Monday, July 9, 2012

Refusing violence: Physical Weakness Part 2

Luke 4:5-8: The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Last time, I eluded to a claim that might be hard to swallow for many Christians. I pointed out that one of Satan's three temptations for Christ was unique. With the other two, Satan was trying to get Jesus to use the power he already had from God for inappropriate uses. But in this temptation he's trying to get Jesus to use his power; which, as he tells Jesus, resides in the authority of worldly kingdoms. My claim was "It's not too far off to assume that when Jesus says he will 'serve God only' he is saying that using worldly power and thus using power that is unlike God's is to serve someone other than God."
Like I said, it may be difficult for many Christians to accept that they are serving Satan by using something as innocent as political and military power seemingly look to our culture. But the Bible does not paint it as innocently.
The early church understood Satan's temptation of Jesus revealed part of his plans:
Ephesians 6:11-12: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So why exactly is political and military power corrupt for Christians? First, it strengthens the influence Satan has on the world; at the same time it can weaken your opportunities to share Jesus, and finally it ropes you into disobediently taking on the role of judge. We'll spend the remainder of the post breaking down these three points.

The backbone for these causes of corruption is the inescapable truth that contributing to political and military power structures is the same as directly contributing to Satan's strength in this scene of the end times from Revelations:
Revelations 19:19: Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.
Of course Satan would choose the most influential power structures in the world to focus his efforts of control. Revelations 17:1-18 tells us how Satan uses Babylon, a city which "sits by many waters," to "rule over the kings of the earth." At whatever point in history this is referring to, it seems that the kings of the earth are all being included generally. We cannot be sure which countries that presently exist are a part of Babylon but we can get a pretty educated guess cooking.
Especially throughout the second half of Daniel, but beginning in chapter 2, we learn about the countries that will carry on the power of Babylon throughout history. Satan focuses his influence on those with the most influence; this is probably one of the best clues we have for discerning where this power may be right now. Each of the first four countries described in chapter 2 became the main world powers of their times and even continued to gain strength after absorbing all the useful parts of the nation that came before. The first transition occurs later in Daniel 5 when Babylon is overtaken by the Medo-Persian empire. Then Greece had a turn until they were destroyed by Rome.
In Daniel 2, the portion of Nebuchadnezzar's dream that addresses Rome shows it degrading into a "divided kingdom;" instead of being replaced by another world power. This "divided kingdom" is represented by 10 toes; and whether the number 10 is significant or not I don't know. Either way, many of today's more powerful countries have adopted parts of the government, language and culture of those past "kingdoms." Thus, western civilization referred to as the Greco-Roman world.
It's probably safe to guess that your country's authority and power will eventually go to Satan's control if it hasn't already. My personal guess is that Satan spreads his influence to a country whenever Christians show up there. But even if his influence isn't dominant yet, there are other good reasons not to be involved with the military and to abstain from political power.

The next point on the list is focusing on political power; specifically the situation of a Christian using their political influence (even if it's just voting) to implement laws based on God's morality. Doing this risks our opportunity to share God with the very people we try to force into obeying Him. When someone claiming to represent Christ implements moral law, then classifies a punishment for it, they are using God's name in vain in the most literal sense. They create an illusion in the mind of the unbeliever: someone representing God says this is how I pay for my sin, with a jail sentence. This person can't be told now by that Christian that there is a real and eternal punishment for sins. They've damaged their opportunity to show that person their need for a savior.
I understand many Christians are tempted to believe that it is God's will that they should vote for His laws, as if they could turn their country obedient by force. But do you really think God wants people to obey Him because men force them to? Even if they succeed this brings glory to the men not God. And besides this, you're never going to establish a second Kingdom of God... there is only one.
Only God can change a person's heart; we don't have that ability and our laws certainly don't either. The Bible even speaks about the ineffectiveness of laws:
Colossians 2:20-23 "If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to it's rules: 21'Don't handle, don't taste, don't touch!'? 22 These regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 These have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in curbing self-indulgence."
Laws of morality don't actually change desires, instead they promote false humility. I mean... isn't that why God saw a need for the new covenant anyway?

Third and finally, involving yourself with the law making process, voting for leaders who command your country's military strength or contributing to it directly all cause us to disobediently take on the role of judge in the world. And judging others instead of showing mercy can put God's mercy towards us at risk as well.
Selections from Romans:
12:19 "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

13:1 "Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God."

13:4 "For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."

Political and military power corrupt Christians because we use them claiming to be responsible for enforcing wrath on the immoral, through laws or wars, when we've clearly been told here that we should never be involved with this function of authorities, for purity's sake. I'm definitely not denying that those with power are used by God. But I am rejecting that the work of the Kingdom (obedience/righteousness) can be done from such a position. God uses disobedience and evil for His purposes the same way He uses Satan. And just because someone can serve one of God's purposes for the world, does not mean they are obeying His Word or that they are not being used for "the Devil's schemes" as well.
James 4:12 "There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?"

How can a Christian who knows that we are saved by grace seriously hold others to God's laws? The same laws which even Christians are incapable of keeping perfectly.
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If we expect non-believers in our countries to obey God, but expect to be given grace for our inability to obey perfectly, something is out of balance. Don't you know that we will be judged in the manner we judge others?
Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Above, I emboldened a phrase from Ephesians 2:10 that said our good works are prepared for us ahead of time by God. One verse I brought up in Part 1 has a very similar phrase in it. Remember how Jesus explained to James and John that the power structure of God's Kingdom is the opposite of a worldly one? (Meaning that the more responsibility we have in His Kingdom, the more sacrifice is required of us.) While explaining that we will indeed share in his cup, Jesus points out that high positions in God's Kingdom are prepared ahead of time for certain people.
Mark 10:39-40: And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
We learned from James that good works, or active obedience is righteousness. And in the same post I demonstrated why I thought Jesus' main lesson for us was selflessness. Now James tells us that righteousness is gained by sowing peace.
James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
War is not a means for peace, just like revenge is not a means for true justice. A real peacekeeper sows peace by obeying Christ's example of self sacrifice; because self sacrifice is the only action that can end the cycle of violence which this world is run with.

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