MATTHEW ANSLOW | THURSDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2015

This article was originally published by Ethos. It is a condensed version of more extensive article that has been published in Crucible.

For over a year I have been involved with the #LoveMakesAWay sit-ins and prayer vigils in the offices of prominent Government and Opposition MPs. These actions have been the responses of Christians from a variety of denominations to the cruel asylum seeker policies of the Australian government. They have been intentional acts of civil disobedience.

In response to our actions some Christians have expressed disagreement with our methods, often citing Romans 13:1–7 as rationale for doing so. A “plain reading” of this passage, which counsels readers to “submit to the governing authorities,” seems to yield a clear and straightforward command that implies the prohibition of civil disobedience.

What follows is a brief attempt to address the question of whether Romans 13 does in fact prohibit the possibility of faithful Christian nonviolent civil disobedience. I hope what follows is a cause for discussion on this topic and, indirectly, an explanation of some of the thinking behind the methods of a movement like Love Makes a Way.

A NOTE ABOUT CONSISTENCY
Paul writes from within the Roman Empire, not a modern democracy. This is no trivial point for interpreting Romans 13 for a contemporary audience. We should not imagine that Paul’s teaching in Romans 13:1–7—a mere seven verses, and far from a comprehensive or systematic treatment of the relationship of church and state—can simply be transferred directly from the context of an ancient empire to a modern democracy.

If we think Paul is positive about “the authorities,” then he is positive about them in the form he knows them, namely imperial dictatorship. We cannot use Romans 13 to legitimate our preferred governmental structure without, according to the same logic, accepting the implied divine legitimacy of dictatorships. Those of us who live in democracies will likely find such a suggestion unpalatable. It raises the question of whether God ordains particular authorities, or authority in general; if we opt for the first option, then we must wrestle with what that means for authorities in North Korea, or Apartheid South Africa, or Nazi Germany. Depending on where things land in coming months or years, such a view may also have implications for our views of the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East.

ROMANS 13 IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CANON
The biblical canon contains episodes in which protagonists commit acts of what we might call ‘civil disobedience.’ The midwives’ noncompliance in the face of Pharaoh’s infanticidal command in Exodus 1 is one well-known example. The disobedience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, and also Daniel in Daniel 6—both in light of idolatrous laws—are further examples. Jesus himself commits acts of what we would contemporarily call civil disobedience, mostly notably in his Sabbath healings and in the clearing of the Jerusalem Temple. There is also the well-known example in Acts 5 of the apostles’ disobedience in the face of the command not to teach in the name of Jesus—“We must obey God rather than men.”

We can also point to the more negative attitudes to the state represented in texts like Revelation, in which the Roman Empire is described as a Beast (ch. 13) and a Prostitute “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6). Revelation paints a wholly negative picture of the authorities, one that stands in tension with interpretations of Romans 13 that portray the authorities as servants of God.

ROMANS 13 IN THE CONTEXT OF ROMANS
Paul begins Romans 12 with a startling call to resist conformity to this age (12:1–2). He is speaking to people living in the midst of a powerful and ruthless empire. As such, these people might be tempted to believe that resisting conformity to this age equates to freedom from the need to obey the state at all, a point Paul will address in Romans 13. Before getting there, Paul exhorts his audience to love genuinely, to hate evil, and hold fast to what is good (12:9–13). Such encouragement to love applies not only to friends, but also to enemies, those who persecute (12:14). This call to subvert the common desire for retribution is repeated:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17–21).

A clear implication of the gospel that Paul has discussed throughout Romans is the need to love everyone, even enemies, and the refusal to do evil. Who are these enemies that have persecuted the community and must be “overcome” with good? Since Paul seamlessly launches into Romans 13:1–7, with its discussion of the authorities, it is clear that the enemies in view are these authorities. This section is followed by 13:8–14 which counsels the community to “owe no one anything, except to love one another” (13:8), a statement which should guide how we interpret Paul’s command to “pay to all what is due them” (13:7). Though the authorities are their enemies, the church must show love to the authorities because God has shown love to those who were still in rebellion (5:8).

