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Christian Love:

The Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense

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Question #1:  

Would you have supported the American Revolution if you were living at that time? And if so, on what grounds Biblically, and if not, same question. Thanks

Response #1: 

It tempts me mightily to give vent to my own particular prejudices (just heard a talk about their prisoner ships during the revolution; apparently a POW in Japanese hands in Burma stood a better chance of survival than a revolutionary era soldier who ended up as a guest of "his majesty"). But I shall refrain. A truly adequate answer would have to give a definitive appraisal of the rightness or wrongness of the Revolution per se. Defending one's country is unquestionably not only legitimate but I would argue biblically required. So in this historical case we would have been asking (had we been there) whether it was right to consider the "mother" country or the colonies / individual states the place to which allegiance was properly and legitimately due. Many men and women of conscience decided differently, and I'm not sure it is my role to second guess on either side with the benefit of hindsight (after all, had the British won, we today would no doubt look as disparagingly on "the rebels" as we do today on the "Tories", but the facts of the situation at the time on the basis of which people made their choice would be identical).

Moreover, it is very easy for people to say, after the fact, "If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part . . . " (Matt.23:30), but given that Jesus uses these words as self-incrimination against the Pharisees, it seems clear to me that everyone should be very careful about saying what they would or wouldn't have done in a different historical situation.

After all, we face enough challenges in our own time, and we are certainly failing them collectively, and certainly could be doing better individually (at the very least). We have a hard enough time evaluating what is "really" happening around us now, so to look back at a different historical era and project ourselves into it in this way misses the point that we would be different people entirely had we grown up and lived in those times. Nor is it particularly useful as a hypothetical, because what we think about "what those times were like" is certainly mis-informed to a monumental degree, even if we have spent our lives studying them (which of course, with very few exceptions, we have not).

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 TNIV

As someone who does ancient history and historiography for a living, I can honestly say that the more one learns about the past, the more one learns that one doesn't know or really understand very much. And if one is honest about how much of what is happening in the world is "foggy" to us even as we are living it today, that certainly makes perfect sense.

As to what we should be doing now or should have done then, we are each called to evaluate our own personal situations and seek what is "best" in the will of God (Phil.1:10; cf. Col.1:9-10; Rom.2:18). This will always involve the best way forward in His plan for us in terms of personal sanctification and spiritual growth, and the implementation of our individual spiritual gift(s). It will almost never involve politics in any way, and that is really what is at the heart of such issues. I don't believe in political solutions, only divine solutions worked out individually for individual Christians pursuing Jesus Christ in the manner in which scripture directs.

Any time we get involved in collective solutions, especially anything that strays outside the local church and has any political connotations whatsoever, we are at best most likely wasting out time, and at worst being co-opted by the devil. I would like to think that if I had lived in those times, what Jesus wanted me to do personally in growing and helping others to do so as well is what would have occupied all my time, attention, and interest, not what was going on in the political sphere, no matter how interesting or important it may have seemed.

To be fair, I did join the military right out of college (USMC) out of a sense of duty, and knowing myself I think it is more than likely that I would have acted similarly in the past (pick your era, pick your conflict). However, God certainly expects us to hold to our principles regardless of the situation, evaluating the situation is not situation ethics (there is a right time for everything: Eccl.3.1-8). For example, joining Washington's army out of patriotism surely had a different spiritual quotient than joining Hitler's Wehrmacht. This is a point that is important to make in our day and age. We are on the threshold of the Tribulation and the calculus of such decision will very much change "with the situation". I can't see any way that a believer would not find himself compromised by joining an armed force under antichrist's control, and since the remnant of true Church of believers during those dark days will called upon to honor Christ with her martyrdom, joining the "guerilla resistance" is likely to entail grave spiritual consequences as well, even if genuine patriotism is the main motive for this (or for that) action. We are very much responsible for all the choices we make and share in the responsibility that falls to any organization with whom we choose to contract. Whether the rightness or the wrongness of any such choice seems to us a simple matter to determine, we should never take any such decision without a very careful consideration of what our Lord wants us to do, both in general terms and in terms of our individual lives.

In Jesus who is our all,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Robert, I see that Christian love or agape is a function of the will. It is therefore part of our sin nature, having some degree or other of difficulty in the frontal lobes' 'executive' functions, to fall short of loving fully in the agape manner.  What I do not yet perceive is the nature of brotherly love (as in Hebrews 13:1) vis a vis cortical function, as in, e.g., the effects of oxytocin. It would help me if you would explain the Greek/Hebraic meaning of the word 'brotherly', as used in New Testament text. Thank you, good sir.  To His Glory!

Response #2: 

I have been mulling over your question. I think really what we have here are two or maybe three of them. Let me try and answer this way.

1) First of all, there are three basic words for love in Greek. There is eros which is always romantic/sexual; there is philia which can run the gamut from friendship and good-feelings to deeply committed love, but is concerned more with the emotion of love than with the passion of love (eros); and there is agape, which is often termed "Christian love" because on the one hand this is by far the most common word for love in the NT, and on the other it is not nearly so prominent elsewhere in Greek literature. However, agape does appear elsewhere in Greek literature. If I had to try and nail it down I would say that agape usually has as its core element familiarity and habituation (and also occasionally tolerance). It But while eros always has connotations of passion, it is often difficult to sort out philia and agape in practice (to the point of drawing any definite conclusions about one versus the other at any rate; cf. John 21:15-19 where our Lord uses the corresponding verbs of these nouns as essential synonyms, pace the many interpreters who try to draw some non-existent distinctions in that passage).

2) However, what you are really asking about is philadelphia, a combination of philia and adelphos or "love" and "brother" = "love for one's brothers [and sisters] in Christ" (cf. the city, Philadelphia, the so-called "city of brotherly love"). In his aretology in chapter one of second Peter, Peter places agape at the top of the list, and philadelphia just prior to it. This is not I think a contrast between philia and agape, but rather between the very specific virtue of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ and "love in general". The latter is placed higher on the scale in 2nd Peter 1:7 because, as the scale suggests with reverence for God in the preceding place, the agape in question here must be the exercise of love by the Christian towards all. That is to say, this is the sort of love that tolerates and seeks what is best, even perfect strangers, even for unbelievers; this is the "love even your enemies" type of love, the "love even those who despitefully use you" type of love. In other words, this type and exercise of love is the highest of the Christian virtues in great part because it is the most difficult to consistently deploy. True Christian love cannot be adequately reduced to a simple definition because "God is love" and we cannot limit or define God. If we are obeying Him and appreciating Him perfectly and reflecting His love perfectly to others, we are fulfilling the standard of walking in love (1Jn.2:5; et passim in 1Jn). This standard is clearly far beyond the traditional meanings of any of these words or even of all of them put together.

3) The third part of your question (or perhaps the first taken last) deals with the issue of epistemology. I plan to tackle this subject in some detail in part 4B of the Bible Basics series, but as that is still some time out at present, I am happy to address the matter briefly here in terms of your question. It is true, we all inhabit physical bodies which are steeped in the sin nature. However, as human beings we are in our essential nature dichotomous, possessing both a body (contaminated with the sin nature by birth) and a human spirit which is given at the point of birth directly from God and incapable of being contaminated. Our mind or soul or self or inner-person or heart or whatever you wish to call it is the interface between the two, and the fact that our spirit has to express itself through the corrupt body and is influenced by it in the interface accounts for both the inefficiencies of our mental processes and the internal temptation of the sin nature (all of this is covered in some detail at the link in part 3A of Bible Basics: Anthropology, and 3B: Hamartiology).

