Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

We Cannot Advance God’s Kingdom by Pounding Plowshares into Swords the way of America, or the way of Christ?

Imagine with me, it’s a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The leaves are fallen, the air is cool and crisp. Families everywhere have gathered together for their annual Thanksgiving celebrations.

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Suddenly, out of nowhere, fighter jets come screaming across the horizon. Right as we look up and realize what they are, they begin dropping atomic bombs, completely obliterating towns and cities across our great land.

Why this happening? What is going on?

Iraq is striking back.

 

They are preemptively striking a nation known for slaughtering thousands of innocent women and children in their so-called attempts at creating peace in other nations. Before this nation strikes again, in northern Orient, Iraq is stepping in to ward off the notorious military bulldog.

Crazy, right?

Absolutely absurd! How horrifically awful it would be for a country to bomb our cities on one of our nation’s most hallowed holidays.

And for seemingly no good reason—completely mistaken, indeed! America has helped these other countries, giving them a chance at democracy. God forbid such evil would run rampant throughout the world!

We are always the good guys. They are always the bad. And as theologian Wayne Grudem said, “the sword in the hand of good government is God’s designated weapon to defeat evildoers.”[1] We consider America’s preemptive strikes on other nations well justified, an act of obedience to God. But another striking us—well, that would be an attack from the devil, right?

Churches Secured by the Sword

A couple weeks ago, Texas experienced one of the worst massacres in American history: a gunman opened fire on a congregation in the middle of their church service. Twenty-six people died. An absolute nightmare!

While many in Texas continue grieving the tragedy, surprisingly, the rest of the world has seemed to move on. In fact, within days of the event I saw headlines pushing each political agenda. Essentially, they all said either “See, guns need to be outlawed!” or “Thank God the neighbor had a gun!”

What breaks my heart is seeing who it is promoting guns (and who it is promoting nonviolence).

Christians, Christ-followers, people who claim Jesus as their Prince of Peace—they are calling for all church security guards to now carry weapons. They are first concerned about the safety of their parishioners with little to no consideration for our Lord’s call to lay down arms.

“Those who live by the sword die by the sword” apparently lands on deaf ears.

 

In fact, the man who scared the Texas shooter, chasing him down until he finally killed himself, cited his “God and Lord” as the one who gave him the skills to do what needed to be done. He only wishes he could have gotten there faster.[2]

To be clear, I grieve deeply with those who lost loved-ones. I know the pain of having lost a family member. I cannot imagine the grief Pastor Pomeroy experiences having lost his daughter in the rampage, and I am so glad it stopped and didn’t take out everyone!

But this call for arms, this acclaiming God as the one who empowers us to kill others, to resist evil with violence, directly contradicts the way of Christ.

A Kingdom Not of This World

Jesus told Pilate, when asked if He was King of the Jews, that His kingdom is not of this world. If it were, His people would fight.[3] But it’s not. So, He modeled for us a way of suffering, of laying down our lives so others can live.

Yet, here we are in America and the church, who claims to follow Christ, is one of the strongest groups of people promoting violent resistance.

What grieves me even more is that those promoting nonviolence, as if they care about people’s lives, have just as selfish political motives as those arguing for guns.

President Obama, as passionate as he was in trying to stop gun violence in schools throughout America, is said to have orchestrated between 282 and 535 civilian deaths in the Middle East through drone strikes.[4] During all the drone strikes that took place while Obama was in office, 168 children died.[5] As long as it’s on American soil, the political left wants to protect children from gun violence. It doesn’t matter what happens overseas.

In America, guns or no guns really isn’t about following Christ or protecting people; it’s about getting our way. And we, as Christians, have been duped into thinking we deserve our way. We’re a free nation set apart for religious freedom.

And that’s good, right?

 

But nowhere in Scripture does God promise we have Heaven on earth in an entirely physical sense, much less political.

