Saturday, March 11, 2017

Christian Pacifism, violence and Self-Defense

Matthew 5:39 "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

I like to take the time in this post to discuss and analyze topics of Christian pacifism and violence which is plagued in our Christian communities.  I recently stumbled upon both sides of the arguments on these two topics with very contrasting point of views. On the more conservative side, there are those who believe violence is sometimes necessary in the wake of self-defense in which one is protecting themselves or others from serious harm. These folks also support killing to save the life of others and they support wars and guns when necessary and it doesn't contradict Christianity as they see defending lives either yourselves or others as an noble and honorable deed and right within Christ-like teachings.

Then on the other side of the coin are the more progressive camp who see violence contrary to the teachings of Jesus, the bible and Christianity altogether.  Some of these folks are part of what is known as Christian pacifism which sees non-violence as the solution to all circumstances including self defense.  These Christians site Matthew 5:39 as proof to support their  reasoning. Afterall, as Christians we have a moral obligation to turn the other cheek, love our enemies no matter what and never respond to evil with evil and responding to violence with violence just increases more violence are their arguments.

These Christians truly believe in order to overcome evil and defeat our enemies, we have to respond with love and peace no matter what the situations even at the expense of our lives just as Jesus himself, suffered abuse, beatings and was crucified at the cross giving up his life for those who rejected and sneered him dying for their sins and never retaliated against those who hurt him. Jesus has been often used as an example as the first true Christian pacifist who taught fellow believers non-violence and to resist retribution and revenge on those who harm us. 

Known Christian pacifists include Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Greg Boyd, Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Preston Sprinkle, John Howard Yoder etc. Yoder even raised questions in his book "What Would You Do" in regards to an intruder breaking into your home threatening. Wilson-Hartgrove mentioned in a article referring to a non-violence response to Joseph Kony in which he acknowledges non-violence could get yourself  or loved ones killed but its what Jesus calls for believers.  Others who follow Christian pacifism have also questioned if they would resort to violence to protect their families or even others while have claimed they're willing to "turn the other cheek" if they were attacked themselves but would be willing to use force if to save others who are more defenseless if necessary.  While others have used examples of situations where violence wasn't used when someone's personal safety was being threatened as proof non-violence can work life-threatening situations.

First, I have to say for myself, I don't condone violence and believe society has gotten to hyper-violent where violence is too accepting and tolerating. Everywhere from the media, internet etc I have seen or read of violence situations over sometimes the stupidest and senseless reasons.  Even among higher authorities including he police officers have engaged in excessive violent responses, in fact, there has been many lawsuits over excessive force by law enforcement sometimes these institutions even defend such obvious unnecessary actions. More shocking is many viewers often support, defend and justify these unnecessary violent behaviors. These makes me question the morals and ethnics of our society and how far we fallen as a civilized society. 

However, I still just can't get on board with the absolutely non-violence philosophy that the Christian pacifists askew.  This is due to the fact that I can't just imagine that God wants us never use force to protect ourselves or others who are defenseless and suffering and need protection even the point of allowing others to be harmed or die.  Sure it's great when you don't have to resort to violence to stop an attack on yourselves or others or to defeat an enemy. Sometimes standing together and using words rather than fists is a perfect solution. Yet, I 'm not na├»ve enough to not be aware that they're may be extreme circumstances that this is not possible and that using physical force could be the only solution to stop violence no matter how ugly it may be, and I could even save a life or two.

Also, I'm not at all convinced that using non-violence at all times even resisting using force in self-defense is at all what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5:39. Jesus was preaching a Sermon on the Mount, when he told his believers to turn the other cheek if someone slaps you on the right cheek, then turn the other cheek to them. In Jesus time, a back-handed slap was considered a real insult to a person.  In fact, to back-hand a person of lower status was a way of asserting their authority and dominance over that person. Rather than retaliate with a slap in return which is a natural knee-jerk reaction, Jesus tells us to offer the other cheek instead. In doing so, the person slapped could be challenging the slappper to slap them again with a open hand thus demanding equality.