What is commonly not understood about the way we as human beings receive information is that God has provided a sort of short-cut or "closed circuit" for the apprehension of His truth which obviates all the many potential problems of processing truth through a tainted mechanism such as our bodies and brains surely are. That process is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who for all people at all times makes God's truth effectively available to our spirits in the interface whenever we expose ourselves to the truth and desire to know it. The Spirit communicates to our spirit the truth we seek to embrace, thus overriding the problem of a tainted interface wherein otherwise the biological and sinful part of our "heart" would be unable to understand, appreciate or discern what is true. This process is the same for unbelievers in terms of the gospel and for believers in terms of drawing nearer to God through His truth generally (cf. 1Cor.14:14-19):

[In contrast to the righteousness of God which is being revealed (i.e., dispensed) through faith (vv.16-17)], God's wrath is being revealed (i.e., dispensed) from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness – on men who suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. For that which can be known about God [from everyday experience] is obvious to them, because God has made it obvious.
Romans 1:18-19

But as it is written: "What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and [what] has not entered the heart of man, [these are the very] things which God has prepared for those who love Him". And God has revealed [these very things] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches out everything, even the deep things of God. For who knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way too no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. And we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, in order that we might know the things graciously given to us by God. And these are the very things we are speaking about, not in words taught by human wisdom, but with words of the Spirit, communicating spiritual information to spiritual people. Now the unspiritual (lit., "soulish") man does not receive the [deeper] things of the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him and he is not able to understand them because they are appreciated [only] through spiritual means. But the spiritual man does appreciate them all, though he himself is not appreciated [in this regard] by anyone. For [as it says] "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who will instruct Him?" But we do have the very thinking (lit., "mind") of Christ (i.e., His truth from the Spirit).
1st Corinthians 2:9-16

In all of our applications in this life we are limited by many things, and not least of these limitations is the sin nature. But the reverse of the process mentioned above in respect to our free will is similar when it comes to our choices and actions. Whatever we do, we are told in Galatians chapter five, will be responding to the sin nature or to the Spirit. When we obey the latter, what we produce is pure, the result of our will responding to the truth in our hearts made understandable and accessible by the Spirit communicating to our spirit in our heart (the interface). So that just as the sin nature is bypassed in the reception of truth, so also in the application of truth in the power of the Spirit, God is able to produce through us works that are truly good and untainted by the sin that dwells within us. The Word of God, the truth, that is the ammunition or the leverage the Spirit uses, that is the "sword of the Spirit" which we are to employ (Eph.6:17). The more of this spiritual capital within us, the more effective we can be for the Lord in all things, including the application of love, love for God, love for our brethren, love for the world in general.

I hope this makes a start in answering your question. As you can see, I have a lot more work to do in developing this teaching, and much of it will have to wait for parts 4B and 5 of Bible Basics. In the meantime, please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Please see also:

Christian Epistemology

The Mind of Christ

In the One who is the Truth and who has revealed Himself to us through the Spirit, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3:  


Thank you for your thoughtful responses!

I had a puppy once. It got a piece of leather and chewed/worried at it until she could swallow it. I am like that and about this business of the relation of types of NT love and what seem to be related brain structures and functions - I am worrying at it.

In several places in the NT there are Strong's definitions of love like this: "Syn.: filia 5373 agaph, signifying properly (v. s. agaraw 25) love which chooses its object, is taken from the LXX, where its connotation is more general, into the NT, and there used exclusively to express that spiritual bond of love between God and man and between man and man, in Christ which is characteristic of Christianity. It is thus distinct from filia, friendship (#Jas 4:4 only), storgh, natural affection (in the NT only in its compounds, v. s. astorgov 794) and erwv sexual love, which is not used in the NT, in its place being taken by epihumia 1939."

I am thinking of filia in terms of the bonding agent/neurochemical oxytocin.

My focus at the moment is this "love which chooses its object". It implies an act of the will, which I understand to be a cognitive/frontal lobe function. Does this fit for you?

Then, there seems a relation between the self-sacrificial love of a husband, compared to that of Jesus (kenosis), and the love Jesus described as agape. Yes?

It reflects the "turning upside down" kind of reasoning Jesus sometimes used: here, love as the willful giving up of the (self) will.

I look forward to your thoughts about this.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Response #3: 

You're certainly welcome. Also, I don't mind revisiting this with you. As a full-time professor and teacher, I well understand that often I don't get my ideas across fully the first time around. Often, it is just that I and my students are looking at things from a different point of view. But whatever the reason or reasons, repetition and recasting of the approach is never a bad thing.

It is true that occasionally words are used in a technical sense. That is true of English and in Greek. In a court of law, "felon" has a very technical and highly proscribed meaning. However, people out in the "real world" very often use it in a non-technical sense to mean just "a really bad person" (and of course its origin is non-technical, meaning precisely that). Generally speaking, technical vocabulary is useful because it more precisely limits or defines categories. That is, in the case of "felon" it describes a particular type of legal transgressor as identified by the particular type of crime committed. Love is a broad category, and it too could, theoretically, be subdivided in a technical way. Technical vocabulary, however, is almost always purposefully defined by some person or group rather than being accidentally defined by usage. That is to say, a person or group with some authority invents or coins a word, or else gives a limited or specialized meaning to an already existing word in order to delineate some particular concept that is not otherwise clearly seen in the language without a lengthy explanation. The law, medicine, philosophy etc. are examples of places where authorities ancient and modern have often made use of this device.

It does also happen in theology of course. You used the word kenosis, and in doing so you are following a theological tradition of using this generic Greek word in the special context of the New Testament to mean not just any "limiting" but specifically Christ's limiting of Himself in His humanity from accessing His deity in order to benefit Himself during the first advent. This word was chosen of course because it occurs (or rather its verbal counterpart occurs) in Philippians chapter two where these ideas are expressed by Paul. But it is well to note that Paul himself does not use the verb kenoo in a strictly technical sense there; rather he uses it in a normal way to explain Christ's first advent self-limitation, and we have summarized this idea by using the corresponding noun kenosis as a technical shorthand for the entire idea. Now Paul does use technical vocabulary of his own invention from time to time when necessary to get his point across. The word epignosis (as opposed to gnosis) is very important in his letters (although almost always mistranslated and misunderstood). This word as an authoritatively developed technical word is germane to our discussion because it speaks in part to the epistemology question. Knowledge is important, but focused knowledge is essential. With the more precise epignosis Paul makes this point clear: It is not only necessary for us to know the truth in an academic sense; we have to believe the truth for it to be useful for us; only then can we follow, obey and act on it (that is epignosis as opposed to mere gnosis where neither the belief nor the follow-through can be assumed).

