Non Resistance

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus makes several startling statements that seem to go against the grain of our common way of thinking. His teaching on our treatment of those who we consider enemies, those who despitefully treat us, seems at times ludicrous. Yet the kingdom of Christ transcends the ways of this world. Love reigns supreme, going to the farthest lengths to reach out to others, including our enemies. 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if any man will sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say unto you, 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. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5:38-48 KJV)

Our culture has bought into the “eye for an eye” mentality. I fear to a great extent this attitude exists within Christianity as well. We have bought into the idea that it is okay to take revenge in certain situations. We may not call it revenge, at least in those words. We rephrase it using terms such as self-defense. The argument always seems to come up when this subject is broached, “What would you do if an armed man broke into your home? Would you defend yourself, and your family?” But yet as difficult as it is to fathom this, what does Jesus say in the above quoted passage of scripture? Was He merely using literary license? Is He only speaking figuratively, using metaphors, and not really meaning what He seems to be saying? In what appears to be plain language, He tells us to turn the other cheek.

The same could be said about war. When is war just? When can an individual, or a nation engage in the killing of others, and it be right in the eyes of God? Is the death penalty just? Can a Christian demand the death penalty under certain circumstances? Is it lawful in the eyes of God for a Christian to participate in the execution of another human being? 

These are all questions that have been asked by believers down through the centuries. Many, have accepted the teachings of Augustine, that yes, war can be just, it is right to kill another human being under certain situations, and yes the Church can participate in these killings. This is what Augustine, and those who have followed after him, including the reformers of the sixteenth century have taught. Yet, what does Jesus teach us? 

To make the case for Christian participation in war, men have referred to Israel under the Old Covenant, where God allowed them to fight, even granting them victory over their enemies. They refer to the Old Testament laws where the death penalty was imposed for various crimes such as adultery, idolatry, and murder. Yet when Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of heaven, a new era was begun. What was allowed for Israel under the Old Covenant, is not allowed for the Church under the New Covenant. In other words, God is not calling the Church today to participate in war, to participate in the death penalty, to participate in the killing or mistreatment of another human being. In the Old Testament law, there was a place for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Now Jesus proclaims to us that we resist not evil, but turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us. 

This is not to say that we just carelessly go through life not caring about others and the tragic things that evil men commit against one another. We read in Romans thirteen that God has ordained the governments of this world to police the world. They are his servants to execute judgment, to carry out justice, inflicting punishment upon those who break the law. This is ordained by God. He is concerned for the safety of others, and He has put this in place to keep at least some order in this fallen world. However, this role God has reserved for the kingdoms of this world, not for those who have become citizens of Christ’s kingdom.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Romans 13:1-5 KJV)

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1 Peter 2:13-14 KJV)

It is interesting to note that the government in place during the days of the apostles was the corrupt government of Rome, who ultimately persecuted thousands of Christians. It is possible for human government to overstep its God given role, yet we see that we as Christians are to be subject to it, as far as is possible, and still be faithful to Christ. We are called to be subject to, but not to participate in government. A Christian serving in government will ultimately find himself confronted with a choice to either follow the teachings of Jesus, or to compromise his convictions. Instead, we must let the world take care of the world so to speak, we will serve Christ!

It is a case of two kingdoms; the kingdom of this world, and that of Christ. We as Christians, followers of Christ, belong to His kingdom. This is where are true allegiance lies. It is our job, in fact our highest priority, to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. We are not called to seek first the betterment of this world; to advance its principles and programs. While we live in this world, we are not of it. Therefore, like Christ’s disciples, we do not fight (John 18:36). As followers of Christ, we are to emulate His life, walk in His steps, and even lay down our lives as He laid down His. No matter how we may attempt to justify war, violence, revenge, etc. we find that it violates the core of the Christian life, to love our neighbor as ourselves. We find in Christ’s teaching that our neighbor can be our enemy, yet we are to show him love. Augustine taught that it was okay to kill in war as long as you loved your enemy within your heart. This is absurd.  How can we say we love an individual when we desire his death, when we desire revenge, when we are willing to go to war, even to kill him ourselves. 

Again, Christ’s teachings sometimes shock us. We may consider it absurd to refuse to defend ourselves or our families. Yet this is what many have done down through the centuries as Christians have faced persecution and hostility in the advancement of the gospel. Missionaries have refused to defend themselves, being willing to die themselves, rather than to kill another, thus sending a lost individual to an eternal hell. 