God’s Kingdom is not advanced through politics and violence. As Preston Sprinkle observes in his book, Fight,

Paul says that the true battle is not against Iran, North Korea, or al-Qaeda, but against the satanic forces working behind the scenes. We are not to war against human enemies, only spiritual ones. In fact, we are to love our human enemies. . .America could nuke the entire Middle East and Satan would walk away untouched. China or Iran could conquer America, and God’s kingdom wouldn’t feel a thing.[6]

You cannot win people to the Lord by pounding your plowshares into swords. It has never been God’s design for His people to violently ward off the enemy.

Yes, in the Old Testament, God directed the children of Israel to drive out the Canaanites, those who hated God and His design. But if you study the history of surrounding nations, you realize God required Israel to fight in a ridiculously gentle way.

Compared to the rest of the nations, Israel looked like cowards. Wet dolls.

 

Furthermore, they were not to store up for themselves chariots and horsemen. Rather, they were trust God to protect them. Any fighting they would do would be done by God.[7]

He is the avenger; not man.[8]

We’re Becoming Just Like Them

Samuel warned the people that if they crowned a king, he would eventually build up an army—they would eventually walk away from God, no longer depending on Him.[9]

But the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted control, to know they were safe and secure. I suppose, as it’s been since the fall, the Israelites did not believe God really had their best in mind.

In the same way, it seems we in America have forgotten God. We, too, don’t believe He’ll actually come through for us. That if we die in from a North Korean strike, or a Sunday morning slaughter, our lives are forever finished. So, we must protect ourselves.

This ideology runs rampant through Christianity, today. So much so, that some will read this convinced I have bought into the “liberal agenda.”

But I’m simply telling the story of Christ.

 

His way, the way not of this world, is to shed His blood so those who don’t know God can be reconciled to Him. Therefore, Paul, Peter and John call us as His followers to rejoice when our blood is shed knowing that it silences the kingdom of darkness. Christ and His church conquer by being conquered.[10]

What’s most devastating about Israel’s desire for a king, about their stockpiling weapons and building military strength, is that they ended up becoming just like the Canaanites.

The very ones they were supposed to drive out.

 

In the same way, as Christians in America call for armed security guards at churches, as we support and claim providential guidance over President’s taking preemptive strikes on other nations, we have become like the nations of Iraq and North Korea. We live life according to the world’s ways of doing life.

We have put our faith in man; not God.

No matter how hard we try denying it, if Pilate and Jesus were standing here today having the same conversation, Pilate would not recognize the American church as being people connected with Christ.

Will you follow the way of Christ, or the way of America? You can share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Citations:

[1] Wayne Grudem, Politics—According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2010), 403

[2] http://www.faithwire.com/2017/11/10/the-heroes-who-stopped-maniac-church-killer-deserve-our-praise-but-they-desperately-need-something-else/ (accessed NOV 13, 2017)

[3] John 18:36

[4] https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2012-02-04/cia-tactics-in-pakistan-include-targeting-rescuers-and-funerals (accessed November 14, 2017)

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8695679/168-children-killed-in-drone-strikes-in-Pakistan-since-start-of-campaign.html (accessed November 14, 2017)

[6] Preston Sprinkle, Fight—a Christian case for nonviolence (2013), pp. 165-166

[7] Duet. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 12:12-25

[8] Duet. 32:35; Ro. 12:19; Heb. 10:30

[9] 1 Sam. 8:10-18

[10] Preston Sprinkle, Fight—a Christian case for nonviolence (2013), p. 182

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Bryan Wengerd

    First of all Asher thank you for writing and stimulating us to think I appreciate what you do! What i’m say here is meant to Further stretch us and to maybe have us see the two sides of a truth. Not discourage what you do! I believe Truth has two ends to it at times and if we take one to far it becomes a heresy.. For example the church at Laodicea
    15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
    16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. – Revelation 3:15-16
    I don’t believe Jesus was saying that he would rather have them good or wicked but good and good.
    Laodicea had hot springs on one side of its city/tel and and a cold water source on the other side of the city. Both had a purpose, the hot was good specific uses and the cold was good for specific uses. The problem was the waters merge before they came to the city and became lukewarm and useless. (Jesus speaking to the context and culture of the day and they could connect with the thought)

    And a lot of scripture we tend to take out of context make a doctrine out of it.
    coming from a nonresistant anabaptist Church this message isn’t hard for me to hear. But I question if it embraces the full character of God or the God head.