In 13:12, Paul alludes to his previous statement in 12:2 regarding the present age when he says,

the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.

That the section about the authorities (13:1–7) is bookended by such statements about not conforming to this dark age—“the night”—suggests that Paul’s command to submit to the authorities must be read in light of this command to nonconformity.

Read apart from its surrounding context Romans 13:1–7 certainly seems to express unmitigated support for the authorities. Read in this context, however, Paul’s comments take on a different flavour. What, then, might be the meaning of 13:1–7?

Romans 13ROMANS 13:1–7 UP CLOSE
Some have suggested that Romans 13:1–7 might be read ironically, the “classic ironic technique of blaming by apparent praise.”[1] In other words, Paul says what he doesn’t mean. While this is a possibility, I will assume that Paul is sincere since this is how most Christians read the passage; I hope to show that even a literal reading of the text allows for the possibility of civil disobedience.

The first thing to note is that there is no authority except from (hupo) God (13:1). The Greek hupo is typically translated “from,” but it can also mean “under.” One’s choice of translation makes a significant difference as to the meaning of this phrase, since “no authority except from God” is a very different reality to there being “no authority except under God.” Whichever option we choose, however, it must be consistent with Paul’s assertion that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 6:23; 10:9). Such a proclamation, as N.T. Wright says, is a “confrontation with the powers,”[2] a denial of ultimate loyalty to any lord other than Jesus, including the Caesars of the world who claim such a status. That the authorities are instituted by God (13:1) means that their authority is not self-generated, but exists only because the authorities have a legitimate place in the created order. In other words, the authority of the authorities is relativised under Jesus’ Lordship. Such a message would in itself have been subversive, “an undermining of pagan totalitarianism, not a reinforcement of it,”[3] and not what the authorities would have like to have heard.

If the authorities have a legitimate place in the created order, then God’s people are to be subject to them. Again, scholarly debate goes on as to the nature of this subjection, but two things guide our interpretation. The first is the aforementioned disobedience of Paul—whatever Paul meant by subjection, it almost certainly did not entail unquestioning obedience because he did not act this way. The second interpretive aid is Paul’s claim in 13:2 that “whoever resists (antitassomai) authority resists (anthistēmi) what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Paul’s use of antitassomai and anthistēmi, words that denote organised and/or violent opposition, suggests a reference not to resistance generally, but rather to violent resistance—to revolt. Paul’s teaching here is to refrain from violent resistance against the authorities. For Paul, both unquestioning obedience and violent revolt are improper responses to the authorities. On the one hand the authorities must not be obeyed when they are not acting as God’s servants; on the other hand violent revolt does not fall into the category of overcoming evil with love (12:21).

From 13:3 onwards Paul’s picture of the authorities becomes more conditional. He says, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good.” The issue here is that this picture did not always ring true, even for Paul. The truth is, according to Paul, that the authorities should be feared (13:7) because they bear the sword (and they will use it)—not exactly an enthusiastic appraisal! In other words, don’t be naïve about the violence that the authorities are capable of, and give them no reason for such violence.

But Paul’s audience are not to let this reality be the final arbiter of how they live their lives. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (13:8) Love is the ethic of the community of God (as opposed to the potential violence of the authorities). Love must be shown, even to the persecutor, even when this requires that the one who loves must suffer as a result of their loving response to evil.

Christians should certainly be subject to the authorities for the good ordering of society, but when those authorities step well outside the realm of God’s will there may be times when Christians must choose between obedience to God over obedience to Caesar. So John Calvin:

The Lord … is the King of Kings, who, when he has opened his sacred mouth, must alone be heard, before all and above all men [sic]; next to him we are subject to those men who are in authority over us, but only in him. If they command anything against him, let it go unesteemed.[4]

In such times, violence is not an option for followers of Jesus, according to Paul, for love is the ethic of the church.

