What’s So Complicated About “Love Your Enemies”?

If there’s one thing I don’t understand about modern Christianity in America, it’s this:

The offensiveness of enemy love.

If one takes a public stand against, say, any sin you can think of, one is considered “courageous” and a “defender of the faith”. Folks will quickly applaud you and tell you how much they admire you for “taking a stand” on biblical truth.

Except if you quote Matthew 5:44 and invite people to apply it in any sort of meaningful, literal way.

The moment one begins to talk about loving your enemies they all of a sudden become “liberals”, “extremists”, or are accused of completely taking an otherwise straight forward passage “out of context”.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this is the case for quite some time. I must admit, out of all of the controversial topics I’ve tackled on the blog, I continue to be amazed at how infuriating the topic of enemy love is for people, and for the many ways folks will bend their theology into a pretzel to get around this requirement of following Jesus. I am growing more and more convinced that there is no teaching in all of scripture more offensive to American Christians as is the command of enemy love.

Someone once told me that when Jesus said “love your enemies” he was actually referring to neighbors who you didn’t get along with, and that he certainly didn’t intend for it to include people who hated us. Others, professed biblical literalists, have frequently asserted to me that Jesus intended enemy love to only go to a certain point, and that if we feel our life is threatened, we need to exercise our right to kill such enemies because “God isn’t glorified if our enemies kill us”.

In the last year, I think I have heard every excuse in the book. The case is clear: enemy love is utterly offensive to the vast majority of American Christianity.

Whereas the Bible says that love is patient and kind, that love is not self-seeking, and all that other inconvenient stuff, for many of us enemy love ends up looking radically different than the biblical definition. Instead of “love is patient, love is kind, love is not self-seeking, love never fails” it becomes: “love is patient, love is kind, love blows their head off if they break into our house.”

Yet, many Christians continue to brush away what for hundreds of years was considered a clear teaching of Christ in order to cling to our right to kill.

The question becomes: why does following Jesus become so offensive to many Christians? What is so complicated about loving our enemies?

Here’s what I think:

We don’t agree with God yet.

You see, everyone on this planet has intrinsic value and unsurpassable worth to God. When we think back to the first verse that many of us memorized in Sunday School growing up, we remember that “for God so loved the world…” God’s love overflows for everyone– because everyone bears his divine image. As I’ve heard Greg Boyd say many times in making this argument, our job then becomes to simply agree with God that this person has so much worth and so much value to God, that Jesus died for them.

But, I’m not sure that we’re always ready to agree with God. It is far easier to say “My life has more value because they are _______ (insert judgement)”.

A common scenario I often pose to people is: “What if you had two children, and one was violently attacking the other? Would you kill the guilty child or would you find a third way to handle the situation?” Most people agree that they’d find a third way– one that perhaps could get them killed– because they love and value both children too much to ever take their life away. Love then becomes something that’s willing to die, but something that is likewise unwilling to kill.

You see, it is easy to agree with God that a human life has too much worth to take when it is our own children. However, when it comes to the life of our enemy, we still rebelliously refuse to agree with God that such a person’s life could have equal value to our own. Instead of agreeing with God, we prefer to judge which life has more value and hold onto our rights to extinguish the life we feel is of lesser value.

I get it. Self sacrifice offends our senses.

When we realize that if we truly love our enemies it means we’ll refuse to kill our enemies, it leads us to realize that it might actually mean we could potentially die at the hands of our enemies. This is insane! And, they’re right– this would seem like utter insanity if it were not for the fact that this is exactly what Jesus did! As followers of Jesus, called to live like Jesus and emulate Jesus, it should not come as a shock to our system that in doing so, some of us might actually die like Jesus.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not blow the head off another.

Instead, love affirms worth and value to even the ones who appear vile and guilty.

Sometimes, love even sacrifices– dying in place of someone, instead of killing someone.

It’s radical. It’s offensive. It’s insane apart from the cross of Christ.

Yet, this is love.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jill Roper

    Enemy love is an interesting topic. I would love to know your thoughts on the war on terrorism and the aftermath of 9/11 What kind of response in your opinion would have put enemy love into practice in a practical way? I hope you know me well enough to trust this is a genuine question.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Of course! You’re my sister :)

    The question you’re asking involves international diplomacy, so it is more difficult for me to answer than an interpersonal situation between two people. However, we do know this: our use of violence has only created more terrorists. We hit them, so they hit us, and the cycle goes on forever. The only way to beat the devil at his game is to refuse to play it. So, while the correct answer of what should have been done can be up for debate, I think the one thing we know for sure is that using war and violence didn’t work– Iraq is in chaos now, there are more terrorists who hate us with every drone strike… killing enemies just doesn’t work.

    Your non covered brother

  • Jill Roper

    With the terrorists I might be wrong but what I know of the history of modern day terrorism we did not start the fight. They hate us and our way of life and want to destroy us. They came to us over and over again before 9/11.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Yes, they did in some respects attack first. My point was that responding with violence “in kind”, as Jesus taught, only continues the cycle of violence. We’re seeing the results of it now– what felt like righteous violence to us, becomes for them another reason to continue a tit for tat cycle.

    I think when it comes to parenting, we know this is true and typically teach our children correctly: “Susie, just because he hit you doesn’t mean that you should hit him back”, because as parents, we know that responding in kind only keeps the violence alive. However, for some strange reason, when it comes to national enemies we completely throw out this aspect of the teachings of Christ and our own common sense as parents.