However, Paul does this sort of thing sparingly. And why? It is because his epistles are not technical theological treatises. Rather they are teaching communications. And as every teacher knows, taking into account the audience (or class) is absolutely essential to effective teaching. A good teacher has to get on the "wave-length" of the class, and that includes putting things in ways they will be able to understand. If one is going to use technical vocabulary for efficiency, that vocabulary has first to be carefully defined and taught, otherwise we will only be confusing our students. Now it is true that we are a bit of a disadvantage in this respect due to the fact that we are not privy to the many thousands of hours of verbal teaching that Paul's "students" enjoyed. Yet God takes all things into consideration, and you can rest assured that in the canon we have every answer (even if some of them take quite a lot of time and effort to ferret out). The question, your question, thus becomes whether or not 1) there was an existing set of technical distinctions for the various words for love, which set of technical distinctions the apostles made us of, or whether 2) they invented their own technical specializations of these common words and we are supposed to see and understand that, or whether 3) these words for love have the same essential meanings they would have outside of the Bible if one were reading (or hearing) other first century Greek literature.

Strong's comments about agape versus philia are interesting (I find them almost word for word in Abbott-Smith's lexicon) and not at all out of the ordinary (it is the typical thing that one hears). The questions this list of definitions raises however are 1) is it true (i.e., can one look at examples in the Bible and in other Greek literature and actually see instances where this sort of distinction really is evident)?, and 2) if there is a distinction, is it a meaningful one?

To take the first question above first, in my reading of the NT and Greek generally, I don't believe I have ever seen a case where any sort of point was made by contrasting agape and philia or their corresponding verbs/adjectives etc. (you already have my opinion on John 21, and I think it is very telling that when exegetes do try and distinguish between the two roots there, that "revelation" garnered thereby is always either insignificant or a patently untrue application). It is true that the NT uses agape with a reversal of frequency from what one finds elsewhere in Greek where philia is generally preferred. But if this is done deliberately in order to make some sort of distinction, that distinction ought to be obvious or at least discernible. Instead, I would argue, if one were to insert philia for agape and phileo for agapao at virtually any place in the NT, it is doubtful that a translator would be able to make any sort of distinction in an English translation, or that a commentator would be able beyond noting the fact and saying something along the lines of Strong's to give any actually important guidance as a result of the difference. As I said in the prior e-mail, I would agree that agape tends more toward contentment and philia more towards excitement on the passion scale, but would also hasten to add that this is a generality of meaning not always evident in actual usage – by which I mean there is no technical distinction between the two words, and so nothing one can "hang one's hat on" and make any sort of decisive theological point on the basis of using one verb/noun versus the other, because the bottom line is that the semantic fields of meaning for these roots overlap, and therefore without a definite indication from the context we can't read much into the bare occurrence of the one in place of the other.

This brings us to the second question. If there is a meaningful distinction, it must be found to flow directly from the biblical text. That is to say, there is a very common fallacy of biblical interpretation practiced even by those with advanced degrees who ought to know better which "discovers" (or really postulates) the sort of precise distinction we are imagining here, and then goes back to scripture and imposes the formula on the biblical text – then uses those texts are proof! That is circular reasoning at its worst. I am certainly willing to accept that in order to get to the bottom of what the Bible has to say in all of its wonderful fullness it will often be necessary for us to posit an interpretative paradigm; but the proof of that pudding is in seeing whether the paradigm actually "works". In this case, even though so many lexicons, commentaries, concordances et al. assume the truth of this sort of distinction, I don't see it working in the Bible when actually applied (or anywhere else in Greek literature, for that matter). Indeed, not only in my view are these words largely interchangeable without any noticeable change of meaning, but there are actually places where they are used as essentially identical synonyms (as in John 21:15-17). That would never be the case if there were a truly meaningful and important distinction between the two developed deliberately in scripture on the level of specialized, technical vocabulary.

As I say, that does not mean that the two words are not different or that they do not have slightly different meanings. In the case of all synonyms, there is always an area of semantic overlap (i.e., cases, areas where they are nearly identical) and also of exclusivity (i.e., they are different words, after all, so that they must at the very least have a different "flavor" of sorts). Imagine two overlapping circles which are not superimposed directly one upon the other (so as to be able to see only one), but which are instead off-center the one from the other so that we may see an (A) area which refers only to circle/set #1; a (C) area which refers only to circle/set #2, and a (B) area, the area of overlap, where the two circles/sets are essentially the same. It is the job of technical vocabulary to disaggregate the two so that there remains virtually no overlap. If that were the case with agape versus philia, then they could not be interchanged in the text of the NT without causing a fundamental change of meaning. However, as I say, I am not aware of a single case where that is true. I think it is very significant, for example, that while agape is often termed "brotherly love", the actual word for "brotherly love" in the NT is phil-adelphia, not agap-adelphia which we ought to expect if there were a technical distinction.

Finally on this point, I think it is also significant that all of the many attempts to distinguish the two word-groups with English prose descriptions of their differences fail to pass muster on close scrutiny. To use the example from Strong's about which you specifically comment, "love which chooses its object" is to me meaningless. Isn't friendship also love choosing its object? How can love be divorced from choice? Apart from extreme views of erotic love which seek to absolve the subject from responsibility (and which every Christian must reject out of hand: we are responsible for everything we do), all love is about choosing to esteem an object. I will also have to demur regarding the idea of sacrificial love. For the idea of sacrifice is also always present in the idea of love; whatever you choose to esteem by definition reflects a choice or opting out of that which you choose to esteem less (at least in my view). Only the degree and the type of the sacrifice is in question. In any case, absent a good, meaningful English pair of definitions for the two which would demonstrate clearly how they would be different in actual practice (and thus would allow us to test those assumptions where the words are actually used), and given the examples above which argue for them being close synonyms, I think we have to conclude decisively that agape is not used in the NT in any special technical sense versus philia.

Why ever use it instead then? I think the answer to that is very clear, and Strong's is partially correct on this. The NT makes this vocabulary choice for the same reason it makes many vocabulary choices, namely, it is much more often agape than philia which one finds in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, namely, the Septuagint (LXX). The most common word for love in the Hebrew is 'ahabh, and the LXX uses both word-groups to translate these forms. However, since agape-agapao is by far the prevalent word used in the LXX for this generic word for love, the NT, written to people who would be using that translation as their primary OT access, makes use of that vocabulary. To put it in a nutshell, in the dialect of "Jewish Greek", for whatever reason agape-agapao was the word-group which came most readily to mind when the idea of love came up, rather than philia-phileo – precisely the reverse of what one would find most other places in the Greek world. Vocabulary shifts of this sort are not only common but expected in dialectical sub-groups. Indeed, this sort of thing is what makes a dialect in the first place (and why the Brits call the jelly the jam and the jam the jelly, for example). But of either a deliberate differentiation between the two (technical vocabulary) or an innate significant difference based upon usage (so as to make them remote rather than close synonyms) I find no actual evidence (beyond the large volume of ink spilled in scholarly works).

I hope this is helpful and would be happy to continue the discussion.

In the Lord who loves (or esteems) us so,

Bob L.

Question #4:  


Do you have a reaction to the following?

There are several words in the Greek of the New Testament that are translated 'love':

* 'Philio' means affection. We become fond of, and directed towards, the object of this kind love. The more worthy the object, the deeper the affection, so that it becomes devotion and even more. When we seek God's face, we gain affection for him, and this affection should deepen throughout our lives, as we learn more and more of his beauty and wonder. Those for whom we have philio for, we want to bless and do good things for.