We find the definition of love in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. We read that charity is longsuffering and kind, it is not puffed up, is not self seeking, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, it rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. We are instructed not to take revenge, but to leave room for the wrath of God. Vengeance belongs to God, and He will repay. Instead we are called to feed our enemy if he is hungry, give him something to drink if he thirsts. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21)

As our highest example, we see Jesus face the hostility of wicked men against Him, yet he went willingly to His death, laying down His life so that we could have new life (Heb 12:3; 1 Peter 2:21-25). We are not promised a good life, a comfortable life, a life free of pain and trial. To the contrary, we are assured that we will suffer persecution and tribulation for the name of Jesus Christ. It is not our job to bear the sword, to defend ourselves, or even our nation, but to follow Christ, to spread His gospel, and to advance His kingdom. This is love.

 

Separation From the World

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Cor 6:14-18 KJV

 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a better country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Heb 11:13-17 KJV

We see according to these verses that there are two kingdoms that cannot be mixed. There is this present world filled with sin, based upon selfish principles, and under the dominion of the devil, and there is the kingdom of heaven where righteousness reigns, love is the motive behind action, and Jesus Christ is king.

Jesus calls us out of this world, and into His kingdom. To follow Jesus is to go in the opposite direction of the way the world runs; to do the very things that the world scorns and rejects. As stated above, the world is based upon selfish principles. This is why we see so much sin and heartache in this world. Read what James says about this,

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth within us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:1-6 KJV)

God calls his people out of selfishness and sin. Anyone who would call themselves a Christian, yet be driven by the world’s system and ways; who would be a friend of the world, is in reality God’s enemy. God is a jealous God, and will not have His children following after the evils of this world, and placing the things of this world above Him. God will give us grace, but only to those who are humble.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

It is impossible for a follower of Christ to love God and yet love this world, just as Jesus states that it is impossible to serve two masters (Matt 6:24). The world values the temporal things, the things that excite our passions and bring us pleasure. The truth is that these things draw our hearts away from the living God, and separate us from Him. This world is passing away. The bible warns us of the coming day when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-11). If we remain in it, we will be destroyed with it. Those who come out of it, who separate themselves form its evil ways, doing the will of God, will abide forever.

It is true that we are in this world. We live in it, work in it, and raise our families in it. However, we can live in this world, and yet be not of it. Just as we read of the Patriarchs, who lived as strangers and aliens in a foreign country, so we also must live in this world as strangers to it, looking to our heavenly home, for our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). To be here as a stranger is to refuse to partake in the sinful ways around us. It is to reject the passions and pleasures that would war against our souls. It is to refuse to be conformed to the pattern of this world’s fashions and entertainment. It is to refuse to become entangled in its affairs; its politics and  its patriotic fervor, as our allegiance is to Christ alone. To be separate from this world is to use it only as is necessary, as we serve Christ in this world (1 Cor 7:29-31). Those who have turned from this world do not make the temporal cares and concerns of this life their utmost concern, but instead, they seek first the kingdom of God, while trusting Him to care for their needs (Matt 6:25-33). These also have their eyes upon their heavenly home. They are looking for and hastening the coming day of Christ, they are longing for His appearing (2 Peter 3:12; 2 Tim 4:8).

The Christian is Christ’s ambassador in this world. We must be careful to live as such, not getting entangled in, and distracted by the affairs of this earth, all the while remaining steadfast, and diligent to complete the work God has called us to.

See The Two Kingdoms.

The Christian and Government

I would like to look at what the word of God teaches about the Christian’s role in human government. This is probably not considered a controversial subject as most evangelical Christians believe that it is their moral responsibility to vote, and that the governments of nations can be useful in advancing the cause of Christ. Where it can get controversial however, is when an individual believes that Christians are not called upon to vote for human leaders, and that we are not called on to advance God’s kingdom through “carnal” means, such as human government. It is important to look at the Bible to gain a proper understanding of what God desires for us a followers of Christ, and not at what someone else teaches or believes.

To begin, we should look at Israel in the Old Testament. What was their government like? We find Israel, God’s chosen people, in bondage to the Egyptians, when their cry reached God’s ear (Exodus 3:7). At this point, God raised up Moses, to go before Pharaoh, and lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and into the land God promised them. Israel was considered a “theocracy” where God was their ruler. It was God’s law they were to follow, and it was God alone they were to worship and serve. God spoke to Moses, who led the nation.

