Monthly Archives: March 2015

Should Christians Defend Themselves?

A good friend of mine asked a serious question about the Bible last week that I would like to answer in today’s post. The question was about Matt. 5:38-39, and 5:43-44.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:38-39)

When we read this instruction, it gives all of us reason to scratch our heads and question ourselves, “Am I ‘Christian’ enough to DO that?” We might also wonder if Christ is really telling us not to defend ourselves. Today, I’d like to take the time to give a studied answer to this serious question.

Self-Preservation

The same Jesus Christ who said “not to resist an evil person” also advised His disciples in Luke 22:36, “he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Yet this was also the same Jesus who said in Matthew 26:52, after Peter had cut off Malchus’s ear in the garden, “put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I may be totally alone in this, but I have found it a bit confusing when I look at all of these verses together. Can’t help it … I’m human, not Superman, and … in case you’re wondering, I HAVE been smacked in the mouth a time or two, and have not retaliated!

Back on the topic of self-defense, Matthew Henry’s Commentary has this to say on Matt. 5: 39:

“this does not repeal the law of self-preservation, and the care we are to take of our families; we may avoid evil, and may resist it, so far as is necessary to our own security; but we must not render evil for evil, must not bear a grudge, nor avenge ourselves, nor study to be even with those that have treated us unkindly, but we must go beyond them by forgiving them.”

Matthew Henry also comments on Luke 22:38, saying, “The disciples hereupon enquire what strength they had, and find they had among them two swords (Luke 22:38), of which one was Peter’s. The Galileans generally traveled with swords. Christ wore none himself, but He was not against His disciples wearing them.”

I will not dismiss the practice of total pacifism. I get it … you want to obey Christ, whatever the cost, to the very spirit of His Word and His law as you read it. But I will also defend the right of the Christian who seeks to defend himself and his family with the APPROPRIATE use of a “sword” in today’s world, and I’d like to use a current story in the news to do so.

Wise And Harmless

An elderly gentleman in Texas was accosted from behind in a parking garage, and told not to turn around. Thinking some of his friends were playing a practical joke on him, he began to turn his head, and got a hard punch to the kidney for doing so. The thug took his wallet out of his back pocket, and then walked around to the passenger’s side of the car where his wife was seated, with the intention of robbing her as well. Seeing this, the man drew his weapon, and aimed it at the robber which caused him to flee the scene. He was later apprehended because his image showed up on the garage’s security cameras.

 Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.(Matt. 10:16)

There is a “wise” and “harmless” way to live in an increasingly violent world like the one we live in today — a world much like the one described in Isaiah 59, where “truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”

Should Christians Defend Themselves?| BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThis man in Texas intended the thief no harm. He never had to fire his weapon, but he HAD protected his wife from possible harm. The only harm this gentleman suffered was a punch to the kidney, and the loss of his wallet. The thief was not injured, and faced the justice system for his crime as he should have done. Great outcome for all concerned, unless you consider the thief himself an “innocent victim” as some do today.

I will also say this. The great martyrs of the Bible were not just allowing themselves to be victims of street criminals and brigands. They were persecuted FOR THEIR FAITH, by the legal and religious authorities of the day as Christ was. The martyrs in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs were the victims of state-sanctioned religious persecution, not roving bands of street thugs.

You can probably tell by now that I’m not a big fan of “one size fits all” answers, OR of quick, pat answers as if I’m the only guy with “the right” Biblical answer to every question. Like most serious Bible questions, one quick answer doesn’t fit all situations that may arise in relation to a Christian’s self-defense, and the most obvious answer to some may not be the best answer for all situations and people.

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God’s Gift to Your Heart

In last week’s post, we talked about a phrase contained in a prayer by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:17. His petition to God the Father was that God would grant the Ephesian brethren and brethren of all ages, among other things, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” We ended by asking the question, “Just what do you get when that prayer is answered?”, so let’s start to answer that in today’s post.

What Do We Get?

In Greek, the word “dwell” is katoikeo (G2730), which means “to house permanently, to reside (literally or figuratively), to inhabit”. The human heart, just in physical terms, is the one organ that is in intimate contact with every cell in your body every moment of every day. Life flows from it in the blood that carries nutrients and oxygenation, and removes metabolic wastes from every cell in the body.