* 'agape' means sacrificial, self-giving love. When we agape someone or something, we make sacrifice way beyond the appropriate response of philio. agape does not depend on the worthiness of the object of our love. We agape unworthy people and things. While philio is intimate, agape is out-going. Only God can truly agape. When we seek God's heart we begin to agape like God does.

from: http://www.basden.demon.co.uk/xn/hfh.html


Response #4: 

On this one, I don't have any more to say from a positive point of view than I have already said, namely, that philia and agape are essentially synonymous, and that according to the canons of hermeneutics and interpretation any specific difference we would choose to draw out of them would have to flow directly from the Bible in any given context, that is, from a verse where one or the other or both appear. All love is affectionate. All love is self-sacrificing. When the author of these descriptions (given without any sourcing – they seem to be his/her personal impressions) makes distinctions between the two based upon definitions he/she has set up for them him/herself, well, that is getting trapped deep in a logical fallacy. Besides which they are plain wrong. For example, we are told over and over again in the Bible to direct agape to each other, so it's not impossible. Also, we are told to have phil-adelphia, which means we should love all believers, whether or not we know them or even know them to be believers (and that is as about as impersonal as love gets). The semantic circles or fields of these two synonyms overlap to such a large degree that it is just plain incorrect to say that you could ever get any specific difference out of one or the other in the Bible based upon the word choice alone without some other clue from the context.

One final observation. What this person is doing is not new, but it is and has always been very dangerous. Setting up categories which are only vaguely defined in fact as definitive and dispositive results in the worst sort of theological heresies. As you can see from just the snippet you include, this person is drawing all sorts of conclusions about what we should and should not think from his/her own definitions, telling us what we should and should not do and say merely on the basis of assigning "magical meanings" to words, and then deriving a theological system from those new word-categories. I have seen this repeatedly in "Bible-teaching" circles; it's not new; the RC church has been doing it for millennia, and all Gnostic-type heresies always have this sort of thing in their bag of "secret truth". It's the sort of thing that always sounds interesting, like astrology, and yet, like astrology (the grand-daddy of this genre) manages to remain vague enough in the propagation of this "secret knowledge" that the result is that it can never quite be pinned down in terms of actual cases. That is to say, you can never quite grasp it completely; like gossamer it always slips through your fingers when you try. To use the present case as an example, even if we accept all this author says as the truth, can we really apply "love" using two different methods in the way these definitions suggest we should? I don't think so.

There are categorical truths in the Bible, but the truth of the Bible establishes these categories for us and fills up these categories itself with meaning in very direct and deliberate ways. The job of an exegete and Bible teacher is in large degree that of discovering such categories of truth and explaining them – but not of inventing them when there is no justification for doing so, and then using such invented categorical "knowledge" as a font of wisdom in its own right! That is how we got canon law in the Roman church. To give you a specific example apropos of this question, do you know of any place where scripture itself distinguishes between agape and philia in any meaningful way (let alone in the precise and specific ways that this person adduces), or where it offers a definition of one verses the other? That is always the litmus test to use in such evaluations, namely, "What is the biblical evidence?"

*There is no question but that true, Christian love is superior to any other sort of love (as Paul demonstrates in detail in 1st Corinthians 13). But our love, properly executed, is superior because it is empowered by God (the Spirit), based upon our desire to please God (the Son), and tailored by all the truth in the Word of God (the Father). There is a power and a depth and a limitless, indescribable essence to true Christian love that is not evident or intrinsically inherent in any of the vocabulary words the Bible uses to describe it, and limiting ourselves to the terms themselves is neither helpful in this regard nor correct. Since God is love, learning what love really is cannot be separated from learning who God really is. Defining Christian love perfectly would require a perfect understanding of God and of His Word. This is indeed what we are striving for (along with a reflection and application of that love in our lives), but it will never flow forth from arbitrary distinctions in vocabulary that scripture itself does not make.*

Hope this is helpful,

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

I read your latest email question postings on the Exodus; it seems the person was intent on proving you wrong and himself right no matter how many times you tried to explain what you were doing. He did not seem to grasp, or refused to, the concept of Biblical principles being taught as opposed to some form of archeology or history.

He reminds me of the occasional student I've had who is bright and very impressed with himself (it is always a guy) and wants to "show up the professor" by arguing about some point of law that has little or nothing to do with a teaching point. It usually ends with me telling him that he hasn't paid attention and that he should be concerned about what I say and not what he thinks since I'm the one giving the test and he's the one taking it.

I've also seen this in the courtroom where some lawyer thinks he's smarter than the judge and forgets the fact that the point is to persuade the judge, not impress him with how smart the lawyer is. Never will forget when a federal judge got tired of a defense lawyer going on about an issue even after he had ruled and the judge asked him in open court "Where did you go to law school?" The lawyer was rather sullen for the remainder of the case.

Anyway, I'm not sure he ever got your point about depending on what the Bible says and not what our eyes see. That's really hard to do and why there's such an emphasis on the idea of faith in the NT. Just trying to recreate a crime scene or accident in the immediate aftermath is difficult; we're talking about thousands of years ago. It is difficult for us to really understand what happened in a battle like at Gettysburg, which is well documented, because we weren't there. And even if we were, our view of events and personal knowledge would be restricted by time and space. We can walk the battlefield but it has changed some in the 145 years since it happened and that battlefield was preserved not long afterwards. Even now, the physical location of some regiments during the battle can be disputed. How much more so something almost 4000 years ago.

Keep running the race.


Response #5: 

I appreciate your support as always. You make a very good point about battlefields. Autopsy has limited value when it comes to ancient geography. The plain of Marathon today is covered with olive trees – no way or place to form up a phalanx – and, other than the mound, there is nothing left to see.

As you put it so well, we have to believe what God tells us in His book; even the world was not formed the way it appears to have been formed (Heb.1:2). The only things we can get from what our eyes can discern are the things of natural revelation, the very things which point us to the Word of God for the "further reference" of His special revelation.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


Question #6:  

Hi again Doc!

In bible study we spoke on a sermon of love. The person who ran the study had said that "everyone" who loves is born of God and used this verse to back it up.

1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

I don't quite understand it because I know that even criminals and those who wallow in sin also have love, but are not born of God. I'm trying to understand exactly what that verse means since it says that "every one" that loves is born of God, but we know that not every one that loves is actually born of God because I'm sure that even murderers can love even their parents. Thanks in advance!


Response #6: 

I believe that the love John has in mind here is Christian love, namely, the true love that comes from God who is love (as John says in the very next verse), rather than just ordinary human emotional attachment. When we see genuine Christian love being manifest, it is a sign that the person in question is really a believer. The characteristics of this love are well fleshed out by Paul in 1st Corinthians 13:4-7. True Christian love is patient, focused on what is divinely good, is not envious of others, does not brag, does not behave arrogantly, does not behave shamefully, does not seek the person's own good in preference to the good of other believers, is not easily provoked to anger, does not hold grudges, does not take pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in God's truth; it maintains internal self-control over sin and anger, it has faith in all of God's words, it sets its hope on all of God's promises, and it endures all external pressures without failing in faith. Such love will never fall, and is decidedly and qualitatively superior to much of what passes for "love" in the world today. Genuine Christian love is based upon God's love for us – since He loved us first – and is our love response to Him, to His sacrifice of His own dear Son and Jesus' sacrifice of Himself for us on the cross. Faced with such love toward us, how could we not eagerly accept and respond in love to all He has for us in this life and in the one to come?

