Love your enemies

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by martyrologist, Jul 8, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. martyrologist

    martyrologist Puritan Board Freshman

    Due to the branching that occurred in the other thread on Pacifism, which was intended on being focused on Rom. xiii, I have decided to take a branch off and place it over here. Don't worry; I will still be a part of the other thread, but would like it to get back to it's author's original points.

    I (taking the pacifist position, who personally used to hold to a just war ideal) would like to understand how killing your enemies can be justified when Christ himself told us to love our enemies. This killing can take place either in police activity, the state killing a convict, through military action, or even self defense.

    When has Christ sanctioned the use of the sword towards others (remember that not even Calvin believed Luke xxii.36 had anything to do with bearing arms or self defense or sanctioning violence; and Calvin was more of a Just War kind of guy)?

    I am a student of martyrdom. That's been my focus for quite a number of years. Particularly Christian martyrdom in the pre-Constantian Church and comparing that to the martyrdom during the Reformation era. Fascinating stuff, really. are we supposed to view the early martyrs? As fools? Consider what happened.

    Christ said "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt v.44). Take for example the Anabaptist Dirk Willems in 1569. He was being pursued by a persecutor. The persecutor fell through the ice and was drowning. Dirk returned to him and lifted him out of the icy water. The persecutor then arrested him and he was subsequently killed. Would it have been justified for Dirk to continue to run away and leave the persecutor to drown, or even to give the drowning man a little push on the head to ensure he drowns and doesn't continue after the Anabaptist?

    Or, in light of Christ's clear teaching on how we, his disciples, are to act with our enemies, did he make the right choice?

    Christian pacifism is not an appeal to emotions. It's an appeal to follow Christ and his clear teaching and instruction. We must follow Christ. It's about loving your enemies as Christ taught us.
  2. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    This is a tough one for me. I'm pretty certain that I would have kept running. I see loving my enemies as not acting in revenge, or hoping for bad things to happen to or come upon them. I see loving my enemies as trying not to have enemies unless someone chooses to see me in that way despite my actions and efforts. I don't see loving my enemies as aiding someone in killing me.

    I could be wrong, but that's where I am right now.
  3. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    I see some of the reasoning you have presented as a false dichotomy between the teaching of Christ, and the teaching of the Old Testament (although granted that there are differences between the situations). God commanded countless wars and killings in the Old Covenant, and the death penalty goes back (explicitly) at least as far back as Noah. As one who believes in the continuity of the Covenant of Grace, I see no dichotomy between loving your enemies, and a time for war/defense of one's self. Part of the sixth commandment includes the duty of

    (WLC Q135) all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves [1] and others [2] just defense thereof against violence,[8]

    1. Eph. 5:28-29
    2. I Kings 18:4
    8. Psa. 82:4; Prov. 24:11-12; I Sam. 14:45

    also the duty of

    (WLC Q136) lawful war,[4] or necessary defense;[5]

    4. Jer. 48:10; Deut. ch. 20
    5. Exod. 22:2-3

    Anything else is breaking the sixth commandment and should be avoided. We should love our neighbors as ourselves, but is it loving ourselves/countrymen if we do not take up arms to defend ourselves? We should love our enemies to be sure, but this does not mean that we should become door mats.

    Also, the church is not one that should wage war against enemies in just situations. That is the job/role of the civil magistrate.
  4. martyrologist

    martyrologist Puritan Board Freshman

    Believe me. It's a tough issue for all of us. And I don't believe you will find any pacifists, at least from my experience with those I know, who would ever be OK with aiding someone in killing them.
  5. martyrologist

    martyrologist Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not so concerned with the commandments in the sense of ensuring I obey all ten. I see Christ as the fulfillment, and the knowledge that there are basically two: love God and love your neighbor.

    Your statement, "We should love our neighbors as ourselves, but is it loving ourselves/countrymen if we do not take up arms to defend ourselves?" is not one I can easily understand. While this isn't where I want to take it, isn't that supporting the idea that Iraqi Christians (of which there are many) should take up arms with their Muslim neighbors and fight against the US right now? And that would be loving your neighbor?

    When you speak of taking up arms, and defending yourself or your country, you do so against someone else. That someone else is not your neighbor? Who are they? Your enemy? If so, then we return to what Christ said about our enemies: love them and pray for them. I'm not sure I see any affirmation for the idea of taking up arms against them, especially for the sake of your own life.

    If you characterize pacifism as being door mats then certainly that paints those of us who subscribe to that path in a pretty sad light. If it means the name of Christ and his kingdom is proclaimed, then I will gladly be a door mat. But I'm not the one in control of my life. No Christian is.

