Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Coping with Social Collapse (14) - Weapons

When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked his disciples if they had any weapons.

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" Nothing," they answered.

He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one… The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied (Luke 22:35,36,38).
This is an intriguing passage. Jesus reminded disciples that they did not take weapons when he sent them out on a mission. Even when going into hostile territory, they did not take weapons of defence.

Paul confirmed this practice, as he never produced a weapon when he ended up in some messy situations. He was willing to take a hiding for the gospel. Jesus will not establish his kingdom with physical power, so those who are at the forefront of the kingdom expansion must not carry weapons. This ensures that the power of the gospel is never confused or contaminated with military force.

The situation after the Lord’s Supper was different. They were not on a mission, but waiting for something to happen. The opposition was attacking By checking that they had weapons, Jesus seems to indicating that defence would be appropriate in this situation. If this interpretation is correct, weapons can be used when protecting a community from hostile attack. A group of Christian men can use force to protect their families from attack.

There are several limitations to this principle:
  1. Jesus said that two swords among twelve men was enough. He was not starting a war. Two swords would be enough scare off half a dozen attackers, but not much more. This passage only allows a couple of weapons to provide defence against a limited attack.
  2. When a large crowd “armed with swords and clubs” came against Jesus and disciples, he refused to allow them to fight (Matt 26:47). When outnumbered by opposing forces, there is no point in getting into a brawl. It is better to surrender than to start a pointless fight (Luke 15:31-32). Using weapons for defence is permissible, but wise heads will prefer not to use them. The will not engage in futile fighting.
  3. If the government is doing the terrorising, as happens in many places, resistance will be pointless, because the power of a militaristic government is usually unbeatable.
  4. The sword the disciples had was a “marcharia”, which is short sword or dagger designed for defence. It is quite different from the “romphaia”, the sword carried symbolically by the king on the white horse (Rev 19:21). The latter was a sabre or broad sword designed for attack in an offensive war. Jesus was not giving his disciples to permission to carry offensive weapons like AK47s. He only gave his disciples permission to carry weapons that are intended for defence (a small gauge shotgun).
  5. The entire group must be in agreement that the use of weapons is appropriate.
    When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" (Luke 22:49).
    This was a good question. Before drawing weapons, each person should get agreement with from the rest of the his group. One of Jesus crew did not wait for consensus.
    And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear (Luke 22:50).
    John records Peter as the one who drew the sword. Jesus rebuked him. There must be consensus in the group before weapons are used.
  6. When Christians are sending out apostles, or going into the world to heal the sick or proclaim the gospel, all weapons should be left behind.
  7. This passage is not a justification for survivalism. Heading for the hills with a stash of food and cache of weapons is a recipe for irrelevance. Christians should focus on life in the city, because that is where most people live. Our hope is city, not an idyllic rural paradise (Rev 21:2). Our challenge is to develop lifestyles that are viable in a city, whether peaceful or violent.
A group of Christians who have gathered together in a house or neighbourhood to protect themselves from violent gangs or marauding mobs should have a couple of weapons. This might be enough to scare off an attacking gang or a single intruder, but they should not engage in a battle with a large mob.

If their society collapses and official defence forces cease to be effective, groups of people might need to come together to protect their city from external attack.

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