Luk 22:35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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. 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. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords (machaira). And he said unto them, It is enough.

 

 9 people died in Charleston, SC.: 1 manager of Charles county liberal system, 1 pastor/ school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University, 1 senior pastor/ state senator, 1 pastor, 1 pastor/ speech therapist/track coach, 1 bible study teacher, 1 Bible study member/ choir director, 1 church sexton ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting )

9 people died in Charleston, SC.: 1 manager of Charles county liberal system, 1 pastor/ school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University, 1 senior pastor/ state senator, 1 pastor, 1 pastor/ speech therapist/track coach, 1 bible study teacher, 1 Bible study member/ choir director, 1 church sexton (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting)

Charleston, South Carolina. The evening of June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof walked into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing 9 people including the senior pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. This year, 2017 saw a similar shooting in Sutherland, Texas. 26 people were killed, and 20 others injured. 

 

Considering Jesus and Pacifism  

I have always been an Adventist. I was born into the church. My brother and I were not allowed to fight, even if we were being bullied. We would get bullied on the bus, at church, at school, but if we fought back we were spanked. As far back as I can remember, I was taught that I needed to “turn the other cheek”, in obedience to and in imitation of Jesus’ instructions and in accordance with the Seventh-day Adventist church’s position of non-combatency and “pacifism”:

 Twenty-six people were killed and 20 others were injured. The dead comprise ten women, seven men, seven girls, one boy, and an unborn child. Twenty-three died inside the church, two outside, and one in a hospital. The oldest victim was 77 years old. One victim was the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was elsewhere the day of the attack. Visiting pastor Bryan Holcombe died with eight family members, including an unborn grandchild. ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting#Victims )

Twenty-six people were killed and 20 others were injured. The dead comprise ten women, seven men, seven girls, one boy, and an unborn child. Twenty-three died inside the church, two outside, and one in a hospital. The oldest victim was 77 years old. One victim was the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was elsewhere the day of the attack. Visiting pastor Bryan Holcombe died with eight family members, including an unborn grandchild. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting#Victims)

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Mat 5:38-42 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 the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke 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.

 

This admonition is followed with this logic:

Mat 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine 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 on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which 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.

 

The entire sermon on the mount is a respeaking of the Old Covenant spoken on Mount Sinia (Exodus 19-24). God comes to the people of Israel asking them to keep the covenant he had made with Abraham, in which Abraham promised nothing, and God promised everything on pain of death (absolute grace). The Hebrew people, on the other hand, took it upon themselves to promise God at Sinia that they will be obedient. The nation is therefore sprinkled with blood, symbolizing that they must keep their part of the covenant on pain of death (see God and Social Responsiblity in the Old Testament: Ethics an Justice).

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Jesus at Mount Sinai respeaks the covenant to the people, adding deeperin meaning and application to it. He ends chapter 5 telling the people to be perfect. The problem is that they as a people had been trying to be perfect and failing since Sinai. He did not promise them the Holy Spirit, and since he had not died for sins yet, there was no empowerment promised to them to accomplish the requirement. The entire conversation was about bringing a fallen people to realize the futility of their effort, and their need of Him as their substitute and sanctifier. Hence he commands them to be perfect, even as God is perfect. It is an impossible command.

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Walter Wink, in his book “The Powers that Be” has a section called “Jesus’ Third Way”. He articulates the actual intention of Jesus’ turn the other cheek statements. In Jewish 1st century culture the left hand was not to be used in gesture or in contact. Thus, the striking on the right cheek would not have come from a direct left-handed punch, but rather a backhand from the right. To backhand someone is to humiliate and degrade them, not to injure them. Jesus is informing the second class citizen to demand first hand treatment after being backhanded by turning the other (left) cheek to a full right-handed punch, and not to accept degradation and humiliation. Turning the other cheek is an act of human defiance and resilience. If your are going to hit me, hit me like the full human I am, with a punch, not a back hand. The idea of “give them your cloak also” is that they have taken everything from you in court, and so you also give them your under garments, and shame them as you walk down the street naked. Jesus continues with this shaming the oppressor notion by speaking of going the second mile. Again, this places the initiative back in the hands of the oppressed. The oppressor can compell you to walk 1 mile; you volunteer to walk 2 miles. This takes the feeling of superiority out of the hands of the one compelling me to walk. I am instead now issueing a challenge to him: he cannot keep up with me, and I am carrying the baggage. All of these scenarios are birthed in a culture where honor is valued, and shame can ruin your public face. But what if you live in a culture and among a people who have no honor, and do not feel shame?

