A Response to a Comment

Last week, a very kind reader left a comment on my blog that included a lengthy article written by Dr. Peter Hammond, a missionary from South Africa with a very impressive resume and list of accomplishments.  I would love to meet Dr. Hammond some day.  Following is my response to the comment, which is really a response to Dr. Hammond’s article:

Thank you so much for responding to my blog post.  I have only ever wanted to engage others in conversation.  Dr. Hammond’s article that you sent had a lot of information, and obviously Dr. Hammond has thought a lot about how he feels about these issues of self-defense and gun control.  I’m not sure why you were saddened by what you read on my blog, although I assume you were saddened that I was so misled as to abandon my jobs in the name of Jesus when obviously I didn’t understand what the Bible has to say about the topic.

I would like, in all humility, to tell you how I respond to the article you sent.  Again, I thank you for sending the article.  And I pray that my response is helpful to you, if you will entertain it.

In the first section, Dr. Hammond relates how his older brother was attacked at his home in South Africa and his older brother was able to fend off the attackers with a combination of his pistol, quick & accurate shooting, and the LORD’s protection.

What a story!  It is so exciting and captivating that it really gets my blood flowing and has me on edge until the end.  I have a lot of thoughts after reading it:  (1) is it possible that the LORD protected Derek & his family in spite of his violence?  (2) is it possible that Satan protected Derek & his family as a reward for his violence?  And to continue to confuse modern Christians about the use of violence?  (3) what are the most effective weapons that Christians have at their disposal?  The article itself later says:  “the primary weapons of missionaries are the Bible, prayer, faith and persuasion.”  I would say the most effective weapons are prayer, faith, and love.  Could these three weapons have been used by God?

Dr. Hammond closes this section of the article by quoting Oliver Cromwell as saying, “trust in God and keep your powder dry.”  I don’t know enough about Oliver Cromwell to speak intelligently about him, but allow me to ask another rhetorical question:  Are you trusting in God if you are also trusting in your own abilities to keep your powder dry and deliver quick & accurate shooting?  God is glorified when we reach the end of ourselves and rely on him for miraculous deliverance.

Dr. Hammond’s article next goes into a section entitled, “Self Defence in the Law of God,” saying the Law of God is clear.  I agree that the Law, under the old covenant, was clear.  The Law allowed a homeowner to strike a thief and kill him, leaving the homeowner guiltless of the bloodshed.  Exodus 22:2.

Next, though, Dr. Hammond quotes our Lord Jesus Christ saying, “He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”  Luke 22:36.  But let us look at the context of that statement.  Jesus was speaking to his disciples.  Jesus was about to be arrested by an angry mob.  Jesus was soon to be crucified by the Roman empire.  And the disciples would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders who arrested Jesus and the Roman empire that crucified him.  The disciples were about to be set-upon on all sides.  In this context, Jesus tells the disciples to buy swords.  And it would seem Dr. Hammond’s point is proven.  But then, in verse 38, the disciples respond, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  And Jesus responds, “It is enough.”

There are at least two ways to interpret Jesus’ response.  The problem with the written word is that we don’t get body language and voice inflection.  Was Jesus saying, in effect, two swords will be enough for you to protect yourself from the persecution you are about to face?  Or was Jesus saying, that is enough talking about matters of this world when you are on the brink of the most important event in all history?

Two more points:  in verses 48-51, this is what happened:  “But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’  When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, ‘Permit even this.’  And He touched his ear and healed him.”  So here the disciples ask if they can strike with the sword that Jesus had just told them to buy.  What do you suppose Jesus’ answer would have been, if the disciple had given Jesus time to answer?  Rather than encouraging the use of the sword, Jesus heals.

Last point:  In John 18:36, Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews;  but now My kingdom is not from here.”

If there was ever an instance where it would be appropriate to use violence, the protection of your lord would seem to be it.

But look at the way the early church acted after receiving the Holy Spirit.  Particularly, look at the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6-7).  Why did the Christians not rise up in defense of Stephen to prevent his martyrdom?  There is not a single account under the new covenant, after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of a follower of The Way striking out with a sword, or any other weapon, or a rock, or even a fist.

Dr. Hammond continues by quoting I Timothy 5:8, but expands the verse to say something the verse does not say.  I agree that fathers and husbands are required by Almighty God to provide for their families.  “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the Faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  1 Timothy 5:8.  I agree that this includes providing food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, love, discipleship and spiritual guidance.  But where does it say that I must kill another man to protect my children.  Is that other man’s soul less precious to God than my son’s physical well being?  If Christians had killed those who killed Stephen, they would have killed Saul, who became the apostle Paul.