Moses was succeeded by Joshua (Deut 31:7-8). It was Joshua who led the nation over the Jordan river, and into the land of Canaan. Following the death of Joshua, the nation spiraled into sin, and as a consequence, they came under attack from the surrounding nations. Once again, as they cried unto the Lord, He heard them, and raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies, and to lead them (Judges 2:12-16).

We next read of the prophet Samuel, who judged Israel all the days of his life (1 Sam 7:15-17). When he grew old, he appointed his sons as judges. However, they were dishonest, and the elders of the people approached Samuel, and asked for a king to rule over them. This was the day that Moses foresaw,

When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me…(Deut 17:14 KJV)

Moses warns them to be sure to set the king over them that God would chose, not a stranger, but of their own brethren. This was not God’s will for His people, but a concession similar to that of divorce. Jesus stated that a provision for divorce was contained in the law because of the hardness of your hearts (Matt 19:8). 

This was God’s response to the request of the people to have a king,

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7 KJV)

God viewed this as a rejection of Him, of His leadership over His own people. Nevertheless, He allowed Israel to set a king over themselves. It is kind of like when you say no to someone, but at their stubborn persistence, you let them have their own way, even though they will have hard consequences to face because of the choice they have made.

From that time on Israel was governed by kings. There were godly kings who led the nation wisely, desiring for the nation to worship and serve God, and there were evil kings who turned the people away from God, and instead embraced idolatry. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided with ten tribes in one kingdom, and the other two in another kingdom. Look at what happens when men try to do things their way.

We do not see examples in the Old Testament of men getting involved in the affairs and governments of the surrounding nations except for a few instances which we will now look at.

In Genesis 19:1, we read that Lot sat in the gate at Sodom. While this does not present concrete evidence that Lot was involved in the governing affairs of Sodom, it yet leaves the possibility open. The city gate was a place where judgments were given, agreements made (Ruth 4:1-9). Obviously, his presence in the gate of Sodom had little effect on the evil in that place. In fact, the wicked men of that city turned on him when he defended his visitors from their advances (Gen 19:9). This is what the Bible tells us of Lot,

And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. (1 Peter 2:7-8 KJV)

It is one thing for a Godly man to stand up and publicly rebuke the sins of the nation, and quite another to align himself with a governing body just as wicked as the nation it serves, and try to legislate morality through them.

Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His brothers grew jealous of him, and sold him into slavery. God prospered him in all of his adversity, and he eventually found himself elevated to rule over Egypt with only Pharaoh over him (Gen 37, 39-47).

In a similar fashion, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were also favored by God. Having been taken away by the Babylonians, they also found themselves in places of leadership during the Babylonian exile (Daniel 1-3),

We also read the story of Esther, how she became queen of Persia, and was able to save her people from annihilation at the hand of Haman (Esther 1-9).

We must keep in mind however that these individuals did not seek these positions of leadership. They were all captives in foreign lands, not there by any choice of their own. Through miraculous events, they found themselves in authority, where they were all used by God to preserve His chosen people, the nation of Israel, thus ensuring the promise of redemption through Jesus Christ.

We find the New Testament lacking any concrete evidence of, or encouragement for, involvement of Christians in the governmental affairs of their respective nations. You just do not see passages of scripture laying down principles for godly leadership within civil government. We read of qualifications for elders and deacons within the Church, but that is the Church, not the state. 

There are plenty of examples of government in the New Testament, but we see no mention of Christians taking an active role in it. Many people may say that they were not allowed to participate, which may very well be true. I believe there is more to it than that however.

It goes back to the principle of two kingdoms.  The early Christians recognized that they belonged to another kingdom, the heavenly kingdom. although they lived in this world, they were not of it (John 17:16). Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33). Paul exhorts us to set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, shall appear….(Col 3:2-4 KJV) Did you catch that? Christ is to be our life! It is really all about Him, not in some figurative sense, but in reality. Paul is not being poetic here. What he is trying to impress upon our minds and hearts is that we are not living in this world to please ourselves, or to advance our own purposes, or to do things in our own way (even things we attempt for God), no, we are to be absolutely about His business, making His will, His kingdom, our utmost priority!

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (2 Tim 2:4 KJV)

As Christians, we have been born again into the kingdom of God. We are indeed soldiers in the army of Christ. We are at war, a spiritual war, against the powers of darkness, with the souls of men at stake. How can we think that we have the time and privilege to get ourselves embroiled in the temporal affairs of this world, while eternity stares us in the face? We are here to please Christ, and Him alone. 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (2 Cor 6:14-16 KJV)

How can we expect to advance godly principles through ungodly means? The governments of this world are filled with ungodly individuals. How can we expect them to champion the cause of Christ for us? A Christian who enters politics, enters into a life of compromise, and divided allegiance.

