remembers being spit on by political anti-war activists when he returned home. That kind of political activism is antithetical to, and not fitting of, anyone who claims to be a member of Christ’s Kingdom either.

Please remember, when it comes to war, followers of Jesus would make the worst soldiers, for they, in following their Lord’s commands would “love their enemies.” But should we condemn a kingdom of this world for using the sword rather than the cross to control society, even when done correctly? (I say correctly because violence can be used for very wrong reasons: nations can go to war for reasons of greed, and police sometimes shoot innocent people. But this does not negate the sword wielded with pure motives. Should we condemn a kingdom of this world for wielding the sword, even if the motives are pure?) I don’t believe so. But by the same token, neither should members of Christ’s Kingdom participate in a kingdom of this world’s wielding of the sword instead of its picking up the cross. Members of Christ’s kingdom are called to lay down the sword and pick up the cross. Remember, God, according to Paul, has two servants: one who wields the sword (as a lesser of two evils) and one who influences society by laying down the sword and picking up the cross. But even when this is done correctly, sword wielding is something that is forbidden to a follower of Jesus. Again, Jesus did not concern Himself with how Caesar ran Rome. Instead, Jesus’ focus was setting up a totally separate and radically different Kingdom which would influence society by laying down the sword and picking up the cross. And this Kingdom would eventually, by a method long and slow, overcome and replace all kingdoms of this world and make them, even America, obsolete.

An excerpt from William Durant’s book, The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ, “He [Jesus] is not concerned to attack existing economic or political institutions. On the contrary, he condemns those ardent souls who would ‘take the Kingdom of Heaven by storm.’ The revolution he sought was a far deeper one, without which reforms could only be superficial and transitory. If he could cleanse the human heart of selfish desire, cruelty, and lust, utopia would come of itself, and all those institutions that rise out of human greed and violence, and the consequent need for law, would disappear. Since this would be the profoundest of all revolutions, beside which all others would be mere coups d’etat of class ousting class and exploiting in its turn, Christ was in this spiritual sense the greatest revolutionist in history” (1944).

6)Patriotism

Lastly, I’d love to recommend the eSight from January 16 in which I asked if we would give up being an “American” to be a follower of Jesus. You see, both Paul and Jesus were clear. As members of Christ’s Kingdom, when it comes to kingdoms of this world, we are not “dual citizens.” Early Christians saw themselves as aliens living under the rule of a kingdom of this world. They viewed themselves as foreigners.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers . . .” (1Peter 2:11, emphasis added)

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20, emphasis added)

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” (1 Peter 1:1, emphasis added)

This does not mean that they didn’t have a right to claim citizenship in these areas in which they lived. (Acts 21:39; Acts 22:28) What it means is that they had taken Jesus’ words seriously, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13) They had renounced their citizenship in their respective kingdoms of this world and chosen to dwell under the rule of that kingdom as an alien. They had embraced their new identity as citizens of a very different Kingdom, for which they were now ambassadors living under a foreign rule. (Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20)

In short, Christians are known today for “taking back our country,” referring to America. First, as a follower of Jesus, America is NOT “our country.” Our founding father was not a list of early figures in American history, but rather Jesus Himself. “Our kingdom” is a kingdom that is “not of this world.” (John 18:36) Some of the most significant objections to embracing Jesus’ peace teachings that I hear are from those who are very deeply invested in their identity as Americans. When we see ourselves as Americans first, we will never be able to embrace Jesus’ peace teachings fully. Embracing Jesus’ peace teachings is deeply rooted in which kingdom you identify yourself as being a citizen of: a kingdom of this world, no matter how awesome that kingdom may be in your eyes, or Christ’s Kingdom.

Now I already hear some saying, then should we just let our society go to hell in a hand basket? Again, Jesus’ message of peace is not cultural passive-ism. It’s humble, servant pacifism. It means to sacrifice one’s own life if necessary, to create peace. We still seek to influence and change our society, but we do it by radically different methods. Love demands we do something. But it also dictates the form that that “something” should take. Today, speaking out for cultural “Christian” values too often is referred to as simply exercising our rights. (The Chick-fil-a “free-speech” issue in the news last week is a classic example.) Too often, the appeal to Christians is to “stand up for our rights.” Don’t let them take “our country” (i.e., America) away from us. But I don’t understand—where in the teachings of Jesus did He ever teach us to “fight for our rights”? On the contrary, our Lord modeled and commanded that we should be known not for how we “fight or our rights” but rather how we “lay down” our rights, being willing to die, in humble servant love, for those who are different than ourselves, even our enemies. (John 10:18) It’s counter intuitive I know, but it was this element which caused the exponential growth of the Kingdom in the first century and I would submit, it’s the absence of this principle which is causing the exponential decline of the church in ours.

Now, I’m fully aware that kingdoms of this world would quickly cease to exist if they followed Jesus’ command to love their enemies. I want to say two things. First, Jesus was not giving a command for how the kingdoms of this world are to operate, but rather how those who are followers of Jesus are to live. Kingdoms of this world are to wield the sword. Jesus’ followers and members of His Kingdom are NOT. Second, the objection that America would cease to exist if it followed Jesus’ peace teaching is more profound than it appears to be at first; the elimination of nations could be an actual the intent of the command. In short, if what Jesus prophesied about His Kingdom is to come true, America, as a kingdom of this world, must fail. (Boy that statement alone is a litmus test for which kingdom you are most invested in. Today, as a follower of Jesus, I’m becoming more and more convinced that we really are too invested in being “Americans.”) Follow this closely.