I guess I should go back to what the Law says about killing another human.  Are we still under the Law?  Or do we have a higher calling?  Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”  Galatians 2:20-21.  Paul also says we are to sacrifice our bodies.  Romans 12:1.  We no longer live.  And our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18.

The author of Hebrews likewise states, “For you have not comes to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire [the mountain of the Law, Mount Sinai]…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,”  Hebrews 12:18-22.

Faith and Firearms

In the next section, Dr. Hammond lists many missionaries who carried weapons.  Dr. Hammond seems to confuse defense against animals and defense from other humans.  All I can say is that even the best and most devoted of missionaries can allow selfishness to cloud their judgment.  The selfishness of self-preservation.  The scariest passage in the Bible might be Matthew 7:21-23:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

It is amazing that Dr. Hammond cites Mark 7:21-23.  I couldn’t agree more!  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Dr. Hammond then proceeds to cite to what he calls, “historic Christian teaching” – the 39 Articles of the Church of England and the Westminster Catechism.  Authoritative historic Christian teaching would come from Christian teaching before the conversion of Constantine.  There is NO historic record of any Christian serving in a military until the close of the second century.  It was not until Constantine’s conversion in the late fourth century that Christians were told by their leaders it was okay to join the military because their leader was Christian, therefore they were fighting for a Christian empire.  But Jesus told us His kingdom is not of this world.  And Satan is the prince of this world.  And although all civil authority is permitted to exist by God, that does not mean God approves of their actions (Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia?).

Gun Control

I am striving to be apolitical, but I can tell you that I do not agree with gun control.  I own guns and I want to keep owning guns.  All I am saying is that I do not want to use my guns against another human being.

The truth is that people kill people.  Whether it is machetes and clubs in Rwanda or atomic weapons in Japan or firebombing in Germany.  All three of those examples are examples of the unlawful use of weapons in war because they were used against civilians.  But I don’t want to digress into a discussion of the lawfulness of nuclear weapons or America’s past wars.  My point is I agree with Dr. Hammond that gun control is not an issue and gun control won’t solve anything.

Dr. Hammond closes with a quote from Nehemiah, so I will close with a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ:

“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. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.  You have heard that it is 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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?”  Matthew 5:38-47

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “A Response to a Comment

  1. Just be sure to stay away from the Evil Eye!

  2. I have to say, while I appreciate the dialogue, in your response to the comment I would have to say I have never read, in any category, more scripture twisting and rationalizing.

    You say, “I never want to kill a human”, and I suppose we are supposed to applaud that, although ANY Christian or any person with any sense feels the same way. The point, though, of your statement is to intimate that people who believe in self-defense WANT to kill other humans.

    As a person of non-violence, living in a non-violent Christian community, frankly I am offended by your arguments, your innuendo, and your blatant twisting of the plain text of the scripture. When your argument comes down to “I know Jesus said that, but what did he MEAN”, or “I know Jesus didn’t say that, but would he if he had had the time”, you should know you are on really, really thin ice. That, and your attempt to bifurcate the Bible into two Bibles written by two Gods, really surprises me. I’m glad that marriage, family, government, church, and all of the other divine institutions were provided for us and installed in the Old Testament, and I will resist all efforts by modernists to throw out the Old Testament to make them feel better about going against 2000 years of Church history and teaching on a topic.

    So, if I get it right, your argument is that the Old Testament allowed for self-defense, but that is the Old Testament, and we ought to throw that out along with marriage and family. And the New Testament provides for and allows self-defense, but since you don’t know what Jesus might have said if he had been allowed to speak, and since you are willing to throw out what he did say because you don’t like it; and you are already predisposed to believe that anyone who believes that they have the right to stop their 7 year old daughter from being brutally raped and murdered actually WANTS to kill another human and can’t wait to do it; and you believe that anyone who believes that they have an obligation to serve and protect their family actually has no faith in God.

    Shocking. Let me say, that I am saddened that you have so little faith in God miraculously feeding you that you (in a detestable act of works and unbelief) lift a fork of food to your mouth. You see, God can feed you miraculously without your help, and when you feed yourself, or work with your hands, or do any of those things, you are showing a profound lack of faith in God’s miracles. Likewise, anyone who, by the faith of God and according to His will, defends the defenseless and strikes an evil-doer (to the benefit of even the evil-doer) is showing a lack of faith.

    Shocking.