 

Considering Adventism, Pefectionism, and Pacifism

This notion of perfectionism, “be ye therefore perfect”, has been found in Adventism as well. That we have had legalistic tendencies and practices, and have tended to balk against and reject the notion of righteousness by grace through faith can be seen in the writings of Ellen G. White, the Adventist prophet:

 

 “You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth.” Review and Herald, March 11, 1890

 An actor playing Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” 

An actor playing Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” 

I submit that it is based on this notion of perfectionism that has motivated many in Adventism. If we are just nonviolent we feel will be perfect in that area. We love to celebrate Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who went into World War 2 as a medic, refusing to carry a weapon, who saved many lives. I would challenge this type of pacifism, however, especially if it is voluntary. If Desmond had been drafted and he believed in pacifism, so be it. However, he volunteered. He was a good American. I do not disrespect his service or sacrifice. He joined the army, an organization whose mission it is to establish peace and destroy our nation’s enemies. The primary and dominant historical strategy of any military to accomplish its mission is the use of violence, or the threat of violence. But violence is the tool. The tactics of such a strategy can range between land, sea, and air tactics, espionage, nuclear options, etc. The military specializes in violence. 

In the civilian world Adventists again preach an alleged pacifism and nonviolence message to its church members. While this is well intended, is it honest? I say “No” . If a thief breaks into one’s home, or someone hurt’s one’s family (particularly this), one is not going to sit back and pray, awaiting divine intervention to arrive and angelically remove the intruder or stop the assailant. One would call the police, arguably after one has attempted to stop the theif or assailant from doing their worst. One will have to use force and violence to do so. If one is unsuccessful, or in the middle of being aassualted, one would thank God for the arrival of the police, who would violently take down the offender and give one liberty. 

My point: Adventists are duplicitous in their noncombatant pacifism. While they applaud the violence of God in scripture, in the history with the waldensians, the huegonots, the protestant win in the war between Spain and England, and the angelic hand which caused the north to violently beat the south in the one battle of the American Civil War (See Ellen G White’s “The Great Conbtrovesy”), while any Adventist would praise God for the cops who so willingly did violence to save said Adventist from harm, Adventist still present that non-violence and pacifism is what we stand for, as if it is the moral high ground. It is incongruent to serve in a violent government entity, and yet claim non-violent, noncombatant pacifism. It is incongruous to thank God for the evil of violence others are willing to do on our behalf (cops), to praise God for the violence of others in history at God’s command and with God’s divine suppport, and then claim an alleged higher ethic, morality, and spirituality by declaring one’s self a non-combatant and pacifist. One is not a pacifist. One does not beleive in non-violence. One simply doesnt want to get one’s hands dirty in the violence needed to exist in this world...one wants others to do it; one is a non-combatant. If adventists were really pacifist, as our religious maxim of non-combatancy proclaims, then we would weep at every single instance of violence, even if done on our behalf. We would never celebrate the military or the police for having to use violence, even in our nation of origin, or for the benefit of our cities and neighborhoods.

I think a story at this point would drive home the hypocrisy: a friend of mine went to Israel ona school trip. They joined other students and traveler, some of whom were Jewish. While in Israel, the Sabbath came, and some of the Jewish travelers asked, “Would some of you gentiles be willing to carry our luggage, so we don’t have to break the sabbath?”

Am I advocating for violence? No. I am advocating for honesty. Unless one has been abused, raped, robbed, or unless it has happened to one’s family, one is living in the world of sheltered privilege, where one’s safety and security, morals and ethics are dependent upon 1) the violence of others 2) the security of location 3) having not yet been seen as a target by criminals, due to the 2 previous points. 

  

Considering Vengeance and Pacifism

So what do we make of this passage? 