In the love our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.


Question #7:  

The Bible tells us that we are to love our enemies and out neighbors. How do we do this? What does it look like to live out this command in our modern world?

Response #7: 

This is not an easy one as you surely now. Confronted with a similar iteration of this question, our Lord told His interlocutor the parable of the good Samaritan. As an old seminary professor of mine pointed out many years ago most people fail to realize when they read this parable that the priest and the Levite refused to help the man no doubt in part because they did not wish to become unclean by having any dealings with him. This is a good example of people assuming that they are walking in love when in reality they are applying a strict form of legalism that only reinforces their behavior which is in actuality not loving at all. We can see clearly from the parable that "being a neighbor" to someone is doing for them what they genuinely need done and are unable to do for themselves. It would also of course entail not doing something to/for someone which is obviously or truly not helpful to them (i.e., that is the golden rule).

So true Christian love has two important sides, and it is hard (one might say impossible) for us to be perfect in love, especially on both sides. In my observation and experience, most Christians tend to be more likely to err on one side of the equation or the other and to cast a blind eye to their area of weakness while at the same time often finding fault with those of the opposite persuasion. That is to say, one person may be more inclined to lend a necessary helping hand than some else, but at the same time might also be more inclined to interfere in areas which are really none of their business; someone else might be just the opposite, allowing others to "live and let live", but also not being terribly concerned about necessary aid. Some, of course, are both legalistic and stingy at the same time (the worst outcome); and few of us are both compassionate and tolerant.

An important distinction also needs to made here about what "help" and "tolerance" really are. To take them in reverse order, doing anything to someone (even if you perceive it as being "for" rather than "to" them) which, if the shoe were on the other foot, you yourself would dislike or resent, is likely to be an example of a lack of love. This point alone knocks out almost anything that smacks of legalistic "correction"; because as Proverbs says in a variety of ways and places rebuking/correcting a "wise man" is worthwhile, but how many of us are wise enough to do so wisely (and are also definitely in the right according to the true biblical standard), and wise enough to know that our carefully chosen words will definitely be received in the right spirit (rather than placing a stumbling block in front of someone else)? For first there is the issue of being right in the first place about the correction, et al. Clearly, we should not do anything to harm or wrong another party – anyone. But in Christian application this much more often means tolerating behavior we view as immature and restricting our own behavior so as not to give offense rather than jumping into someone else's Christian application. It is interesting that there are four chapters in the NT exclusively devoted to this side of things, i.e., 1Cor.8-9; Rom.14-15, and only a handful of verses that say anything to give comfort to those who want to take the speck out of someone else's eye, and yet the latter is where most Christians want to place the emphasis – such is the power of the sin nature.

On the other side of the coin is helping other people actively. But what does that mean in legitimate Christian terms? Our Lord's example in the parable of the good Samaritan is very clear, and it is certainly in line with what we find in the Law (e.g., if you come across one of your neighbor's animals in trouble you must give it aid rather than ignoring it as "none of your business"). So, sinful human beings that we are, we tend to give people "help" that isn't really help at all but merely an unnecessary challenge to their spiritual lives, while at the same time neglecting helping them with what they really need, claiming it's "none of our business". The latter of course may be material, but it may also be spiritual. This is particularly needful to emphasize in the present state of the church visible where so much of missionary activity has come to take the form of economic rather than spiritual intervention. I would argue that it is better to give one child the gospel and lead him/her to salvation than to save the lives of a thousand who are disinterested in the Lord – and/or fail to give them the gospel in the process of such so-called "help". I am certainly not saying that there is no place for material aid – of course there is; but it is undeniably secondary to spiritual assistance, and largely pointless if that is taken out of the equation altogether.

God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die for the sins of us all that we all might be saved through faith in Him and His work. We can learn from our Father and our Lord what it means to walk in perfect love. God does not take away all the pain and suffering in the world. But He does provide the means for everyone to have eternal life – that is really what matters and what is at stake, not a temporary fix that won't do anyone any real good, but an eternal, perfect solution that transcends the here and now. So God gives us, the world, not "world peace" or "an end to hunger and disease", but what we really need: the means and the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. On the other side of the equation, though Jesus died for all, and though God the Father wants all to be saved, yet He does not force us, nor does He pressure us to come Him. He leaves the free will of every human being inviolately intact to make this fundamental decision without coercion. That is an important part of love too, the tolerance part. So as loving Christians we can help people with what they truly need when they truly want it, and we should not "help"/interfere with what they don't truly need, even if they want it, or with what they do truly need, if they don't want it.

It seems to me that the answer to your question lies in the above. God the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus sacrificed for us in love beyond what we can comprehend, and so we too should be willing to sacrifice everything for love: since He loves all, we ought to love all in the same way and with the same objective: the salvation and spiritual growth of all. But this love does not mean interfering with things that really are none of our business; everyone has to be free to live their own lives, make their own decisions. Giving unbelievers the gospel message, and doing all we can to help our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ grow spiritually are thus the fundamental corner-stones of Christian love. Everything else that we might do has to be built on this twin foundation to really be of love.

It is an extremely high standard to which we as members of the Body of Christ have been called, but in embracing it and attempting to do a better job meeting it day to day not only will we be found well-pleasing to the Lord, but we will also be fulfilling all the Law and the prophets.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 NIV

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of Godó even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1st Corinthians 10:31-33 NIV

In our Lord.

Bob L.


Question #8:  

Hi again!

Jesus said in Matt. 5:44, "....Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

So if Christians were to be drafted because of military action, would going to war be just the opposite of what Jesus said in the above verse? A friend of mine had stated;

"Matt. 8

5 ∂ And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

With the many encounters Jesus and Peter had with military men, I never see Jesus or Peter telling them to stop serving in the military. If it were a sin, then Jesus would have approached them in the same way he did the woman at the well. Or the woman caught in adultery. Or the pharisees.

But it was apparently not a concern to Jesus or Peter."

Can you help me clear up this confusion? Thanks in advance!


Response #8: 

As a former Marine, I completely agree. To add to your friend's very good point, John the baptist tells the soldiers who come to him to baptized to refrain from extortion and false accusation and to be content with their wages, not to stop being soldiers (Lk.3:14). David was one of the greatest believers in history, and his exceptional record as soldier is very well known. One might also add that while we are to love our enemies, and while the shedding of blood in murder is one of the worst sins, capital punishment is ordained in scripture for a number of offenses in the Old Testament and never condemned in the New. Thus there are clearly circumstances where the taking of life is necessary for the continuation of law and order and for the protection of the state which, while not necessarily godly, is definitely "of God" (Rom.13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1Pet.2:13-17).

As a practical matter, I would have no problem allowing individuals with qualms about taking another person's life serve in non-combatant roles. Army medics and Navy Corpsmen, for example, are often at even greater risk than the soldiers and Marines doing the fighting during combat operations, but are not required to take life. I do not find in scripture any prohibition against defending one's country in the military, but I would certainly not think less of a fellow believer who chooses for whatever reason to handle such a circumstance in the honorable way suggested above. Of course, at the moment, in this country the problem is academic since all military service is voluntary.