    All men are free to operate according to their conscience, but I really have a distaste for this modernist babble that amplifies mysticism above the Word of God; especially when it is purposefully insulting to those who obviously have a better knowledge of history, the teachings of the greatest minds in Christian history, and the scriptures.

    Your servant in Christ Jesus,

    Michael Bunker

    • I am shocked and stunned – never read more scripture twisting and rationalizing. I never imagined someone would tell me that. I still don’t think I am guilty of scripture-twisting, but it is like a bucket of cold water to be accused of it.
      I have just a few simple thoughts to share and I will try to do so in humility: First, the New Testament is a new way for God to deal with man. It was so new and different, that even the 12 disciples didn’t ‘get it’ until Jesus was gone. The Law (Old Testament) allows for self-defense, just as it allows for divorce. Matthew 19. Jesus didn’t call us to a life of obedience to the Law. He calls us to a life as part of the body of Christ.
      Second, if I manipulated the scriptures, I missed it. I didn’t mean to. I meant to read Luke 22 in context. I agree Jesus told his disciples to sell their garments and buy swords, but why? Because right after that He tells them that two is enough. Is He saying two swords will be enough to bring down the Roman empire? Maybe this is just my ignorance of history showing. I know, of course, that you were not happy with me saying, “I know Jesus said this, but what did He mean?” But I think it is an important question. What was Jesus trying to communicate to His disciples? Was He trying to tell them to buy swords so they could cut off the ears of servants of the high priest? You seem to know the answers.
      Likewise, I meant to read Acts 6-7 in context, trying to divine when would be the appropriate moment for Stephen to raise his sword in self-defense.
      And I meant to quote a portion of Matthew 5 accurately. Jesus did say those things.
      Third, I certainly hope there is no mysticism here. Just a man seeking a relationship with the Living Word. It is true that I am seeking love rather than knowledge. I don’t want to know about Jesus; I want to know Jesus.

      1 Corinthians 8:1b says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

  3. David Miser

    There have been many, including yours truly, that have proposed that the New Testament is mostly silent on the issue of using lethal defense of one’s family, even their national family, as such defense is not for the purpose of taking life, but rather to protect life. As a man and a former serving Marine, a Vietnam era veteran and early after the Marines a police officer, I feel very good about that argument. Let’s go with that and stop worrying.

    Uh oh, there is a problem here, one I absolutely hate because it violates my definition of manhood, a man defending his loved ones even unto death.

    If we are Christians, we are born again of the Spirit of Christ, while we are still in the flesh, our old nature is supposed to be put down by the Spirit within us, we are no longer suposed to walk according to the desires/demands of the flesh. We are part of the Body of Christ, now, not when we get to Heaven, but in the here and now! So, I must ask the Spirit of the Lord within me, ‘would my Lord within me kill another human being to save a human being?’ Would Jesus say for instance, ‘it is okay for a woman to kill the innocent life in her own womb to save her own life?’ Or, when did Jesus give us the power and the Authority that is His alone to decide who lives or dies? It is one thing to sacrifice my life to save another human being, but what about killing one evil person to save an innocent human being?

    Now if I cannot, in my heart put that knife, gun or whatever in Jesus hand and believe He would kill another human being to save a life, then how can I, a person sharing His life put it in my own hand?

    What if a person disagrees and in national defense or in defense of any innocent human being kills another? If they were ever saved, they remain saved; but they will live out their days with the blood of that person on their conscience and that will, IMO, by necessity, to varying degrees hinder their full fellowship with God while in this life.

  4. George

    If I read this right, the argument is that self-preservation is a product of our flesh and as born-again Christians (new creatures in Christ) we should reject that self-preservation tendency as being sinful.

    I don’t think God would use a sinful act as an illustration of Godliness. Note the phrase “even as the Lord the church.” The Lord Jesus is “guilty” of self-preservation.

    Consider Ephesians 5:28-30
    Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
    Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
    Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

    Protecting our wives and families is one on the God-given mandates. Standing by instead of intervening is a dereliction of duty commanded by God.

    I agree with Michael Bunker – the theology that we should stand by while someone rapes or murders our family is a twisting of scripture. God gave us a self-preservation instinct and to suppress that is a distortion of the image in which He created us.

    Humbly,

    George

  5. The idea that Jesus would never kill someone to save another sure sounds nice. Too bad it is just foolishness. First, it denies that Jesus is God, and that God not only kills regularly, but has killed billions of people in order to make a point. He has raised up armies to defend his people, has slaughtered nations, cities, and people. He killed a married couple just for lying about the price they got for selling their land.