Nonviolent civil disobedience does not constitute, at least in my view, the refusal to submit to the authorities as per Romans 13. Such a statement is controversial, no doubt. But we must remember that Paul’s concern is that his audience does not violently revolt against the state. By defending civil disobedience I am advocating no such thing. Inasmuch as the authorities are themselves meant to submit to God, calling them back to their purpose is indeed a form of faithfulness to the will of God.

It could even be argued that acting in civil disobedience and accepting the consequences of such action is, in a way, a kind of submission to the authorities. Principled civil disobedience, in seeking to call the authorities back to their God-ordained purpose, does not seek to escape the consequences of its action. On the contrary, the one who engages in principled civil disobedience is willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions. Martin Luther King Jr. suggests such a person is “in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”[5]

[1] Timothy Carter, “Commentary: The Irony of Romans 13:1–8,” Third Way 28 (2005): 21.

[2] N.T. Wright, “The New Testament and the ‘State,’ ” Themelios 16/1 (1990): 14.

[3] N.T. Wright, “Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans,” in A Royal Priesthood: The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically (ed. C. Bartholemew; Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002), 190.

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (ed. J.T. McNeill; trans. F.L. Battles; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), IV.20.32.

[5] Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html.

Matt Anslow is married to Ashlee, works for an international development NGO, is a PhD candidate in theology at Charles Sturt University, and is an organiser for #LoveMakesAWay. He and Ashlee live in a small intentional community in Sydney where they try to put their convictions into practice in the context of the mundane. Matt is also an editor of On The Road. You can follow him on Twitter.

Mission Australia has today welcomed the Government’s budget announcement that it will invest $331 million in a new Youth Employment Strategy to assist young people to make a successful transition from school to work, but cautioned that children from low income families could lose out from the new families package and the government has done little to address the dire state of housing affordability.

“We’re glad that the Government has finally acknowledged that we have to invest in young people to ensure the future prosperity of Australia. Young people are the workers of tomorrow, they are the innovators of tomorrow and they are the tax payers of tomorrow. Their success is our success,” Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said.

“With a youth unemployment rate of 13.6%, more than double the national rate, we should be ensuring young people have the skills and experience to take on the jobs of tomorrow when our economy picks up.”

“We’re particularly heartened by the additional intensive support for vulnerable job seekers to improve their participation. Unfortunately however, the investment comes just 12 months after the government wound down the successful Youth Connections program, leaving young people adrift for 12 months with no support, waiting for government to fill the gap.”

“We could have made a seamless transition from Youth Connections to a new program rather than losing staff through redundancies, and losing skills and expertise from the sector. But at least the government has recognised its mistake.”

“This is another example of how the community sector frequently gets messed around with short term changes to programs, limited extensions to funding and program withdrawals with little notice. These short term changes come at a cost to the sector, which in turn means that we can deliver fewer services to our clients, and runs counter to the government’s rhetoric about reducing complexity and red tape.”

Ms Yeomans said that punitive reductions in income support for young people announced in the last budget have also been wound back or delayed.

“We are pleased that the government has withdrawn the requirement that people under 30 go without income support for six months of the year. However, we are concerned that some young people under 25 will still need to wait four weeks.”

“There is no good rationale for preventing young people from accessing income support when they need it, particularly when there are five job seekers for every position. Not every young person has access to a stable secure home where they can live with their parents and you can’t pay the rent with thin air.”

“We are also concerned that measures from the last budget to increase the age for Newstart eligibility from 22 to 25 years of age remains, but has been delayed by a year. This means that these young people will have to subsist on almost $100 a fortnight less than if they were receiving Newstart.”

The investment in the first steps towards broader welfare reform were also welcomed, with an allocation of $20 million over four years to fund an actuarial analysis of groups at risk becoming welfare dependent in the long term.