The governments of this world are ordained by God to take care of the things of this world. Their purpose is to promote restraint, and execute justice in a sinful world (Rom 13:1-4). To execute wrath, involves the punishment of those who do evil. This is the role of human government as ordained by God. Jesus however tells His followers to resist not evil (Matt 5:39). In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek. If we are wronged we are not to retaliate, in fact we are to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despitefully use us (Matt 5:38-45). 

Paul writes,

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19 KJV)

As Christians we are not called to avenge ourselves. We are called to forgive. It is the job of human government to execute justice. Once again, we are not of this world even though we live in it. We belong to the kingdom of heaven, and our job is to abide by the teachings of Christ, and expend ourselves in the promotion of His kingdom, not the kingdom of this world.

This does not mean that we live without government however. This same passage of scripture exhorts Christ’s followers to submit themselves to the government because it is ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). We as Christians are not above law. We are called to submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the King, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:13-15 KJV).

As Christians we are to be respectful of those in authority. We are to pay our tributes and taxes (Romans 13:6-7), rendering unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s (Matt 22:21). Finally, we are to pray for those in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life (1 Tim 2:1-2). think how much could be accomplished for good if men would only seek God in prayer.

As citizens of another kingdom, we are to be living as foreigners in this world (Heb 11:13; 1 Peter 1:1). It is not for us to fix this world’s problems. We are not called to run it through government. Our task is to perpetuate God’s kingdom through the great commission, the making of disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Let us leave the world and its problems to the world, and instead, be concerned with the mandate of our Lord.

Two Kingdoms

There are two kingdoms; the kingdom of this world, and the kingdom of God. A proper understanding of this concept is vital to our Christian walk, as it effects how we live and act in every area of our lives.

First, there is the world. This is where mankind lives. From the beginning of creation, man has inhabited the globe. It is divided into continents and nations, kingdoms and dominions, where men of every tribe and tongue dwell. We all spend our lives in this world, from the day we are born, until the day we die.

This is the world that God created (Gen 1:1). We read that God has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26 KJV).

However, sin has marred this world. We see corruption and evil everywhere. What God created as good (Gen 1:31), was corrupted by the fall, and given over to the dominion of the devil.

And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power I will give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. And if thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. Luke 4:5-7 KJV

The bible declares that this world is under the dominion of Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). In John 12:31, he is called the prince of this world. (see also John 14:30, 16:11). 

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Eph 2:2 KJV.

This world is evil (Gal 1:4). Under the rule of Satan, the whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19). All of the wickedness that prevails in the world today, can be traced to the activity of Satan in this world, as he entices men to yield to his control.

Then we have the kingdom of heaven, also referred to as the kingdom of God. This kingdom is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and is filled with those who have committed their lives to follow Him. Unlike the kingdom of this world, where men are born physically into it, the kingdom of heaven can only be entered by the new birth (John 3:3,5). It is a spiritual kingdom that exists within this physical world we live in, yet separate from it. Those who have entered this kingdom as disciples of Jesus, live by the law of love. They love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind, and their neighbor as themselves ( Matt 22:37-40). They treat others in the same way that they would be treated (Matt 7:12).

The kingdom of heaven is made up of individuals who have renounced all for Christ (Luke 14:33). As Lord and King, Jesus is to be obeyed. Those who love Him, will keep His commandments (John 14:21). This kingdom is the opposite of the world. The world’s system is that of selfishness, while Christ’s kingdom is based upon sacrificial love,

 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13 KJV.

Those who have entered the kingdom of God still live in this physical world, they are inhabitants of cities and countries, but their allegiance is now to Christ. They live as strangers and aliens (Heb 11:13). Jesus teaches us that as Christians, we are in, but not of, the world (John 17:9-16). This has great ramifications for us; it affects every area of our lives.

It is like an individual going to another country on business. He is in this country for an extended period of time. He is living in a foreign country, but not as a citizen. He does not participate in its politics, or get entangled in its affairs, because he is only there on business, and cannot let anything get in the way of that business. In the same way, the citizens of God’s kingdom are here in this world as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20). They do not get entangled in  the affairs of this world (2 Tim 2:4), because they are called upon to make the business of the heavenly kingdom their priority (Matt 6:33).