Pounding plowshares into swords

Nov 22, 2017 by

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Imagine with me — it’s a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The leaves are fallen; the air is cool and crisp. Families everywhere have gathered together for their annual Thanksgiving celebrations.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, fighter jets come screaming across the horizon. Right as we look up and realize what they are, they begin dropping atomic bombs, completely obliterating towns and cities across our great land.

Why this happening? What is going on?

Iraq is striking back.

They are pre-emptively striking a nation known for slaughtering thousands of innocent women and children in their so-called attempts at creating peace in other nations. Before this nation strikes again, Iraq is stepping in to ward off the notorious military bulldog.

Crazy, right?

Absolutely absurd! How horrifically awful it would be for a country to bomb our cities on one of our nation’s most hallowed holidays.

And for seemingly no good reason — completely mistaken, indeed! America has helped these other countries, giving them a chance at democracy. God forbid such evil would run rampant throughout the world!

We are always the good guys. They are always the bad. And as theologian Wayne Grudem said, “the sword in the hand of good government is God’s designated weapon to defeat evildoers” (Politics—According to the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2010, p. 403). We consider America’s pre-emptive strikes on other nations well justified, an act of obedience to God. But another striking us — well, that would be an attack from the devil, right?

Churches secured by the sword

A couple weeks ago, Texas experienced one of the worst massacres in American history: A gunman opened fire on a congregation in the middle of their church service. Twenty-six people died. An absolute nightmare!

While many in Texas continue grieving the tragedy, surprisingly, the rest of the world has seemed to move on. In fact, within days of the event I saw headlines pushing each political agenda. Essentially, they all said either “See, guns need to be outlawed!” or “Thank God the neighbor had a gun!”

What breaks my heart is seeing who is promoting guns (and who is promoting nonviolence).

Christians, Christ-followers, people who claim Jesus as their Prince of peace — they are calling for all church security guards to now carry weapons. They are first concerned about the safety of their parishioners with little to no consideration for our Lord’s call to lay down arms.

“Those who live by the sword die by the sword” apparently lands on deaf ears.

In fact, the man who scared the Texas shooter, chasing him down until he finally killed himself, cited his “God and Lord” as the one who gave him the skills to do what needed to be done. He only wishes he could have gotten there faster.

I grieve deeply with those who lost loved ones. I know the pain of having lost a family member. I cannot imagine the grief Pastor Frank Pomeroy experiences having lost his daughter in the rampage, and I am so glad it stopped and didn’t take out everyone!

But this call for arms, this acclaiming God as the one who empowers us to kill others, to resist evil with violence, directly contradicts the way of Christ.

A kingdom not of this world

Jesus told Pilate, when asked if he was king of the Jews, that his kingdom is not of this world. If it were, his people would fight (John 18:36). But it’s not. So, he modeled for us a way of suffering, of laying down our lives so others can live.

Yet, here we are in America, and the church, who claims to follow Christ, is one of the strongest groups of people promoting violent resistance.

What grieves me even more is that those promoting nonviolence, as if they care about people’s lives, have just as selfish political motives as those arguing for guns.

President Barack Obama, as passionate as he was in trying to stop gun violence in schools throughout America, is said to have orchestrated between 282 and 535 civilian deaths in the Middle East through drone strikes. During all the drone strikes that took place while Obama was in office, 168 children died. As long as it’s on American soil, the political left wants to protect children from gun violence. It doesn’t matter what happens overseas.

In America, guns or no guns really isn’t about following Christ or protecting people; it’s about getting our way. And we, as Christians, have been duped into thinking we deserve our way. We’re a free nation set apart for religious freedom.

And that’s good, right?

But nowhere in Scripture does God promise we have heaven on earth in an entirely physical sense, much less political.

God’s kingdom is not advanced through politics and violence. As Preston Sprinkle observes in his book, Fight — A Christian Case for Nonviolence,

Paul says that the true battle is not against Iran, North Korea, or al-Qaeda, but against the satanic forces working behind the scenes. We are not to war against human enemies, only spiritual ones. In fact, we are to love our human enemies. … America could nuke the entire Middle East and Satan would walk away untouched. China or Iran could conquer America, and God’s kingdom wouldn’t feel a thing.

You cannot win people to the Lord by pounding your plowshares into swords. It has never been God’s design for his people to violently ward off the enemy.

Yes, in the Old Testament, God directed the children of Israel to drive out the Canaanites, those who hated God and His design. But if you study the history of surrounding nations, you realize God required Israel to fight in a ridiculously gentle way.

Compared to the rest of the nations, Israel looked like cowards. Wet dolls.

Furthermore, they were not to store up for themselves chariots and horsemen. Rather, they were trust God to protect them. Any fighting they would do would be done by God (Duet. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 12:12-25).

He is the avenger; not man (Duet. 32:35; Ro. 12:19; Heb. 10:30).

We’re becoming just like them

Samuel warned the people that if they crowned a king, he would eventually build up an army — they would eventually walk away from God, no longer depending on him (1 Sam. 8:10-18).

But the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted control, to know they were safe and secure. I suppose, as it’s been since the fall, the Israelites did not believe God really had their best in mind.

In the same way, it seems we in America have forgotten God. We, too, don’t believe he’ll actually come through for us. That if we die in from a North Korean strike, or a Sunday morning slaughter, our lives are forever finished. So, we must protect ourselves.

This ideology runs rampant through Christianity, today. So much so, that some will read this convinced I have bought into the “liberal agenda.”

But I’m simply telling the story of Christ.

His way, the way not of this world, is to shed his blood so those who don’t know God can be reconciled to him. Therefore, Paul, Peter and John call us as his followers to rejoice when our blood is shed knowing that it silences the kingdom of darkness. Christ and his church conquer by being conquered.

What’s most devastating about Israel’s desire for a king, about their stockpiling weapons and building military strength, is that they ended up becoming just like the Canaanites — the very ones they were supposed to drive out.

In the same way, as Christians in America call for armed security guards at churches, as we support and claim providential guidance over President’s taking preemptive strikes on other nations, we have become like the nations of Iraq and North Korea. We live life according to the world’s ways of doing life.

We have put our faith in man; not God.

No matter how hard we try denying it, if Pilate and Jesus were standing here today having the same conversation, Pilate would not recognize the American church as being people connected with Christ.

Asher Witmer is a husband, father and writer living with his family in Los Angeles and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at Eternity Bible College in Simi, Calif. He blogs at asherwitmer.com, where this post first appeared.


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