One final point, it is indeed a very good thing for anyone in military service to have respect for their enemies on the battlefield, even from a secular viewpoint. Hating the enemy is almost always counterproductive and can lead to bad decisions and faulty evaluations.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


Question #9:  

I asked someone who was also in the military and is a Christian to get a second opinion, and he said:

"When I was in the USMC hating the enemy was constantly preached. The communists (OK I'm dating myself) were an evil that needed to be destroyed to preserve and defend the American way. Then the muslim terrorists (I was in when muslims blew the barracks in Beirut) were the next evil that needed killed. Oh yeah, hate is good for warriors...


Being the point of the sword of the nation's defense the Marines tend not to approach things from an "objective" viewpoint...I remember one corporal in radio school (29 Palms CA) who would have us sing "Kill, Pillage, and Burn, we're gonna KILL PILLAGE AND BURN!" Sorry if that offends any, and if it messes up any sort of "poster boy" images ya got but it's what we did. There was another one-if yer old enough ya might remember the "I am stuck on band-aid 'cause band-aid's stuck on me" commerical. Another hardcore corporal replaced "band-aid" with "napalm". After we'd sind the song we'd shout "Napalm sticks to kids". Oh yeah, all this singing is done while we're runnin' our keesters off.

I won't even tell ya the other runnin' songs-I'm sure some other jarheads around would know them. There were some Christian guys (one that eventually led me to the Lord) that would just refuse to sing out on the vulgar/porno songs, but they were popular. Frankly, anything I saw of God in the USMC was in spite of it, not because of it. These two Christian guys in particular were hard-chargin', all business, poster-boy Marines. But they were definitely the minority and I rarely saw anything in the NCOs that was particularly Christ-like."

What do you think about all this? thanks in advance!


Response #9: 

Nobody going into service should expect to find "Sunday school". It's not for sissies, that's for sure (especially not the Marines). Soldiers, and Marines in particular, engage in bravado as a matter of course – that doesn't mean that in combat they don't develop a healthy respect for their opponents. As far as "loving one's enemies" is concerned, that is a command given to individual Christians, not to organizations which are not even Christian. It is true that going into service a Christian is going to have moments of confrontation with others whose behavior, attitudes, and lifestyle is demonstrably un-Christian in every way. But that is true of virtually every other venue in life as well. It's just that in the military it is often particularly intense because we are talking about very young men in very intense situations. That doesn't mean that a Christian can't be a Christian in the military. It is not mandatory that you go to the bars when off duty (etc.). Most of this stuff is window-dressing anyway. If a Christian is unable to hear or see anything offensive without having his/her faith collapse, that Christian hasn't been very well prepared for the challenges of the devil's world. Not that we should seek to expose ourselves to grossness, but there are times, the world being what it is, that even the most sheltered person will be exposed to the underbelly of the devil's kosmos. We don't have to allow ourselves to influenced by it or corrupted by it, but there are times when we are going to be exposed to it in this culture, like it or not, whether or not we enter military service.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


Question #10:  

I recently had a bible study on Matthew 7:12 (Lk.6:31).

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

The Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I came up with a few ways I can follow this command. I was trying to list at least 10 other ways I can follow this command of Jesus other than some that I know already. Thanks in advance!


Response #10: 

This is a pretty involved question, since to fully carry out this command ideally 1) we would be spiritually perfect in our hearts to the point of only wanting or desiring what was right and good for ourselves in God's plan (not to mention for others), and 2) we would be spiritually perfect in our application so as to actually do and/or refrain from doing what God wants us to do for others (or not do to them). The Greek verb used here, poieo, is the standard verb for doing and for making, however, in contexts like this, it often has the connotation of "behaving". I would prefer that translation because sometimes, of course, what we want from other people is not active intervention, but that they give us our privacy and freedom of action. For example, I don't particularly want strangers banging on my front door and interrupting my work to tell me about their religious preferences. And I think it is fair to say that most people, Christians and unbelievers alike, find this sort intrusion very annoying and completely unattractive. One could certainly argue, therefore, that if we truly feel that way, for us to fail to take that sentiment into account in the case of other people is a violation of this commandment. I think this is important because "behaving towards others as we would want them to behave towards us" covers acts of exclusion like this as well as of inclusion.

But the way this passage has generally interpreted has tended to focus more on things like sacrificial giving. Giving certainly plays a role in our Christian application, and it is certainly true that we ought to apply the same standard to others that we would apply to ourselves. But even here the "would apply to ourselves" part is often left out and replaced with a standard that comes instead from the person or group doing the interpretation. So one of the keys here is that this command is telling us to examine ourselves and our motives closely, rather than to be conformed to the agendas of others.

What I believe our Lord is telling us here is that instead of considering ourselves in a special category, we need to learn to look at the world through His eyes. If we are in financial need, for example, that is a "much bigger deal" to us than if our neighbor is in exactly the same situation – at least that is the common human tendency when it comes to the human point of view versus the divine point of view. God does love us – but He loves our neighbor too. On the other side of this equation, if our neighbor is hurting, but we are not, we tend not to be anywhere near as upset. Now this of course inevitable, for we are limited creatures with limited emotional "juice" and limited resources. But this command puts things into perspective for us when it comes to the applications we make or fail to make vis- -vis our fellow man. Whatever we expect others to do for us, we should do for them. Whatever we may think we need others to do for us, we ought to try and do for them if we are able. Whatever we would like others to do for us, we should at least keep in mind that they would probably like for us to do these things for them as well. Whatever we have no expectation that others would do for us, well, it isn't forbidden after all for us to go the extra mile and help even then. But whatever we would take offense at, be annoyed at, be hurt by or damaged by, obviously, that part of the "rule" needs to be taken into account as well. In all our interactions with other people, it doesn't hurt to put ourselves mentally into their shoes before we do, say or think anything. That is a tall order, and one that does indeed take a lot of practice and a lot of spiritual maturity to even approach getting right on a consistent basis.

Final observation: this is a command addressed to us individually, not collectively. Therefore those who use this verse for any sort of political agenda are way out of line. As Christians we deal with other people one on one. Acting as a group politically to force anonymous third parties to "help" anonymous second parties whether they are otherwise willing to or not is far removed from anything connected to true biblical Christianity. In fact, it is a prime satanic perversion of the biblical principle expressed in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.

In the One who did everything for us that we might live with Him forever, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hi Doc!

A so-called Christian man insists that Jesus was a pacifist and that people should never kill or even defend themselves or others in any way. He had wrote:

"I do not believe in police forces and militaries, thank you very much. I would not call 911 if being attacked, and if I were to come across somone else being attacked, I would sacrifice myself so that they could escape. That is what Christ meant when he said...

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:3

Note how he says, "lay down his life," and not "take another's life" for his friends. Because taking another's life is never an act of love. As a diciple of Christ, my weapons are not carnal...

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 "

But what if I see my husband being attacked by a thief, should I just say to the attacker..."here, attack and rob me instead of my husband?" or should I help defend my husband?

He also wrote:

"What About Jesus' Command to Buy a Sword?

Some would argue that Luke 22:36-38 justifies joining an organization of the world whose purpose it is to "defend" a nation by killing those which it views as politically opposing it. The verse says the following, "Then He [Jesus] said to them [His disciples], 'But now he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garments and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end.' So they said, 'Lord, look, here are two swords.' And He said to them; 'It is enough.