It was also demonstrating refraining from retaliating out of revenge or retribution. This was the principal Jesus was actually teaching, not that you let someone literally slap you and offer them the other cheek but to not retaliate against someone who insults, offends or hurts you out of revenge. He even goes further to in Matthew 5:43-45 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  There is a similar verse in Luke 6:27-28 "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

This all stems from not responding to hatred with hatred, to evil with evil but pray for those who hate and mistreat you who are evil instead since we are children of God and should act on a higher standard which is to follow Christ. Some have argued in the book of Matthew about Jesus disapproving of  his apostle Peter when he cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant or slave of the high priest Caiaphas who organized a plot to kill Jesus during his arrest to which Jesus then healed the servant/slave's ear as proof that Jesus was against all kinds of violence even in self-defense. However, Jesus didn't rebuke Peter for using violence to protect him rather it was because first Peter used violence against a servant/slave who was not responsible for His arrest and Peter acted out of rage and vengeance since Jesus life wasn't an danger at the time he simple was being arrested plus the fact Jesus knew of his fate and had accepted it so his life didn't need defending.

Another argument is the verse Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" to confirm Jesus condemnation of all violence however, Jesus was referring in this verse was that those who live their lives always using violence as a means to conquer or prosper and they may eventually die by violence. Unlawful violence is never okay. Finally, there is one of the ten commandants, Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill" which many pacifists thinks means killing is always wrong not matter what the situation. However, this verse condemns unlawful and unjustified murder not killing to save a life.

On the other side, who support violence in certain circumstances use the verse Luke 22:36-38 "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. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough" to confirm their point.

They believe Jesus was telling his apostles to arm themselves for protection against those who are persecuting them. However, many others believe that Jesus didn't mean the men arm themselves but was referring to a metaphor of a spiritual sword for spiritual warfare in which they go up against those who oppose them. As for his followers presenting him two swords, their is speculation among some Christians that the apostles not understanding his meaning went out and bought two sword and Jesus said "It is enough" out of disapproval. While many may never agree on what this verse actually means I tend to believe Jesus was referring sword a figurative sense not a literal one.

As for violence as whole,  I don't see it as wrong all together since sometimes it could be necessary in certain situations. Of course, those situations shouldn't involve retaliating out of anger or payback be it a verbal offense or even a physical offense such as a slap, a shove, being spit on or any assault where the attacker retreats and doesn't make anymore attempts to harm oneself or others.  But in situations where you are forced to protect yourself or anyone else from an ongoing assault, using a reasonable amount of force is the only way to stop the attack even if that force is to strike them.

It certainly would be not godly but foolish to allow yourselves or others to be harmed in anyway or possibly killed on the misguided notion of godliness. I also think it would be even cruel to stand by and allow others to be harmed, some whom could be weaker and defenseless against their attacker and may require help from others. In such circumstances, trying to simply talk the attacker down or shame them to stop may simply not work and more may be needed. However, once the threat is stopped, there is no excuse to repeatedly assault them or it isn't self-defense.  Also, if a person is able to subdue an attacker without having to strike them or stop them without using any physical force at all that is the better choice. 

Self-defense should never be used an excuse to engage in excessive force and unfortunately in the past and present this has been the case. All over the media, we hear cases of police brutality where police are heavy-handed using more force than what was needed or other cases of citizens retaliating with mild violence by inflicting heavy violence to the point of causing serious injuries to that person.  Sadly, many people in this society even condone and support such actions even among many believers.  We as a society tend to fear that not retaliating makes you weak and a pushover but it is the opposite. It takes a lot of strength not to resort to payback being physical or non-physical.  Among believers, it is acting in a way that is Christ-like. 

 Of course, if believers want to eliminate all violence no matter the situation, that is also problematic and unrealistic an other way as we live in a fallen world and in society where crime does exist we need police to enforce laws and even sometimes use force for our protection.  Then there is the wars that go on in other countries were innocents are being killed all the time, women and girls are being raped, children brutalized where sometimes killing could be the other way to save an innocent life. These thing are so unfortunate and tragic but are a true reality of our societies. 