Rom 12:17-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Notice that this passage deals with revenge, not defense. In this passage God declares vengeance is his, not defense. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” As it is possible. As much as it is in your power, live peaceably. And what if it is not possible? Well, I guess one can move to a new neighborhood, city, etc., until one finds a place where one can live peaceably. One can move into the remote places of the earth where there is limited contact with others, and live peaceably. One can attempt to make one’s enemy one’s friend. There is a lot that this phrase “...as much as lieth within you...” can mean. Additionally, this sentence is preceded by a call to honesty. Peace and honesty go hand in hand. 

 Sneaking up behind someone to do them harm

Sneaking up behind someone to do them harm

“Avenge not yourselves”. This does not say, “Defend not yourselves”. Avenge implies the offending event or the act is over, and I should not go looking for the offender. The word avenge can mean justice. I am not to seek justice of myself, in a vengeance type of way. This is not implying one should not go to court. It is against the type of vigilantism that often pervades the mind and heart. The call here is for the Christian to care for one’s offender. Clearly if they offended they are in need. This caring is counter to the admonition against vengeance or revenge. The event is over, don‘t go looking for them to harm them, but to bless them. This passage does not speak of self defense, or defense of the defenseless, at all.

 

The beginning of Romans 13, verses 1-7, is an admonition to obey the law and submit to the law enforcers. The implication of these verses in their location immediately after the end of chapter 12 implies that 1) that revenge is against the law, and 2) that one’s offender has broken the law. In any case the call is for christians to transcend nominal model citizenship, and to reveal a kingdom heart of love in relatinship to all in one’s proximity. However, while Romans does speak about revenge, it says nothing about defense in the moment of offense. Romans also presume some level of morality and ethics upon the ruler it describes. However, this ruler (which would have been pagan Rome at the time) needs too be considered in light of God, Segregation, and Integration Part 1: Government and Politics. (the same consideration should be given to 1 Peter 2). Which brings us back to our opening passage:

 

 Jesus, Weaponry, and Defense

Luk 22:35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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. 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. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords (machaira). And he said unto them, It is enough

 

Jesus opens this discussion asking the disciples about their needs of provision while he was with them. He never sent them to preach with a money bag (purse), Scrip (food pouch), or even proper clothing (shoes). He sound informs them that they will now need money bag, food punch, but he leaves off shoes. He then tells them to seel their garment and but a sword (machaira). 

His logic for this is that he is about to fulfill prophecy as the substitutionary sacrifice, and and then ascend and be absent from them. While he was with them, every single need of provision and protection was provided. When he leaves, they will need money to move about, they will need food to give them energy. The absence of shoes mentioned, as well as the admonition to sell the outer garment, indicates a lack of emphasis on material owned. Their money is for travel, room, and food. Their food is for their sustainence. They are not materialists, but missionaries. Their treasure is the gosepl, not wealth. But what of the machaira?  

 The figure on the right is a  machaira , designed for cutting, while the others are designed for stabbing. 

The figure on the right is a machaira, designed for cutting, while the others are designed for stabbing. 

“The word, machaira, means both “sword” and “knife.” In Genesis 27:40, Abraham raises a “knife” against his bound son. In Hebrew, that’s ma’achelet and in Greek translation, machaira. Though etymology is notoriously unreliable, the root shared between the Hebrew words ma’achelet(“knife”?) and ochel (“food”) suggests some connection between the knife and food. But even if there is a connection, a ma’achelet is surely not a butter knife. It’s a sharp blade that’s deadly enough to slaughter with. Furthermore, we also find machaira used to translate the Hebrew word cherev,“sword.” Returning to the New Testament (which offers better evidence about Greek, because the Greek in the Septuagint is often a poor translation), we find thatmachairais metaphorically the opposite of “peace,” in Matthew 10:34, for instance. And in John 18:10 — the passage about Jesus’s armed followers — one thing we know is that the weapon, amachaira,was carried in a sheath of some sort from which Simon Peter drew it.” (https://goddidntsaythat.com/tag/machaira/)

 A machaira...this is no butter knife.  

A machaira...this is no butter knife.  