First, clearly Jesus does say that his disciples could have swords, and in fact He does command them to buy a sword. However Jesus gives us the reason he gave that command. He says, "For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.'" So, what Jesus is saying is that he must be numbered with the transgressors, so he says in effect, 'go ahead and buy swords so that you will be considered rebels-insurrectionists-transgressors when the religious leaders come toarrest me'.

In this way, Jesus will fulfill the prophesy about Messiah being numbered with the transgressors. It is that simple and this fits the context of that passage the best.The most important principle in properly interpreting the scripture is context and cross reference with other scripture. The context of this passage is NOT some political statement, nor some statement about defending a nation. Rather, it is a statement about Jesus fulfilling Messianic prophesy about being numbered with transgressors.

When other's want to kill us for loving the Lord Jesus, then we allow them to send us Home, for to be with our Father is our heart's desire.

The powers that be are ordained of God, indeed. God works everything for the good of those who love Him, and nothing occurs that does not happen according to His will. But the verse does not say that the powers that be are followers of Christ, or that they are receiving God's blessing. If one follows the logical conclusion that the powers that be are ordained of God, then one must realize that Nazi Germany was ordained of God just as easily as America was ordained of God. Both are powers that be (or were). It doesn't mean they are followers of Christ.

Otherwise the verse would be saying, "Every nation is a follower of Christ," which is obviously not so.

Continue to read the chapter please. Seven verses later, in Romans 13:8-10, it says, ""Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt n ot commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13: 8-10

It says right here that "love worketh no ill to his neighbor." The action Hitler took, to order the extermination of the Jews, his fellow neighbors, was an action that worked ill to the Jews, and therefore was not an action of love, because "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor." Jesus said to love our enemies, bless those who curse you, and to do good to those who hate you.

It is inconceivable that any human could kill another human out of love. It is not Biblical. Killing other people is not God's law, because it cannot be done out of love, and if it cannot be done out of love, it cannot be a "fulfillment of the law, " because "love is the fulfilling of the law."

God has ordained powers in place for a reason. Oftentimes, God placed powers that were not fulfilling His law into power in order to fulfill His prophecy, and oftentimes His prophecy led to the eventual downfall of those ordained powers. We are to pay tribute to whom tribute is due, and obey them in power as long as it does not contradict God's law. We are to "submit to one another in the fear of God."

Ephesians 5:21

Jesus did not come to kill, but to save. And we Christians are told to be imitators of Christ.

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. Luke 9:51-56

Jesus did say that, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Jesus illustrated this love through His death on the cross, and He did it without violence. His disciples illustrated this love through their martyrdom, and they did it without violence. They laid down their lives, and they hurt no one. They loved everyone.

It is written, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant a s his lord." Matthew 10:24-25

Just as the servant is not above the master, Christians are not above martyrdom. It is what Jesus did, it is what his disciples did. We Christians are His disciples. "It is enough" that we be as the master,Jesus, and be ready and willing to die for our faith, or to give our life for a family member, friend, or even our very enemy, in order to show God's love. That what Jesus did, He died for His enemies, us, the sinners(the enemies of God).

As you can see, Christians are told not to take part in the killing or judging of any person. Judging an action or dispute is perfectly acceptable. Christians choose unconditional love and forgiveness instead of "justice", and they leave judgment on other people up to God, as Jesus said to do. The wars of men, the courts of men, and all things associated with them will be around until the very Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes back in all his glory. But Christians that follow Jesus do not take any part in the killing or judgment of other people, because Jesus told us not to.

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and d oes not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house." (Luke 6:46-49)

Why does our so-called "Christian nation" cry out 'Lord, Lord,' and yet does not do what Jesus said? He told us to love our enemies, and to bless those who curse us, and to turn the other cheek! That means love the terrorists, bless the terrorists, and give food and drink to the terrorists!

Christ's Response to Terrorism: Love Your Enemies! Bless Those Who Curse You!The whole point of Jesus' teaching is to tell disciples that their attitude toward "enemies" should be radically different from others.

"If you do good to those who do good to you," Jesus added, "what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same" (Lk 6:32).

So many people instinctively hate those who hate them and believe they are justified killing people who might kill them or their loved ones. In contrast to this, Jesus is saying: "Love your enemies, as God loves them."

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your tresspasses."

Matthew 6:14-15

What would Jesus do? The Christians are His disciples. What would His disciples do? What will you do? The Lord is merciful indeed. While we were still His enemies in our sin, He loved u s. We should ask His help us to follow in His example and love our enemies in turn. It isn't easy. Our whole culture rebels against it. But through Christ who gives us strength, we can do it. Only He can deliver people from our natural selfishness. Yes, it's natural for us to be selfish in the flesh. We must trust the Holy Spirit to show love to those for whom we may not feel love for. If we love our enemies and treat them well, we will truly show that Jesus is Lord of our lives."

Do you agree with any of his views? because I sure don't. I would like to hear your viewpoint on this. Thanks in advance!


Response #11: 

Taking human life is, even when justifiable and necessary, most regrettable, and it is surely a blessing if a believer never has to face such a necessity. However, this claim of Jesus' "pacifism" is, of course, ridiculous, and hardly worthy of the effort to refute it. After all, at the Second Advent, our Lord will in complete righteousness slay antichrist's massive army single-handedly by means of "the sharp sword that proceeded from His mouth" (Rev.19:21; cf. Is.11:4; 63:1-6; Rev.19:15). That great future event comprises the two areas where the taking of life is legitimate, namely, in righteous judgment / law enforcement (and self-defense in the immediate absence of same), and in sanctioned warfare. David, the Messiah's great ancestor, was also renowned first and foremost for his success in battle (and several chapters in the Bible are devoted to singing the praises of his "mighty men", not the least of which for the number of enemies they killed: 2Sam.23; 1Chron.11). The Mosaic Law ordains the death penalty for numerous transgressions, a penalty that someone had to carry out, and when the Law calls for stoning transgressors to death, the entire population shares in the act of executing the criminal. Paul reminds us to be appropriately respectful of established authority for it "does not bear the sword for nothing" (Rom.13:4), and he does so in the context of demonstrating that such authority is established by God, thereby justifying capital punishment (Rom.13:1-3). In any case, any established authority has to have some right to the use of deadly force, because even in societies which have forsworn the death penalty, criminals are not going to disavow deadly force, and law enforcement must have the right to oppose them with similar force for their own and society's protection or else anarchy would result.

Finally, the interpretive method used here is so illogical that I dare say no one would be convinced by the explanation of what Jesus "meant" when He said "sell your cloak and buy a sword". Nothing in this passage indicates that Jesus means something obliquely symbolic, and the connection to prophesy this person is trying to draw is not only incorrect, it is mystifyingly incoherent. At first, second, and third glance these words certainly seem to mean precisely what they say, "sell your cloak and buy a sword". Buying and possessing a sword is pointless if one is forbidden to use it; indeed, being commanded to have a sword guarantees that one may find oneself in a situation where its use is needful. The ancient world was a dangerous place in its own right, and, in personal terms, I would argue even more dangerous than the modern world. Few journey's of any length were possible without facing the danger of bandits and robbers. During Jesus' three and half year earthly ministry, the disciples received special, miraculous divine provision and protection. But Jesus was clearly telling them in this context that in the Church Age to come, they would have to make normal, mundane provisions for the ministries they would later undertake, and part of that provision would be the common-sense provision for self-defense.