    You also said, "Also, the church is not one that should wage war against enemies in just situations. That is the job/role of the civil magistrate." I completely agree. The Church should not wage any wars at all. But the Church should be the ones bringing peace and aid to those ravaged by war.

    I say a perfect way to love our Muslim neighbor in Iraq (to consider just one example) is for a Christian with the means to go to Iraq and give aid (food, money, supplies, construction, etc.) to the Muslim families that have felt the destructive effects of war. And do that in the name of Christ, not of a country.
  6. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    A study of the Larger and Shorter Catechism on the 6th commandment would be very helpful here.

    It not only prohibits premeditated murder (which is not killing in war but between fellow Israelites) but also annexes itself to the proper sanctity of life, which includes the protection of all life, including your own, and your family's, but not dispelling capital punishment. As a matter of fact, the command, and GOd's use of it through the OT and NT, demonstrates that those who do not hold to capital punishment hold a LOW view of human life - a view less holy than God's view which required recompense.

    One would also have to make a differentiation between being mugged, being a prezcher in China for the sake of the Gospel, and eliminating Communisim in Russia or dictatorship in WW2 Germany.

    But as a note, historically speaking (i.e. a survery of historical theology) the church never believed that Christ taught passifism.

    On a different note, and a plea for a study of "enemy love" in its proper context, one would find some interesting points about WHY we love our enemies and in the proper context. Why are we good to the atheist on purpose in certain circumstances, rather than simply rebuking them? One would find that loving your enemies is motivated by God's wrath on your enemies, which is a very interesting dichotomy. Its the "I'm going to be nice on purpose (willfully) because I know God will get them in the end" mentality.) If God was not going to damn these people to hell (in the positive sense), we should not be motivated to love them leaving God's wrath to do its work, and to heap up MORE condemnation by loving them. Read Paul's commentary on the OT Psalmist idea in "heaping up burning coals upon thier heads." Its actually a subtle Messianic Warrior theme through the NT. (cf. my sections on enemy love in "The Two Wills of God.)

    Jonathan Edwards made an interesting note on the damnation of sinners and God's hatred of them in relation to our pondering the elect and reprobate. "IF" we knew who was reprobate, we would be required to hate what GOd hates, as we are required to hate what God hates right now. Only thing is, we don't know who is and who is not. But if we did, we would be required to hate them now. (Food for theological reflection).
  7. CalvinandHodges

    CalvinandHodges Puritan Board Junior


    Jesus never told the Centurian to forsake being a soldier. His command to the Centurian was to do justice, and be content with his wages.


  8. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    It has always seemed clear to me that the individual and the state are regulated differently by scripture.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2007
  9. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    martyrologist wrote:

    The Apostle Paul wrote:

    Eddie, I have no problem with your individual conviction on pacifism. Having read both threads I have yet to find sound exegesis that prohibits the magistrate or the state from using, "wrath upon the one who practices evil." The strict pacifist argument is hard for many to accept. Based on your responses in the previous thread it is my impression that you would stand by and do nothing if a murderer broke into your house and was attacking one of your children. Such in-action is inconceivable to most Christians. On the one hand you believe you would be showing the love of Christ by not harming the murderer in your home. On the other hand you would be standing by idly while your child's life was being taken. It escapes all logic.

    There is another position worth considering. One can be a pacifist without being a strict pacifist. The pacifist would stand against most forms of violence. He would labor to display the love of Christ is works of charity and mercy. But this type of pacifist would also recognize that one of the greatest acts of mercy is to rescue others from harm. Sometimes this would be in the heat of the moment. Someone in the other thread postulated a scenario in which a sniper was killing school children. If one life could save many then the greater act of mercy would be saving as many lives as possible. But the magistrate has the responsibility to enforce the law. This is carried out by ministers of justice commonly referred to as police officers. The threat of "the sword" is enough to keep many from harming others.

    The 20th century saw some of the worse acts of genocide imaginable. From Hitlers final solution to Milosevic's ethnic cleansing; these were acts of indescribable depravity. The Allies acted slowly to Hitlers atrocities and only became involved when their own security was threatened. The West ignored the genocide of the Balkans until the cries of the mass graves became a deafening crescendo. I believe God executes judgments on nations (and individuals) who have the means to do right and choose not to act. The strict pacifist would fit into this category. The other pacifist I described would consider the human tragedies to be of far more gravity than the protection of those who perpetuate such crimes.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page