Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…
I am not entirely sure where this will go, my blood is up, I am a bit angry, so we will see how this takes shape.
The shootings in Texas at the Baptist Church that killed 26 are horrible. The shootings a couple years ago by the white guy in the black church of Charleston, South Carolina that killed 9 were also horrible. We shouldn’t forget the 3 that lost their lives by bullet near a Jewish Community Service in Kansas City back in 2014, or the 6 that lost their lives by bullet in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin back in 2012. I could go on and on, and the list is pretty long. Places of Worship are soft targets and provide a scheduled time in which all of the targets will be in one place. The shooters all had one thing in common, they were crazy. Ideology doesn’t make you crazy, crazy makes you crazy. The question has become, “What should a Church do?”
Notice how I worded the question…”What should a Church do?”…not, “What can a Church do?”
Many Churches are forming security teams, wearing ear mics, special colored t-shirts and concealing firearms while operating under some kind of plan. Not sure where the plan came from, if that was something the Apostle Paul wrote, or if the inspiration is all Old Testament, or they are taking a page out of the Vatican playbook for protecting the Pope. Many other Churches are doing nothing. They may be doing nothing because of blind ignorance (won’t happen here) or because of theological conviction. Honestly, this is where I fall. Theologically speaking, I can’t find any Scriptural backing to arm the deacons and let them patrol the doorways like some kind of pseudo secret service. However, I do see evidence for this kind of thing in our Tradition. This is why I am torn by this scenario. I do read some passages of Scripture that describe the disciples holding back the crowds that were pressing in on Jesus, but they never acted as His detail, or His body guards. I read where Jesus teaches us to “love our enemies” to “pray for our enemies” and how He avoided the mob on several occasions before allowing Himself to be captured. I don’t see where Jesus abdicated violence.
“What about that time He told His disciples to get swords?”
And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” Luke 22:36-38
Jesus knew His time was near, and He needed to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that He would be ‘numbered with the transgressors’. In other words, Jesus needed His disciples to appear as a threat, in order for His arrest to stick, to not get thrown out on a technicality. Peter actually helps with this by cutting off the ear of the high priests slave (in which Jesus promptly healed). Jesus responds to this in Matthew 26: 52-54, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” Jesus was arrested, brought before Pilate and questioned. In response to one of Pilate’s questions, Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Jesus is the head of the Church and we are the body of the Church. If the head says that our kingdom is not of this world…then our kingdom is not of this world. The Kingdom will not be gained by fighting with earthly weapons, it will be gained by fighting with heavenly weapons. Those weapons are love – joy – peace and the instrument of those weapons are prayer and fasting. I realize that the Church has a long history of violence against anyone who doesn’t believe the same thing we believe at the moment. I realize that we have been quick to react with hate, to anyone opposed to our point of view. I realize that heaven and hell are full of souls who died by the hands of the Church killing in the name of God. I just can’t see how this meshes with the message of Jesus. I can’t see how Jesus calls the ‘peacemakers blessed’ yet endorses (somehow) premeditated murder by deacons in colored t-shirts patrolling the foyer?
How will the Church continue to do Kingdom work when the headlines on Fox News say, “Mentally Ill Man Killed in Church Foyer by Four Deacons” or “Armed Assailant Killed by Pastor”? The mission of the Church is to glorify Christ and carry out the will of God, not perpetuate violence (evil) into a violent (evil) society. I can’t help but think that all of these famous Christian leaders would serve the Kingdom better if they drop the armed details, forget the security teams, and concentrated on spreading love – joy – peace into their communities and turn over their earthly security to prayer and let Jesus be the head of the Church. If ‘our enemy is not flesh and blood’ then why are we arming ourselves as if it were? The history of the Church is full of violence and also full of martyrs who didn’t repay violence with violence. Administratively, the Church has benefited from the violence it partook in an earthly sense (Kingdom on Earth). Ecclesiastically, the Church has grown in spirituality and knowledge of God by the blood of the martyrs (Kingdom in Heaven).
This brings me back to the question, “What should a Church do…seek an earthly kingdom, or seek a heavenly kingdom?”