Bible’s use of machaira when Jesus says “I came not to bring peace but a sword (machaira)” (Matthew 10:34), when coupled with Jesus’ instructing his disciples to buy machaira could lend one to think that Jesus is advocating aggressive violence. However, the dual meaning of machaira (knife/sword) does not lend to the thought of stockpiling weaponry for a great offensive or defenseive. When placed in the context of the question Jesus’ asks in Luke 22:35-38, the picture painted is of disciples moving throughout the ancient world on foot, carrying money, food, and a knife for the food which doubles as a sword for defense. Its primary function, and their primary orientation, was never violence, but preaching the gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc.. They were not to be experts of war-craft, but ministers of the gospel. They were not seek revenge, or seek to build an army. However, with Jesus’ absence their provision and protection, according to the words of Jesus, is removed. He admonishes them to secure machaira for their travels. The disciples bring 2 machaira, and Jesus is satisfied. Notice that Jesus does not expect, in the versus above, for the disciples to carry the sword for Jesus’ defense. The sword is specifically spoken of by Jesus in relationship to the disciples being sent out. They are to have the sword, money pouch, and food bag as his missionaries (Apostles). He is about to fulfill prophecy concerning dying to pay the price for human sin, and will have no need of such. 

 Mat 26:51-56 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

 Malcolm said “by any means necessary’; Martin practiced peaceful protest...  Both died by the sword

Malcolm said “by any means necessary’; Martin practiced peaceful protest...

Both died by the sword

Notice that, when used in defense of Jesus, when such use would have slowed or thwarted the fulfilling of his divine mission, Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away. However, Jesus does not rebuke Peter for having a sword. Jesus asserts that those who take the sword will perish with the sword. This, however, is not a statement of moral damnation, but of pragmatic consequence. More over, history reveals that even those who do not take the sword perish with or by the sword, so to make this a maxim for passivity when it was Jesus who instructed the purchase of swords by his disciples in the future when he is absent is unnecessarily.

Jesus continues his train of thought by saying that if he needed it, he could call to his father, who would send 12 legions of angels. A legion in Jesus’ day was made up of 5000 fighting men, making 12 legions 60,000 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_legion). Given Biblical descriptions of angelic form (fiery seraphim and cherubim) and power, and given the overwhelming numberical superiority of such an army on Jesus’ current garden situation, if he wanted his freedom a divine flaming army was only call away. They would have utterly decimated the entire scene, and humanity would have been lost as the sacrificed would have been thwarted. In contrast to these angelic warriors,  Peter was a fisherman. His aim was poor: he only took Malchus’ ear. They only had two swords. Jesus didn't need a novice to rescue him. If he needed warrriors, the angelic army stood ready to aid him. 

Conclusion

So what are we to make of all this? 

The machaira was a knife doubling as a sword. It had daily use, and defensive use. When God appeared to Moses, and Moses complains that Israel will not believe God has sent him, God asked, “What is in thy hand”. Moses had a shepherd’s rod, and it was enough. Jesus tells the disciples to go and buy pouch, scrip, and sword. He knew they were unaccustomed having to provide for themselves, or protect themselves in his service while he was present. If we are to negate sword as a command of Jesus, then we should negate the money and food as well as a command of Jesus. They present two swords to him, and he said, “it is enough”.

 A Modern non-lethal type of  machaira   

A Modern non-lethal type of machaira  

 A modern, non-lethal type of   machaira  

A modern, non-lethal type of  machaira  

In todays crazy world of church and other public shootings, where it is the gun and not the sword that is society’s weapon of choice, is a Christian to sit and wait for divine legions to stop one from being robbed, assaulted, raped, etc? Is the Christian to do the same when one sees someone else being abused in like manner? No. Does the Bible give open-handed leeway for any and all forms of combat and weapon training for a believer? I do not think so. Is the Bible asking the believer to be untrained and unarmed, and simply to let evil men run amuck over one’s person, belongings, and loved one’s? Again, I think not. The Bible presents life without Jesus present as harrowing and dangerous. While we are to be on the roads of life bringing the gospel to all the world, we will need money to travel, food to eat, and a modern machaira. What that is for you is between you and the Lord, but having a machaira is a command of Jesus. Having nice clothes, cars, and homes is not. You need not go to far to aquire one. You need simply look at what is in your hand, and use it appropriately should circumstances arise. 

So, Christian, what is in your hand?

 

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