God's Gift to Your Heart | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWe’ve talked about Christ’s incredible ability to heal with a touch in recent posts — even to radiate healing power from His presence when people touched His garments in Luke 6 and Luke 8. We’ve talked about the Greek word dunamis (G1411) in past posts, which refers to God’s dynamic miracle-working power, but imagine the very being who performed those miracles taking up permanent residence in your heart by faith, and radiating that healing power to every cell of your body. So how much power could He generate from your heart when you request His healing power for the sick, for your own infirmities, or for His strength to help yourself and others in the midst of sore trials?

Power In Your Heart

Remember, this is the same Christ who has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” by His Father and “power over all flesh” (Matt. 28:18; John 17:2), who was made our Lord, (our owner, master, and ruler) and Christ (Acts 2:36), who is “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), and the “Shepherd and Guardian of our souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). On top of all of that, His Father appointed Him as “the Head over all things for the church” (Eph. 1:22).   Just imagine that being inhabiting  YOUR HEART!

In light of all of that, I’m sure we all would desire that God would surely answer that prayer by Paul in Eph. 3:17, and add our own requests for this great gift, that such a Being would indeed see fit to “dwell in our hearts by faith,” and be the power behind our prayers for the afflicted and persecuted people of this world.

Paul’s Prayer For Us

One of the most inspiring prayers in the Bible is located in Ephesians 3:14-21. This prayer is directed by the apostle Paul to the faithful saints in Ephesus at a time when Paul was going through intense trials on the behalf of the church (vs. 13). But though Paul was the one doing the suffering, his concern was that they “did not lose heart” as they saw and heard what he was going through for them! He puts his petition directly before God, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named,” as Christ Himself instructed us in John 16:23-27.

In Your Hearts

There is one specific phrase in this prayer that directly addresses Paul’s concern about the Ephesians, and us by extension, losing heart in times of stress. I have personally found to be encouraging beyond words, and I would like to focus on in this today in in several more blog posts to follow.

Paul's Prayer For Us | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThat phrase is found in Eph. 3:17 — “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Just thinking with the scriptures that we already know, I’d like to ask this question, “What do you get if God the Father is faithful in answering just this one phrase from just this one prayer by the apostle Paul?”

We’re all human, right? We’re all concerned about what we “get” out of this thing called Christianity, right? What are the benefits of the Christian life? “What’s in it for me?” as some have phrased it. Well, that’s what I’d like to look at here. In order for the Bible to have any value for any of us, it has to become personally relevant in our lives today, so … what’s in it for you, personally … if God answers just one phrase … from one prayer by this great apostle – for you? What do you receive if Christ “dwells in your heart through faith”?

The living, resurrected Christ is filled with so many qualities that it’s hard to identify a “most important,” and run down a hierarchy of human needs list, so let’s begin with a scriptural “overview” of sorts, found in Col. 2:9-10 in The Bible In Basic English version:

“For in him all the wealth of God’s being has a living form, and you are complete in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you just aren’t quite “all there”; that there’s an “emptiness” inside of you that needs “something” to fill the void? What’s missing? What could end the frustration and make you feel whole?

Fulfillment

In today’s world, “personal fulfillment” is a hot item. There are thousands of options for the person with enough wealth to choose from, and the wealthiest among us are able to get “the best.” Why do so many of the rich and famous come to a miserable end in life … with the same internal void, grown into a publicly exposed, embarrassing chasm of emptiness … no better off than a pauper?

Paul’s solution for the emptiness of life can be had for the price of a prayer! And Paul viewed it as having a value so great that he gave up a “lifestyle of the rich and famous” in the society of his day to attain the answer to that prayer. His attitude is reflected in Phil. 3:8:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

Next week, we’ll take a more detailed look at what Christ “brings to the table”, when He answers that prayer, and “dwells in your heart through faith.”

Touching The Hem

Last week, we talked about the faith exhibited by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, even though his request for healing was not granted by God. Today, I’d like to write about an example of faith that God granted immediate healing to. This example is found in Luke 8:43-48, but we need to set the context first by looking at what has already transpired in this chapter.