“We need to take a methodical, well thought-out approach to welfare reform that ensures people have adequate support to meet their basic needs, but also provides the right workforce participation incentives,” Ms Yeomans said.

“Conducting the actuarial analysis is the right first step, and it must be followed by targeted investment in improving outcomes for people at risk of welfare dependency.”

However, Ms Yeomans said that in other elements of the budget, such as the families package, the government has missed an opportunity to invest in children in order to reduce their risk of long term welfare dependency.

“While we welcome the extension of the National Partnership on Universal Access, the single means-tested rebate and the new Safety Net, the Activities Test could exclude children who will benefit enormously from participating in early education and care,” Ms Yeomans said.

The government has halved the number of hours of early learning that children can access before their parents will have to pass an activity test, from 24 hours to 12.

“Some children are being penalised for their parent’s unemployment. We need to focus on what’s good for children, not just on participation of their parents.”

“While the increase in the childcare subsidy up to 85% for low income earners is a very welcome development, it’s meaningless if children can’t get the early learning they need because one or other of their parents can’t get enough hours of work.”

“Children need two days of early learning to get the educational benefit and connect properly with their carers. We would urge the government to make this adjustment to the package”

The confirmation of two further years of funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness has provided a lifeline to 180 homeless services around the country, but without indexation or a long-term Commonwealth/State agreement, the future of housing and homelessness policy is still unclear.

“We need a national housing and homelessness policy that addresses the acute shortage of social and affordable housing. This is the missing piece in the budget puzzle.”

“Housing is the biggest cost of living issues affecting low income earners in Australia and we need national leadership to deliver greater supply of social and affordable housing, an increase in rent assistance, a tax system provides incentive for private investment in affordable housing rather than pushing up prices and long-term commitment to homeless service funding.”

“Whilst additional investment in awareness campaign to reduce domestic and family violence is a good start, we’ve got a long way to go to reducing domestic and family violence, which we know is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children.”

Mission Australia added that while the changes the Fringe Benefits Tax which will cap the amount that can be salary sacrificed at $5000 for meal and entertainment expenses will affect staff in the not-for-profit sector, that this was a reasonable savings measure.

6a00e54ecc070b883301b7c78443ea970b-115wiBeyond the Walls by Brad Chilcott

Who would’ve thought that one photo could cause so much trouble?

It wasn’t the first time I’d been criticized for my friendship and solidarity with the Muslim community, in fact I’d had some threats of violence when I spoke up about Halal certification but this one took it another level. Had I renounced the gospel? Sure, being friends with Muslims, but praying in a mosque? Did I even believe in Jesus anymore? The beard didn’t help any.

Had I taken the instructions “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy” too literally? Too far?

1 John 3. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

We know what loves looks like by only one measure. Jesus Christ. We only know what loves looks like because we know Jesus and what it looked like for him.

And if I had a Bible for every time I’ve heard a Christian use their love for everyone as an excuse to be bigoted, hateful, insular, selfish, fear-mongering, greedy and self- interested I’d be the library at the Vatican.

You’ve heard it like I have. This flippant Christianese about loving people for whom we hold our deepest prejudices and ugliest hatreds.

Let me say this –

If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love

There’s not some special form of love that only Christians get to know about that looks and feels a lot more like hate for those that it is directed towards, but in some super spiritual secret way is still love.

If it looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and keeps us as far away from people as prejudice does, then it’s prejudice.

There’s not a special form of Christian love that looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and distances and dehumanises people like prejudice but in actual fact is some secret kind of love that only Christians know of.

There’s no special kind of love where you get to be horrible to people, or pretend they don’t exist, a kind of love where you stay in your insular and ignorant world, judge people you’ve never met, protect yourself from difference and religiously maintain your privileged way of life and self-righteously sheltered paradigm.

There’s a reason that doesn’t sound a lot like love.

Because it isn’t love. It’s prejudice wrapped up in faith.