So where does this leave us believers in the world?  Just trying to follow Christ's ways, praying for our enemies not giving into hatred but pity them instead for their hardened hearts.  Refrain from taking revenge against any offense no matter how brutal but always strive to "turn the other cheek" remembering that two wrongs don't make a right.  Make sure to resolve conflicts and confrontations non-violently as possible only resorting to physical force as a means to protect yourself or others but don' use more force than what is required. Try to forgive those who have hurt or offended even if they don't apologize for your own peace of mind as true believer of Christ although it won't be easy and make take a long time to truly forgive someone. 

 None of these things will come easy and some believers may even stumble from time to time as we are imperfect human beings but just turn to God for help and guidance to overcome your obstacles praying to him.   The world may not become perfect but it can sure improve as long as we believers follow the ways of the Lord even setting examples for others to follow straying away from evil temptations.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cultural roles vs Biblical roles

Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will".

I want to discuss in this post about the differences between Christianity in cultural norms and biblical and godly laws.  I posted something similar in my former blog called "Traditional Values"(which you are free to check out on that blog).  For many American Christians, their faith and godly principals are greatly influenced by the western culture in which they blur the lines in differentiate between cultural norms and biblical/godly laws.

This is particular true for traditionalists who long for the nostalgia ways of life and blame the progressive values of today of destroying Christian virtues. Many Christians have an their own idea on true universal biblical principals based on western traditional cultural roles regarding gender roles and gender norms in society, marriage and the church, dating/courtships, fashion, music, personal hobbies, education etc using scriptures in the bible to validate their views.  We got to remember that cultural roles, norms and customs often do change or evolve over centuries and for some things what was acceptable may not always apply today and we shouldn't confuse with living out the ways of following Christ. 

For example, in Ancient Israel, the marriage customs girls married as young as twelve and boys young as fourteen something that wouldn't be acceptable or even legal in todays' society. Arrange marriages were the norm and girls and women are the property of the fathers and husbands. Also, slavery was still acceptable and under Jewish customs a man could take more than one wife and prostitutes were not illegal.  Many people in that era ran their businesses from their homes, some even lived in tents and travelled around the country as herders, shepherds or traveling merchants who set up market in towns and sold their goods.

  Wives mainly attended to the household chores that included weaving linen garments, baking bread managing any servants they had rearing the children and sometimes earned salaries for the families by making and selling crafts or managing businesses with their husbands. Headcoverings for women during praying in worship or prophesy was quite common in that era. In fact Apostle Paul mentions this custom in the city of Corinth, 1Corinthians 11:4-6 "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.  But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.  For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head".  

Some orthodox churches still have women wearing headcoverings today including in Eastern culture.  More ultra-conservative churches will even ban women from wearing trousers. The fact remains many Christian will see the scriptures, biblical roles, and godly laws in numerous ways which will very based on their cultural influences in various countries and continents.  However, to value true Christianity and biblical virtues, we must go beyond cultural influence and understand how to truly live Christ-like.  

To be more Christ-like is beyond traditional or progressive cultural norms and customs and has little to do fashion, personal interests gender roles in the marital homes etc but all has to do with honoring Christ, by following Him, growing more spiritual and holy, to be a glory to Him.  This is why I don't like invest in the complementarian vs. egalitarian deabate worrying about which camp is the true way but to go beyond these two ideals understanding what to live like a true Christian really means. Not being enough just to read the scriptures in the bible but to understand the true meaning behind the words and the context of the verses which my sometimes be based on the cultural norms of that period and other times not. 

 I think if we all  go beyond debating over the cultural  vs biblical roles maybe we can have a better understanding what the Christ-like roles we follow as Christians. The roles will differ for each Christians as their is diversity among us each having various god-giving gifts, talents and skills and various paths the Lord wants us to take. The only thing we all share among us is our desire and duty to place Christ, our Lord and savior as the center of our lives.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

When Was Jesus Actually Born?

Matthew 1:23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

I wanted to start my first post on this new blog discussing the true birth of Jesus Christ since Christmas has came and passed and now it's the new year. Throughout ages Christmas has been celebrated all over in many countries as the birth of Jesus Christ.  The story as we all know is that Joseph and a very pregnant Mary arrived in the city of Bethlehem where Mary would give birth to Jesus in a barn on the winter of December 25 which is now Christmas Day.  For the longest time I myself always recognized this date as the very birth of Jesus our Lord and Savior as I didn't know any different and never questioned it either.