    I would ask the question is resisting evil violent??
    Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
    ‭‭Micah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭KJV‬‬ God is all for justice and the cries of the innocent don’t go unheard. To me this verse hold a dynamic that I have not been fully able to comprehend.. I think the mercy side is not hard for us to see we know God is long suffering and full of mercy and Grace.
    But what does justice mean for us. Yes we should return good for evil and turn the other cheek. IF it is towards us! But what if it’s another? what if we see the innocent being harmed? In being a living sacrifice I believe we should do what cost us the most. And that may require us to push back on evil or even fight back?
    These words from Jesus before his struggle on the Mt of olives are a little harder for us anabaptist to digest..
    He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. – Luke 22:36
    I believe each instance may require its own judgement and wisdom not necessarily that we adhere to a specific doctrine.
    As for our country i don’t believe that the church or a so called Christian nation has replaced Israel but I believe that with what measure that we adhere to God’s laws (Torah/teaching and instruction) as a nation and push back evil accordingly I believe God will bless and honor that.
    And oh here is a good one that I don’t know what to do with. I believe it is talking about Jesus (the Word) and yes I agree it is God who will ultimately judge and distroy the wicked but hasn’t called us to partner with him? To rule with him? To bring his kingdom, that his will be done on earth as in heaven?
    This doesn’t look like the Jesus we know..
    11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
    12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.
    13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
    14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
    15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
    16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. – Revelation 19:11-16

    Thanks for creating good dialogue! And blessings as you serve and write.

    • Brian,

      Thanks for your comment. This conversation is certainly a complex conversation–one we can’t do justice online, probably. But I’ll attempt to respond to a few of your comments (and we can continue further dialogue if need be).

      First, I’d recommend checking out my latest blog post, http://www.asherwitmer.com/not-resist-one-evil/ for answers to some of your question. Often skeptics of nonviolence assume you either resist evil violently (or not at all). Actually, I believe we are called to resist evil. I just don’t see any biblical grounds giving Christians the responsibility/authority/permission/whatever you want to call it to resist through violence. The way the Lion of Judah conquers is by being slaughtered as a lamb. In the OT, God permits Israel to war against its enemies under strict conditions. One’s the looked cowardly to the rest of the world. They were not supposed to stalk up weapons or build a military, and they were not to flaunt their victories. The God of the OT is the same God of the NT who said “Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you.” In your reference to Revelation, the sword comes from the mouth–not the hand. Everywhere else in Revelation a sword from the mouth refers to word of judgment, not an act of violence. ( Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; cf. John 12:48; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 4:12) The more I study scripture, the more I am certain the God who absorbed all violence on the cross remains the same in every situation. We are called to conquer with him by laying down our lives. By living counter-culturally in NOT counting our lives as everything. Instead, we love our enemies, giving ourselves freely fully convinced that God will work his final judgment one day. That vengeance really is His. That through our suffering the enemy really is defeated.

      If you want a thorough, exegetical study of this topic from a man who did not grow up embracing nonviolence, I highly recommend Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: a Christian case for nonviolence. The best sources around. More thorough and convincing than anything I have ever heard from even a Mennonite. You can get it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2AXsWjZ.

      God bless,
      Asher

    • Bryan,

      Thanks for your comment. This conversation is certainly a complex conversation–one we can’t do justice online, probably. But I’ll attempt to respond to a few of your comments (and we can continue further dialogue if need be).

      First, I’d recommend checking out my latest blog post, http://www.asherwitmer.com/… for answers to some of your question. Often skeptics of nonviolence assume you either resist evil violently (or not at all). Actually, I believe we are called to resist evil. I just don’t see any biblical grounds giving Christians the responsibility/authority/permission/whatever you want to call it to resist through violence. The way the Lion of Judah conquers is by being slaughtered as a lamb. In the OT, God permits Israel to war against its enemies under strict conditions. One’s the looked cowardly to the rest of the world. They were not supposed to stalk up weapons or build a military, and they were not to flaunt their victories. The God of the OT is the same God of the NT who said “Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you.” In your reference to Revelation, the sword comes from the mouth–not the hand. Everywhere else in Revelation a sword from the mouth refers to word of judgment, not an act of violence. ( Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; cf. John 12:48; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 4:12) The more I study scripture, the more I am certain the God who absorbed all violence on the cross remains the same in every situation. We are called to conquer with him by laying down our lives. By living counter-culturally in NOT counting our lives as everything. Instead, we love our enemies, giving ourselves freely fully convinced that God will work his final judgment one day. That vengeance really is His. That through our suffering the enemy really is defeated.