    Second, it denies the fact that Jesus is plainly seen in the book of Revelation bearing a sword, drenched up to mid-thigh with the blood of his enemies. The Bible is a bloody book folks, give it a read.

    Frankly, you too have a very attractive, very fluffy and nice, and very false idea of who Christ is.

    It is easy to win a feel-good war when you are on the side of puppies and baby ducks. It is easy to win a written debate before the unregenerate when you can count on them only knowing the huggy-kissy Jesus of the false, apostate world today.

    As a non-violent man, living in a non-violent community of non-violent believers. I am disgusted at this false portrayal of Jesus, and of the attempts to rationalize abdicating responsibility.

    In fact, if any one of you wants to engage in a formal written debate on the subject, please feel free to contact me. But if I were you, I’d do my homework first – not because of Michael Bunker or my anything to do with me, but because God, the true eternal Church of God, and the angels in heaven will bear witness to how you characterize the Savior and what the Bible teaches.

    Your servant in Christ Jesus,

    Michael Bunker

  6. David Miser

    Sorry, this will be a bit longer than I would prefer, but since it takes me two paragraphs to just say hello, so comparatively this isn’t too long.

    Did Jesus during his incarnate ministry upon earth ever kill or even harm anyone, even those that sought to kill Him, in an act of self-preservation? Or did he say that although He could have called legions of angels to kill them and save Himself, He chose in meekness and obedience to God to submit to the Cross and death?

    Did His Apostles resist efforts to beat and execute them? They all died violent deaths! After Gethsemane, did they ever show any violent tendencies of any kind, even when arrested and put in prison?

    Or, was the clear pattern set by Christ and His Apostles one of submission to evil men with evil intentions? What about those sent to be killed as dinner to the Lions in the Coliseum, is there any record of self preservation on their part?

    When Jesus was being threatened to be killed by the Jewish leaders, He did remove Himself physically on more than one occasion from their proximity, because His time was not yet due for His death. But, I see no acts of self-preservation in this, as later when the timing was right, He did go up to Jerusalem knowing His fate was sealed.

    Do you recall David Wilkerson being threatened with death by Niki Cruz? He did not defend himself or resist, but only testified to Cruz of Jesus love for him and won him to Christ. Or the pastor recently in Nigeria that not only did not resist evil, he testified of Jesus love to the man who would then cut off his head. Or, the two young former Muslim women in the Sudan, in prison, tortured and threatened with death, which are not resisting, but testifying of Christ’s Love to their Muslim tormentors. There are a myriad of such examples throughout the Christian era, but not one of any true Christian acting in self-preservation.

    The Divine pattern for Christians from Christ until this day is not to resist evil being done to them or those they love, but to use every opportunity to meekly testify of Christ’s Love.

    Self-preservation was dealt a severe blow by Christ when He told us to daily sacrifice SELF on His Cross, to lay aside SELF and self interest. In fact from God in Christ and through His children all over the world today, it is all about selflessness, self-sacrifice, of crucifying SELF. I am sorry, but that instinct to self-preservation takes matters out of God’s hands and puts our SELF on that Throne instead and it must be given to Christ.

    As I said earlier, inside (flesh) I am still a tough Marine, my attitude has always been mess with me or mine and I’ll mess with you. I have always had the instinct of fight with me and either one or both of us will die, there are no options. But, when I look at Christ’s ministry, His life and His example, those of the Apostles and the great saints of history, I cannot find self-preservation or any kind of SELF in the Spirit of Christ in them.

    In the examples you offered about God killing. (1) Most such deaths were by the hands of evil men that in His Wisdom He chose not to restrain. (2) God may directly, as in the case of the husband and wife lying to the Holy Spirit or in other cases choose to set His Hand to kill some people, but never in anger and always for our god and His glory. But, not having His Knowledge and Wisdom, we better stay out of that business.

    How do you know that the man you might kill to save yourself might not be later used for His Glory and the Salvation of others? God can lay His Hand upon the most savage enemies of Christ and win more souls through them, than He could ever win through the one that would slay them. Lastly, please think about this: No matter how evil they may be or how much you love your own life of others, do you really want to be responsible for killing an evil man and thereby consign him to everlasting punishment in Perdition’s Flames? Could you feel good about that? Or, would you think it better as he kills you to only offer him God’s Gift of Salvation.

    Christ came to give Life, that through us He might offer LIFE to EVERYONE – not death to anyone!

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