long ago a report came from the Philippines with this
heading: "Battle Between Christian Sects in Philippines Leaves
11 Dead." The account stated, "At least 11 people
were hacked to death as armed Christian sects battled in a
remote shrine. . . . About 100 members of the Christian Pulahan
group, armed with machetes and hand grenades, surrounded 200
members of the Benevolent Missionary Association at sunset
Wednesday. . . . Red-clad Pulahan members besieged the shrine
until Thursday morning. Wearing amulets that they say make
them invincible, the missionary association members fought
back with machetes" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
As I read the account of
this carnal fighting, I am reminded of other headlines
that we notice: "Christians
Battle in North Ireland" (describing the fighting between
Protestants and Catholics); "Christians Battle with Muslims
in Lebanon" (referring to Catholic or Orthodox members
against followers of Mohammed); and "Christians and Hindus
Battle in India." Granted, the Press knows nothing of
true Biblical Christianity, but such reports tell us something.
From the time of Christ until
the present age, professing "Christians" have taken up carnal
weapons either to advance their cause or to defend themselves
against their enemies. During the Revolutionary War, both
the British and the Colonists believed that they were serving
God in fighting one another. During the Civil War in the United
States, both sides claimed to be fighting for God and advancing
His purposes. The triumphant song, "The Battle Hymn of
the Republic," urged the northern soldiers to fight
their southern brothers in the name of Christ.
But we could go further back
into history. Think of the Crusades of the eleventh through
centuries, in which deluded but zealous Roman Catholic knights
and commoners took up carnal weapons and marched against
Greek Orthodox brothers as well as the Muslimsall in
the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace! Think further of
the inhuman Inquisition of the twelfth and following centuries,
in which Roman Catholic clergy used the arm of the state
torture and murder many thousands (some accounts say many
millions) of Jews and professing Christians who opposed Catholic
dogma and practices. Protestant leaders also called for the
use of carnal weapons on those who challenged their own teachings.
Tens of thousands of sixteenth century Anabaptists were cruelly
put to death by drowning, the stake, and other inhuman means
because they dared to believe something different and opposed
both Catholic and Protestant practices.
All of this should grieve us deeply. Professing
Christians fighting other professing Christians as well as
non-Christians has been a common practice down through the
ages. How far this is from the way of life brought by the
Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles!
There were those in the early
church who cited the words of Isaiah as being fulfilled
in the early community
of believers: "They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift
up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war"
(Isaiah 2:4). Whether this was the precise fulfillment of
the passage or not, we know that Jesus did bring into being
a new thing: a way of life that exemplified sacrificial, outgoing
love for all people, including ones enemies. Jesus told
His apostles, "Behold, I sent you out as sheep in the
midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as
doves" (Matthew 10:16). He uttered strange and radical
words to His followers: "Love your enemies, do good to
those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those
who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28). When Peter attempted
to defend the Lord in the Garden, Jesus answered, "Put
your sword back into its place; for all those who take up
the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).
The apostles continued to
proclaim this revolutionary way of love. Paul declared, "Bless those who persecute
you; bless and do not curse" (Romans 12:14). "Never
take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath
of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will
repay, says the Lord" (v. 19). He went on to give
shocking commands: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him,
and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing, you
will heap burning coals on his head" (v. 20). "Do
not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (v.
What if all of those who professed to follow
the Lord Jesus had followed these radical teachings? Would
there have been the senseless and wicked slaughter of the
Crusades? Would there have been the heartless violence of
the Inquisition? Would there be the violence, murder and gross
carnality found even today among those who profess to be Christians?
The entire New Testament witnesses against the counterfeit
ways that have been passed off as Christian during the past
two thousand years.
When we hear of machete-welding "Christians"
in the Philippines, bomb-throwing "Christians" in
Ireland, or "Christian" militants in the Middle
East or Africa today, let us see the contrast between this
and the way of the Savior. Let us remember that "while
being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering,
He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him
who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). Christs
suffering and death on the cross is our exampleand those
who follow Him will "follow in His steps" (v. 21).
Are you prepared to be a true Christian by following a radical