It’s ignorance wrapped up in religion.

It’s bigotry masquerading as Christianity.

It’s selfishness appropriating the name of the selfless one to excuse greed and insularity.

It’s our rampant desire for a comfortable, self-interested life using the one who gave up the trappings of heaven to set us free as an excuse not to give a damn about anyone except ourselves, our situation and our perspective.

That’s not love it’s blasphemy.

But seeing as that little rant doesn’t relate to anyone here in this room I want to move on and talk about some things that are a bit more insidious, a bit less overt and obvious but are nevertheless important to reflect upon if we are to apply this wild measure of love to our work in the community and world.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us.” There’s a CS Lewis quote that I find helpful to explain it in practice

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis

Another way of putting that could be “good intentions are not the same thing as love”.

Why? Because if we don’t do the hard work of turning good intentions into real outcomes for people then it’s likely that the “good” in “good intentions” is more about how good we feel about what we’re doing.

There’s a danger that we’re in fact congratulating ourselves for the intention to do good deeds, the videos we made to celebrate them and the likes on our Instagram account of ourselves with poor children rather than doing whatever it takes for the good of the people we say we love.

The phrase in CS Lewis’ quote “As far as it can be obtained” is key for us, I think. Love seeks the ultimate good of the loved person “as far as it can be obtained”.

Here are some very practical things that love does when love has the intention to work for the “ultimate good … as far as it can be obtained”.

1. Love intentionally escapes the echo chamber. In love we realise that it is easy to be surrounded by people, ideas, books and stories that affirm what we believe, the way we think, our theology, missiology and ecclesiology and we end up in a situation where we think anyone who isn’t doing it like us, or with us, must be naive, uneducated or willfully incompetent.

The echo chamber is when we find a bunch of like-minded churches, with similar culture to our own, and so do what they’re doing – it must be the right thing because they had a sick video and their people love it.

Love is not an excuse to be uneducated, or narrowly educated. Love is a steady wish for the loved one’s good as far as it can be obtained. As far as it can be obtained means being aware of the danger of the echo chamber where all our ideas, practices and projects are constantly being affirmed by those who we have become mirrors of.

2. Love is teachable and actively seeks out learning and critique. Love makes sure we’re at the cutting edge of community engagement, aid and development and have made every endeavor to learn from the best practitioners in the world about how to maximize our engagement with the people we say we love.

Love is not an excuse to do things badly. Love is not an excuse to be ten years behind. What I mean by this is that love won’t just send money, people and hours to any foreign aid and development project, or local community development work, driven by an emotional response we call love.

Love will, in seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, actively seek to understand what it world’s best practice today and invest in that best practice.

If you don’t know what results-based accountability, asset-based community development or collective impact mean, it’s time to learn.

When we’re still behaving like the white Saviours who can solve all the world’s problems for them the photos look great but It’s not love.

3. Love maximizes outcomes no matter what the cost – because it’s about the recipient and what they get out of our love acting towards them and not about us and our desire to feel like we’re good people.

In a small church community like mine, hundreds of people hours and thousands of dollars are invested in helping the people we love. In larger churches it’d be thousands of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands.

Across this room, across Australia, it’s incredible to think how much human and financial resource flows from our love for others.

Love, seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, pays the price of ensuring this investment does the most good it possibly can. That sometimes leads to conflict when we learn that our favorite projects aren’t aligned with good development principles, or that our community engagement isn’t helping but is feeding a dependency mindset.

Love sometimes means educating people that there are better organisations, projects, activities to invest their time and money into, and others that need to be abandoned, or radically re-imagined.

Love is not an excuse to avoid the conflict that comes from assessment, accountability and education. In fact, love makes those things essential because love doesn’t ask, “How does this activity benefit me and my church?” or “How does this keep people in my church happy and comfortable?” love says, “How can I best obtain the ultimate good for these people we say we love?”