The Mustard Seed/Leaven Principle:

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:31-3)

In using the mustard seed analogy of subversively growing until it becomes a large tree, Jesus is borrowing imagery from Daniel 4, which was originally used to represent Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, which had taken over the world. Over and over again, Jesus reveals throughout the gospels that He possessed a very good knowledge of the book of Daniel. He saw the language of Daniel 7’s Kingdom applicable to Himself. He saw Daniel 2 apply to His radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered Kingdom as well.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. (Daniel 2:44-5, emphasis added.)

Constantine saw how the non-violence of Christ’s Kingdom would soon be the undoing of Rome. Again, Christianity was growing at an exponential rate. It could not be crushed out. For every one you killed, ten more took their place. (This should prove that non-violence would not lead to extinction of the Kingdom, but actually to its growth.) If everyone became Christian, who would fight Rome’s enemies? It would be the undoing of Rome. Rome would be overtaken by its enemies. But what we often neglect to think about is that Jesus’ Kingdom would then become the undoing of whatever kingdom of this world took Rome’s place too! This process would continue over and over until Jesus’ Kingdom, eventually, and through non-violent means, would be the last Kingdom standing. The small mustard seed, through subversive, long, slow, growth, would take over the world! But if one was heavily invested in their identity of being a Roman and their love for Rome, these words were treason. And to those who are too heavily invested in being an American and their love for America, I’m sure my words here sound just as treasonous. But, again, the last great hope of the world is not America. The last great hope for people in this country is not who wins the presidency in November. The last great hope for this country and for the world is quite simply—Jesus.

It is interesting to note that throughout the Reformation, Protestants murdered Anabaptists, too, saying that their literal interpretation of the peace teachings of Jesus would allow the Turks to overrun Europe. In this we see Constantine’s same insightful concern. It struck fear into the Europeans and led to the murder of countless Anabaptist proponents of Christ’s teaching to “love our enemies.” (Michael Sattler was only one of many who Protestants used “Fear of the Turks” as justification to burn people at the stake.)

I’m not naïve about any of this. This is not a sit back and let others do the dirty work approach. It’s actually quite the opposite. If Jesus’ teachings, which remember are rooted in His picture of God, are taken seriously, then yes, the lives of those who follow Jesus will be lost. But the Kingdom will also be advanced by exponential measures. Today we are too preoccupied with preserving our life or having our lives preserved, when first century followers of Jesus were focused rather on how they might give their lives up. We must remember that the hope of the early church was not a life that possessed all the privileges of the American dream. No, no! The hope of the early church was the resurrection!

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am [being hung on a Roman cross], my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:23-6)

I want to close this week with three passages from Paul and one from Jesus for you to simply meditate on. It’s my prayer that we, as followers of Jesus today, will continue to lay down the sword more and more in our lives while we simultaneously embrace the way of the cross more and more as well. I know this transition can’t be made overnight for many of us, but we need to be at the very minimum, in the process of laying down the sword more and more and picking up the cross as our means of influencing society more and more as well. Romans 13 was not for the purpose of calling followers of Jesus to pick up the sword in partnership with Rome. But rather, it was a call to understand the role that even kingdoms of this world play, to still pay our taxes, even when we don’t agree with the policies of whichever kingdom we belong to. And to live radically submitted but subversive lives which will bring about a better Kingdom. When it comes to kingdoms of this world, we are called to neither condemn, nor participate. We are called to a third option. To live radically other-centered lives which will eventually be the undoing of all kingdoms of this world, as they are replaced by a Kingdom which does life very differently. We are to keep kingdoms of this world and Christ’s Kingdom distinct in our thoughts and in our lives. Kingdoms of this world trust power over others. Christ’s Kingdom trusts the power of coming under others. Kingdoms of this world aim at controlling outward behavior. Christ’s Kingdom seeks to change society from the inside out. Kingdoms of this world are tribal, their primary concern being only those within their borders and those who fight on their side. Christ’s kingdom is universal. An example of this is that Jesus’ followers are not only to pray for American troops, but Al-Qaida’s troops, too, seeing no nationalist boundaries, but only those whom Jesus died for, praying first and foremost, not for one side to kill more than the other, but rather for peace, all the while loving our enemies. Related to this, kingdoms of this world fight battles that are earthly. Christ’s Kingdom sees earthly “enemies” not as enemies, but as victims of the true Enemy (See Ephesians 6:12), victims that Jesus died for, and victims who need saving from the true Enemy just as much as those whom they are hurting need to be saved from them. Christ’s Kingdom’s enemies are not earthly, therefore Christ’s Kingdom’s battles are not earthly either. And lastly, kingdoms of this world trust in violence for violence, tit-for-tat, which always escalates. (Rocks become knives, knives become guns, guns become bombs, bombs become nuclear bombs, etc.) Christ’s Kingdom responds to violence, not with more violence, but with love, “overcoming Evil with Good.” (Romans 12:21)

Here are those passages. The first is what Paul climaxes with in Romans 13.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet;” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, emphasis added)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am [being hung on a Roman cross], my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:23-6)

I’m going to recommend this month’s featured presentation on RHM’s website too. It’s entitled Religion and Politics. It, I’m sure, will fill in the many gaps that can’t possibly be filled in the limitations of an eSight. I know this is not complete. It does not answer all the questions that revolve around keeping kingdoms of this world separate from Christ’s Kingdom. But the purpose here is to discuss this topic in it’s relation to Jesus’ peace teaching and so far, there is nothing in Romans 13 that tells us to pick up the sword. Pay your taxes yes, but pick up the sword? No. Next week we continue with part seven. We still have the issues of intruders who enter our homes, domestic violence, Hitler and the Allied Forces, as well as making sense of Jehovah’s commanded violence in the Old Testament in contrast to Jesus’ peace teachings. We are more than halfway through this series. If you are still with me, you are my hero!

Keep living in love and loving like Christ. Keep building the Kingdom.

I love each of you dearly,

Herb