      If you want a thorough, exegetical study of this topic from a man who did not grow up embracing nonviolence, I highly recommend Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: a Christian case for nonviolence. The best sources around. More thorough and convincing than anything I have ever heard from even a Mennonite. You can get it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2AXsWjZ.

      God bless,
      Asher

      • Bryan Wengerd

        Thank you for your response. I did read your latest blog. I really appreciate your emphasis on absorbing evil and your call to active resistance but with good and not with violence I believe you are spot on. You quote,
        “The Lamb of God conquers evil not with more evil and violence, but with laying Himself down to absorb all violence.”
        It is a new thought for me that Israel’s army looked week and cowardly but you do have a point.
        And yes I can see how a person can abuse the scripture in revelation. And I can see how the sword from his mouth could indicate the word of judgement.
        Vengeance truly is the Lord’s. I see Jesus’s first incarnation as a suffering servant/lamb but his next appearance as a conquering King.
        I will check out the book by Preston Sprinkle. Thanks for your time and response!!

  • Camerist

    Well said!

  • Shawn Martin

    Thanks for being a real part of “the city set on a hill” with this article. Very true and very timely.

  • JAHertzler

    Asher, this message cannot be repeated often enough, and you have spoken it well. Thanks for having the courage to confront the golden calf of nationalistic militarism.

    While Not Worried pointed out correctly that your scenario of fighter jets dropping bombs is not the most likely one, Not Worried’s complacence regarding America’s impenetrability is so childishly naive as to be laughable, if it were not so soul-destroying. Not Worried has written a classic showcase of the mindset that infects every great empire’s citizens – just before that empire collapses.

    Israel was God’s explicitly chosen earthly nation, established by promise, blessed above all nations on earth, and charged with spreading his truth and goodness to the entire world; yet God warned them that should they begin to trust in their military strength, they could count on being miserably defeated by their enemies, regardless of how far they might outclass those enemies in numbers and power. The United States of America has never been given any such promises; yet somehow many of us manage to assume that we have inherited all the blessings of Biblical Israel—minus any of Israel’s obligations to humility, service, and reliance on God.

    For those who cling to this satanic fairy tale until they are shaken from it by force, the awakening will be bitter indeed.

  • Not worried

    Powerful nations have always dictated the affairs of the smaller and the United States is not an exception. Some would say it is a moral duty for the strong to protect the weak and there is no Christian argument against that. However, power corrupts and when the powerful can become arrogant and abusive many suffer.

    The opening senario made no sense. No country would be able to penetrate US airspace and fly deep into the heartland. Even the Japanese, in their surprise attack, targeted a place their aircraft carriers could strike and modern jet aircraft are as limited. The ideal delivery vehicle for a nuclear device is an ICBM or one of those hypersonic cruise missiles being developed by China and Russia. Americans can rest assured that no attack would go unpunished. We have a significant nuclear deterrence.

    You ventured into territory you not know and that made your point less compelling to someone outside of the Mennonite echo chamber. If anything you made a case for greater military readiness followed by rambles aimed at defeating a phantom enemy who might call you a liberal. If it helps, I don’t see you as having swallowed the liberal agenda nor as saying anything surprising for a person indoctrinated into non-resistance.

    It is amusing that many who claim their only allegiance is the kingdom of heaven have no problem enjoying the perks and privileges of their US citizenship. Their neighbors might take them more seriously when they give up this duplicity of word and deed.

  • Lori Hershberger

    yes, we can never win by pounding our plowshares into swords! This matter has been on my heart a lot lately, and the recent marches in Poland also made me very, very sad. The very people who should be the salt and light of the earth are destroying it. Thanks for speaking up.