This is how we know what love is – Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. What would you give up for love of people?

Changing the way it’s always been done? Escaping the echo chamber and being challenged by new ideas and paradigms? Being willing to take your people on a journey towards world’s best practice despite the uncomfortable changes on the way?

Maybe it’s risking your reputation, like Jesus being seen with sex workers, tax collectors and sinners as we do whatever it takes to make our community engagement about them and not about us and our church-culture measures of success.

This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Thanks.

Brad Chilcott

[Source: World Vision’s National Church Leader’s Summit – February 2015]

 

 

Been thinking about ‘death’ since ANZAC Day and the discussion that took place around some of my posts and links on Facebook. Not only that, Scott McKintyre (Sports commentator) was sacked from SBS for making ‘insensitive comments’ around ANZAC Day and death on Twitter. Then, just days after ANZAC Day, two Aussies and their mates were put to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, Nepal fell over in a massive earth quake and in the US riots have made the news almost every day.

But it’s something of the tricky stuff around death, the ethics of death, that has me scratching my head.

So let me get this right;

[In general] Australia is not happy that Indonesia killed 2 of our citizens for committing a crime that was (and still is) punishable by death. 

Some questions on this; The USA still has the death penalty in a few states (see facts sheet here), so would we still feel as outraged if the it was the U.S. killing Aussies? Maybe.

I note we have withdrawn our Ambassador to Indonesia, at least temporarily, to make a statement. Would we do the same to the U.S.?

So, are we saying as nation that the death penalty irks us, or just when it is our people…or just our people who have shown clear signs of rehabilitation? These guys certainly have done this. In a predominantly muslim country these guys, particularly the Rev Andrew Chan, have shown clearly that they are committed to Christ and living reformed lives. He DID organise the heroine smuggling ring, and was guilty as charged. Could this be religious persecution? Or in fact was this ‘fair’, they did the crime in a country in which they knew they would face death if caught. The questions still remains, is death ever the right punishment for a crime. Since 1973 140 people have been released from death row in the US as a result of further evidence coming up proving their conviction to be wrong.

So for whatever reason, the popular opinion from us Aussies (at least our politicians?) is that these folks should not have been punished with death. Left in prison maybe, but not killed. *There was some criticism toward Triple J for releasing the findings of a pole suggesting 52% of Australian supported the death penalty but the SMH said this;

A poll finding a slim majority of Australians support the death penalty for Australian drug traffickers – seized upon by the Indonesian government to justify the killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – is crude and misleading, according to critics.

So maybe it’s close, but certainly the public/political voice from Australia is that we dont support the death penalty placed upon our citizens in other countries.

What about the one who enters a house and kills someone? Prison? Unless it is your house, right? Then its personal – death penalty? This kind of question unfortunately can never be personal. It ends with everyone making different rules based on their personal experiences and feelings. So lets keep it at arm’s length? The twin towers, the Bali bombings – death penalty for any guilty parties? If we say yes, then why not for the Bali 9? Their smuggled drugs were surley to take a life/s down the road some where, so and eye for an eye?

How is the death of the Bali 9 different from a death in war?

Take Gallipoli – for whatever reason, justified or otherwise, we land on the Turks beach with the Kiwi’s and the Poms and start killing them…on their beach. We have 8000 of our folk dead before moving the living to another battle field to continue the war effort. Are the killings in Turkey in that battle okay? It was not self defence, no one was smashing down my door to kill my wife and kids, we were smashing down their door! There are rules and ethics around killing in war. Just watch the movie Breaker Morant to see how confusing it must get. Augustine created the “Just War Theory” which Bush used in Iraq version 1 to justify his invasion…”God told me to“. And so went the justification for our early Christian Crusades. So that’s ok? But Jihad (a holy war because Allah told them to) is not ok? (unless you are a Jihadist!). Some people shudder to think of the damaged caused when [we] the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Japan in our WWII effort (like Australia/NZ and the Brits in WWI, we had a coalition going with the U.S. in WWII). So it was a kind of retaliation for the Japanese invasion of our collective space (Pearl Harbour, Darwin, Sydney etc). Is this different on a personal scale from a house invasion? Did they deserve that response on all those civilians, or even the military? And if so – who says so, where are the boundaries here? Particularly in the example of Turkey in WWI and Japan in WWII.