The Healing

In verse 24, Jesus was awakened in a boat during a storm and rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. Then a few verses later He cast a group of demons named “Legion” out of a man, who then entered into a herd of pigs, and they ran off the edge of a cliff and drowned in a lake. His fame as a miracle-worker was spread by many witnesses. So by the time we get to verse 40, we see a multitude of people thronging about Him wanting to see more miracles. Among them was a man named Jairus, who had a 12 year old daughter who was dying, and Christ was on His way to Jairus’ house to heal her. In verse 42 it says the multitudes “thronged Him” … so it’s noisy, and crowded. It’s confusing, because everyone is excited, and talking, and into this fray comes a humble, quiet, sickly woman, who was desperate for healing.

 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. (Luke 8:43-44)

After 12 years of suffering, she was broke. She’d spent all her money on physicians (so the health care dilemma wasn’t all that different back then from what we see today, really). So here she is in the midst of this fray, perhaps being pushed and shoved by the throng, and once she got close enough she just touched the hem of His garment, and immediately the bleeding stopped.

Touching The Hem | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comChrist had no idea this was going to happen. In Matthew’s account, Matt. 9:21, it tells us “she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” So there was no communication at all between them. She had simply seen and heard what He was doing for others (Luke 6:19) and she believed, and decided to act on that belief. If she’d had her way, no one would have even known about this. It appears she was attempting to slip away into the crowd when He asked the question, “Who touched Me?” and she was revealed, and compelled to tell her story.

But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:46-48)

This is a wonderfully encouraging statement: “your faith has made you well.” He had absolutely no problem with her taking this initiative based on her faith in Him. In fact, He greatly encouraged it.

His Power

So let’s take a closer look at the mechanics of what she observed and did that actually drew healing power from the living Christ as He walked before her that day.

  1.  She began to gather information about this being, Jesus Christ – Who He was, and what He had done for others.
  2. She began to direct her intentions based on that accumulated information into a physical thought of healing belief.
  3. She interacted with the God of the Bible by acting on that healing belief.

God preserved all of the accounts of Christ’s healing in the scriptures for us today, so that we can gather the same information, direct our own intentions, and act on our own belief in His healing power in effectual and fervent prayer for ourselves and for others as the needs arise in the church today.

In the last half of the last verse of the book of Matthew, the same Christ Who healed her promises us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He walks unseen among us today as He did then.

Hebrews 13:8 gives us this encouragement to the same end: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” The same power that emanated from Him then still does today. I’d like to end with Heb. 4:14-16, quoting out of the KJV.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

And we can still boldly approach this great being today, using the same method that this faithful woman did in Luke 8. For our own healing, and on the behalf of others who are dear to us, we can still have access to His vast reservoir of miracle-working power if only we may “touch the hem of His garment”.

True Faith

True Faith | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThose of us who read and study the scriptures daily see many examples of “faith” described for our inspiration, and no doubt they are intended to produce a stronger faith in each of us as well. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is devoted to examples of faith from the Old Testament; men and women who experienced firsthand the miraculous intervention of God, and were no doubt inspired beyond words by His involvement in their lives.

We think of the people in Hebrews 11 as pillars of the faith, and believe ourselves to be far inferior to them, but if we read the fine print — the details of their lives — they were much like us. They were ordinary human beings with flaws, weaknesses, and deficiencies, who overcame them, and were either delivered by God or died in the faith. Whether they experienced miracles, deliverance and healing, or an anonymous, gruesome death they still were described as being “faithful,” and all eventually died in the faith not having received the promisesyet!

As we strive for the “faith which was once delivered”, we can fall into the trap of evaluating our own faith as being “inferior” to examples of Biblical faith, and can even become depressed by the “evidence” we see in our own lives that we somehow “don’t measure up”, because our prayers aren’t always answered the way we would like for them to be. That is an unrealistic, and un-Biblical standard to hold ourselves to.

Paul had the correct attitude in 2 Cor. 12:7-10, when he prayed for deliverance from what appears to be a very bothersome trial.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

His reaction to a “no” answer was, in fact great evidence of his faith. He knew that his salvation didn’t depend on “getting healed” by God. Real faith led him into a closer relationship with God in spite of the “no” answer.

Paul’s faith was evident both in the request for healing, and in his cheerful acceptance of God’s answer. In his infirmities, with the illness, he was given the power of Christ, even greater strength and … TRUE FAITH!