 However, it might surprise many that December 25 is not the true birth of Jesus. In fact, the bible never mentions at all when Jesus was born and there is any actual documentation of Jesus's birthday.  So when was Jesus born and how and why did it come that December 25 was declared the day of his birth?  There are several facts that is known about Jesus' birth.

 First, there shepherds who lived nearby were out watching over their flock as mentioned in Luke 2:8-12 "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”. 

Jesus was conceived when Mary's cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist which is mentioned in Luke 1:26-31 "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.

According the Book of Luke, John the Baptist was conceived after Elizabeth's husband Zechariah, a priest returned from Jerusalem where he was serving in the temple for a week.   What is known is that the priests at that time were divided into 24 courses to serve twice a week in the temple of Jerusalem from Sabbath to Sabbath. In addition all the priests served in the temple for each week for three festivals which are Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.  The Jewish calendar begins the spring and Zechariah who was a member of Abijah served the eighth course which would have been around the tenth week of the year. The Passover which was around March-April and the Pentecost was around May-June took place before his scheduled duty and places him serving during the second Sabbath of the third month around May-June.  With that, six months later Jesus would have been conceived between November-December.

There are the shepherds that were outside watching over their flock during Jesus' birth.  It is know that the shepherds had their flock out in the fields in the spring up until the fall in the month of October then they remove them from the fields and place them in pens as winter is too cold for them to be out in the fields.  Since Jesus was conceived between November-December, he would have been born between August-September with Many scholars placing it around September.

 In fact, according to Joseph Dumond who is author the book "The Sabbatical Years of 2016, 2023, 2030, 2037, 2044" Jesus's birthday is on September 11, 3 BC.  He bases this from the astronomical charts and the Hebrew calendar in which there is the Feast of Trumpets on September 1, the Feast of Atonement/Judgment on September  10, Year of the Jubilee on September 11 and the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot on September 15-23.  Dumond claims the Book of Revelations hints that Jesus birthdate was on the September 11, Jubilee Year, predicted to be the day of Jesus second coming. 

He based this on the scripture Revelations 12:1-5 "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 

Many of associated the woman mentioned in this scripture with the Virgin Mary. Pastor Mark Biltz founder of El Shaddai Ministries in Washington also supports this theory and that on the eighth day of the Fest of Tabernacles he was circumcised.  Other scholars have since also support this theory believing there is a elements of proof to this conclusion. I mentioned in my previous blog on the history of Christmas post(you can go back to read that post on that blog) that Pope Julius I declared December 25th Jesus's birthday in 350 AD.

There may never been any 100% actual knowledge of Jesus exact birthdate and Christians will continue to celebrate December 25th as his birth of Christ. However, what truly matters is that Jesus did come into the world as the son of God, became the messiah, performed miracles, led followers and taught them while he was alive and died for our sins on the cross.  What matters is that all who receive Christ now are all under His grace and are blessed since he shed blood for all of us and are sins all our sins are forgiven.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Intruductions again

Hello again, I know it's been a long while since I posted on my previous blog but I wanted to take this time to explain. You see due to some difficulty with my old blog which I won't  go into, I decided to create a new blog. This blog will have the same purpose as my previous blog and analyzing the true context of the biblical meanings as well as the true Christian way of life and what following Christ really entails, the hindrance of legalism and more. I also mentioned in my last blog that I  go beyond the complementarian and egalitarian branches in Christianity as well as the traditional and progressive theologies and debates as I'm only concerned about exploring the true ways of being a Christian rather in lump myself  in these labels, although my views do tend to lean on the egalitarian side but I have some limited complementarian views on gender. To learn more about my views you on this you are welcome to read post from my last blog.  Just to let you know my old blog is listed in the section of the other Christian sites I follow titled Discovering Biblical Truth. I hope you enjoy this knew blog as I picked up from where I left on from the old one and I please post your reviews and comments.  Thank you.