Come to the house invasion, the hypothetical that people always use. “What happens when a guy busts into your house and wants to kill your family?” Well truth be told it really DOES happen.  Would you kill to save? Take a life to save a life?

If Jesus really intended us to live in non-violent ways, as he indeed lived out his days and taught in his teachings (turn the other cheek, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you) then do we just invite the killer at the end of the bed to kneel down and pray with us? My wife Christine suggested in no soft way that she was hoping for more from me than jumping up and loving the intruder, she suggested that she feels quite unsafe with this theology sleeping next to her! I made the comment to her and the kids that “I would die for you, but I’m struggling with the idea of killing for you.”

What about just maiming? Could I try to harm not kill? But is that not an act of violence for a person who believes in non-violence? Or is it justified in that circumstance? But that takes me back to Gallipoli. If we can agree that Jesus taught (no I’m not bringing Old Testament angry God into this conversation!) to love your enemies and the only thing that caught his rage was a table in a temple…yes and a herd of pigs suffered under his ministry but … he WAS a Jew! :-)

So;

Death penalty bad, yes? Or only under certain circumstances…who makes up these circumstances?

Gallipoli good or bad? Or we just can’t talk about this right? Too sacred.

Terrorist sending planes into buildings…death penalty?

A holy war – good or bad? Depending on if it is a Jihad or a Christian Crusade I guess, or I guess that then depends on if you are a Christian or a Muslim!

Me defending my family from attack with my life or by me taking a life?

Harming the aggressor in the process of defending instead of killing – Okay?

I kind of can’t help coming back to Jesus every time…I do try to base all my ethics and values out of his life and teachings. WWJD is such a cliché – but seriously WWJD? Look at the teaching. Look at the cross, look at the sword in the hand of Peter and that rebuke – “We don’t do it that way!”

The sacrificial lamb – Jesus, the ultimate scape goat was all about an end to a system of violence and sacrifice, of war against one another, against our enemies and against ourselves. The whole ‘new Kingdom’ was about Lambs and Lions laying down together, it was about swords of war being beat into tools of life or farming – plough shears. These words are not prophesies for the future Kingdom when Jesus returns, lets not miss the fact that on his first visit, he pronounced the beginning of this new way of life. He didn’t paint this picture of peace and say…

“so, if you like this idea of a new Kingdom of peace with me as the new Prince of ‘Peace Kingdom’, then just wait around for 2 or 3 Millenia and I’ll come back and set it up.”

No, it began in him and continues in us! We are his agents of peace, not war, love, not hate, reconciliation, not separation.

We need to bring life, not death…in our words, and our deeds.

Life, not death.

*Disclaimer – As I have said in the past. I’m no writer, in fact I’m not even sure what I fully believe when I write half the time. I humbly put out this text in the hope that others might read, think a little or a lot. Maybe engage in conversation, not always with me responding, but with anyone in this open forum. Maybe I will change my opinions and ideas, maybe I could change yours.

 

– This is an edited version of a post made 3 weeks ago.

Been challenged by a mate, Keith, to return to the wider more comprehensive space of blogging. He suggests that my Facebook entries challenge him, but he thinks Facebook is limited in audience and smaller posts. I read Hamo’s blog and (although he is an amazing thinker and writer and I am not him) I do agree that I could put more into it. I do learn from interacting, I sometimes am not sure what I believe and it is from (some) people who respond to my posts that I gain a better understanding of what I really believe about a given topic.

This is no commitment to a return to blogging, just contemplating the idea.

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