There will be worldwide peace, and the world will "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" – only after Messiah has annihilated the forces of evil, and rules the world personally in strict righteousness wherein no criminal activity will be tolerated and He Himself will enforce the law with strict exactitude. But until the Millennium, personal self-defense is legitimate, societal self-defense is legitimate (capital punishment and deadly force by authorized peace officers), and national self-defense is legitimate (the use of force in warfare to protect one's nation from attack and enslavement). In fact, refusing to use force in any of these areas amounts to suicide (and that is clearly not biblical). The fact that abuses occur in all these areas does not negate the validity of the principle. As I often remark, the Roman Empire was anything but a model of tolerance when it came to Christianity, yet it is precisely this authority with which Peter and Paul had to do (and at whose hands they both suffered personally) which they offer up as a model, in this case of the right and necessity to use force on occasion (Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-17; cf. 1Tim.2:1-2).

Even the situation this person imagines might not play out as he assumes. I can imagine many scenarios where "offering myself up so the other person could get away" would not work. It might very well not only not save the person being victimized but only result in the loss of the "savior" as well. I have to believe that if God put us in such a situation He would desire us to give real help to the victimized party even at the risk of harm to ourselves (rather than acting in self-righteous idiocy and dooming us both). After all, if the one doing the raping, robbing or murdering just says to your offer of exchange, "No thanks, but hold on a minute until I'm done with this one and I'll take care of you too!", what is the next step? Without forceful intervention, the only two options I can see are running away (cowardice) or pointlessly awaiting one's own demise. The second option is little more than a completely pointless suicide that helps no one. My question to the advocate of this policy is, "If that is the course you recommend and if that is your attitude, why even wait for this situation to develop?".

This person talks a lot about "love", but to turn the argument around, can a person really be acting in love if he/she allows someone else to be hurt or injured or killed or captured or abused out a false and self-righteous sense of what scripture enjoins? All of the passages this fellow quotes apply either specially to Jesus Christ (and it is I would hope unnecessary to point out that when Jesus says, for example, "follow Me", He does not intend that we go to a cross to die for the sins of the world, e.g.), or to normal person to person relationships (and not to situations of extreme violence). We are to take personal responsibility for how we act towards others. We are not to hate; we are to love. If are presented with a situation where someone else is in trouble, the loving thing to do is to act to help them. We are told to love our enemies; we are not told to aid them in our own violent self-destruction. This is not "situational ethics"; rather it is accepting that all scripture must be "rightly divided" and correctly applied. Christians who have forgotten this principle and in their egotistical self-righteousness gotten to the point where they can no longer distinguish between a rapist and a rape victim, between a murderer and a murder victim, are most likely not walking in love in other aspects of their lives either. Part of living a life of love, as Paul and Peter assure us, is doing our duty in all aspects of life and society. That means not only helping others in self-defense situations but also helping our country in national self-defense situations when necessary and when called upon to do so.

There is a proper time for everything, as Ecclesiastes chapter three tells us, and knowing the proper time for things is part and parcel of spiritual growth. A mature Christian should easily be able to distinguish between situations in which it is legitimate to use force and those where it is not – that is in fact an extremely basic calculation. There will always be those among us who misapply the doctrine of love to promote an extreme and non-biblical form of pacifism – at least as long as there are enough of us around who do not endorse that view. Because if everyone in this society held that fallacious position, criminals would take over the society and very shortly thereafter we would be invaded and reduced to slavery. The great irony of this foolish view is that it can only be espoused because most sensible people reject it.

There is a right time for everything (Eccl.3.1-8), and correctly discerning the times is an important part of the Christian walk. Just as it would have been wrong for the disciples to carry swords during Jesus' earthly ministry, so it would have been wrong for them to refuse to do so in the years after Pentecost. And just as today Christians are responsible to defend themselves and others, individually and collectively, there is soon coming a day when resistance will be the wrong course of action. During the Tribulation, those who decide to oppose antichrist by force will be in the wrong. Our proper role during confrontations with the beast will be one of heroic non-resistance, witnessing to the power of the Word in our disdain for our lives rather than worshiping the beast – that will be the time of great martyrdom, the Great Persecution, when we who believe will have no society, no country which claims us any longer, and our only remaining allegiance will be to the Lord.

Until that time, Jesus' mandate remains: "sell your cloak and buy a sword". Participating in your own self-destruction is not only folly, it is incredibly un-Christian.

In the One whom we strive to imitate and please in all things, not superficially, but according to the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #12:  

Why would Christ have told His disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword if we weren't meant to defend ourselves? Why would Christ tell us to have a sword at all if we are to always go peacefully?

Lu 22:35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.

Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Lu 22:37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

Lu 22:38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

In modern terms in this context a sword can mean any legal to own defense weapon. Every state in the nation has laws that provide for the ability to carry a firearm or personal defense weapon (mace, taser, etc..) so, as long as you stay within the laws of your state there is no secular legal issue to deal with here, we can stick to the biblical issue.

I know of no actual instance in the NT when anyone actually used a weapon to defend themselves but that doesn't change the fact that Jesus Christ said to sell your garment and buy one if you didn't have one. The context is only referring to defending yourself not an unprovoked attack on another person. So it doesn't just mean defending yourself from tyrannical authority either it includes personal defense in any situation. What do you believe is the proper interpretation of that passage? Thanks in advance!


Response #12: 

I entirely agree that we have a right to defend ourselves. I would also add that given the New Testament's support of state authority and the state's role in defending its citizens, that it would be a mistake to find fault with that sort of defense either (whether civil or military). Consider, after all, that the Roman Empire was a pagan state and hostile in the extreme to Christians upon occasion, yet still receives support in this regard from the Bible (Jn.10:34ff.; Rom.13:1-7; 1Tim.2:1-2; 1Pet.2:13ff.; cf. Gen.3:16b; Ps.82:6-7).

That doesn't mean we have to go crazy arming ourselves or start relying on ourselves alone as if we were our only source of protection: God is our fortress. It also doesn't mean that we ought to seek physical confrontation or that we should probably in most instances take great efforts to avoid it. But it does mean as you suggest that there may be times when we have to exercise personal defense, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. I would draw a further lesson from this passage. Jesus is talking about a situation where men are going into harm's way – undertaking long and difficult journey's through territory where there will doubtless be bandits – and where in the ancient world it would have been just common sense to have a weapon along (just as when you are driving out west in this country you are crazy not to have some bottled water along in case of a break down in the large, dry, unpopulated expanses). So I don't think we can take this passage and find any fault with average Christians living in normal neighborhoods in this country where there is swift police response and the chances of violent home invasion is extremely small if they don't have an arsenal large enough to repel a North Korean infantry division and are not constantly working on perimeter defense. This is a common sense verse, not a mandate to set up a militia. But it certainly does, as you point out, demonstrate that we don't have to let robbers take all we have and leave us for dead. We have a right to defend ourselves in such extreme circumstances.

In Jesus,

Bob L.



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