  • Jill Roper

    This thread has turned into a discussion about pacifism which is fine but I think your original point Ben was about loving our enemies on a personal level. So I would like to get back to the original point which I think is excellent. A personal story as a back drop. When a Dad who is supposed to be a loving and nurturing parent but abuses his position by horrible physical and sexual abuse he is not living in such a way that brings glory to anyone. His victims, who are just children have to grow up with a very distorted view of love. A man who would sexually abuse and physically abuse his children is the lowest of life. Those children grow up to realize he is the enemy. He robbed them of their personhood. The children then have to work through all the abuse heaped on them as children. God calls those children to love that dad how did unspeakable things to them. It is much harder to love the enemy that you live with then some terrorist overseas. This is gut level stuff. That man is the poster child for everything evil. It takes years to forgive such a man. No matter how bad the abuse God calls those children to love that man. It is only by the grace of God that those children can forgive, especially when that man goes on to prey on hundreds of other children. Love him, yes, that is what God calls those children to do but it is only by God’s power that it is possible. Hope that makes sense.

  • coloradito

    Seemed to work fine with Germany and Japan…

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Yes, I’m sure killing 70,000 people in one day really glorified God.

  • coloradito

    Right, the Jews should have had Ghandi’s suggestion in time to commit collective suicide to draw attention to their plight…

  • coloradito

    … and saving at least a million, according to estimated when considering an invasion of Japan.

  • George Adams

    Ben, if an armed home invader was to break through your door, would you have any preference over whether he lives or your family lives? It’s all good and well to talk about putting down your gun so you can “find a third way… one that perhaps might get me killed”, but of course then you’re dead, and it’s just the home invader and your family.

    Is it your position that God passionately loves both the sexual predator and your wife equally, and therefore you have no right to love one of them more than the other, or to use deadly force to preserve the life of your wife?

  • http://heartsoulmindstrength.com Michelle Langley

    I know your question was addressed to Ben, but I’d like to share what I’d do. If a home invader broke in, I’d ask the Holy Spirit how to handle the situation. The power of God has released his servants from chains in prison, and will keep my family safe if that is His will. The power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit outranks guns any day. Also, in my opinion, YES, God loves the sexual predator every bit as much as he loves my family members. His love is unfathomable.

    One more thing, Jesus conquered death, so there is no such thing. No worries. :-D

  • CroneEver

    Why not wait until that actually happens, and, in the meantime, work on ways to defend yourself and your family that do not involve killing them? A safe room, running, good security systems, all of these can and do work. In other words, rather than think up extreme scenarios in order to find a way to justify violence as a primary solution, plan ahead to make it unnecessary. I know I have run like hell a few times in my life, and so far, it’s worked.

  • George Adams

    Also, regarding the view that God’s love for everyone is equal, is it also your position

    • that God loved Pharaoh just as passionately as he loved Moses, though he hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not listen, for the express purpose of “getting glory over Pharaoh and his host”? (Ex. 7:3, 14:4)

    • that God poured overflowing love on the King of Sihon, even while he was actively hardening his heart and making him obstinate in order that the children of Israel would kill him and destroy his cities? (Deut 2:30ff)

    • that God loved the children of Israel as much as the Canaanite tribes, even though he commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy them? (Deut. 20:16ff)

    • that God’s love for Ahab was as great as his love for Elijah, even though he sent a lying spirit to deceive Ahab so that he would go to battle and die? (1 Kings 22:19ff)

    – that God loved the people of the first century A.D. in China, Russia and India just as much as he loved his church, even though He did not see fit to send them the gospel so that they could be saved?

  • coloradito

    I really hope Ben would respond to this question of equal love.

    I would also mention Malachi 1:2-5
    “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

    and Exodus 33:19
    “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Somewhat irrelevant: even if it turns out that God loves some people more than others, neither you nor I would ever know the heart of God; we’d never know who he loves more, and therefore are incapable of judging which life has more value. Therefore, to take a human life, would require stepping into God’s shoes and making the judgement of who has more value.

  • coloradito

    Wouldn’t letting someone be killed in front of you also require a similar (if not same) “judgement”?

  • Joy

    Dirk Willems put enemy love into practice – and at a very high cost to himself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirk_Willems

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    He sure did. I’ve been planning on a Dirk tattoo for a while now.

  • Guest

    Well i got slaughtered last week for saying just that. it was to do with that guy who had an affair with the 17 year old and was put in prison. I did not get to read his whole letter unfortunately as it got pulled before i could, but i did read parts of it. I felt everyone was slaughtering this guy without any reference from the other party as to her feelings on it. Where was Christian forgiveness for someone who had repented? Nowhere! people were commenting on the wording – that he hadn’t worded it right if he had of repented… and on and on it went. It was awful. And I agree with George below this comment – If someone broke into my house and was trying to hurt my kids, i would try and stop him. I would not try to kill him, but i woulddo anything possible to protect my kids from evil. What would you do if that happened as an example for us? ( not being rude, just asking).

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Try to stop him… that’s the rub… For entirely too many people the go-to position seems to be to blow him back through the front door.

    Stop, yes… Hate? Why would one give another person permission to live in one’s head that way?

  • Livin

    It depends on the reasoning ability of the aggressor. The Romans were won over by Christians going to their deaths.The British by Gandhi. But a Hiter,Stalin or a home invader on meth would not be one over by your ability to watch your family die and let yourself be killed. Also your family counts on you so are they happy with you going to your death if it is preventable?

    This is why Jesus and Paul said celibacy first. It is much easier to go to your death if no one counts on you for food and shelter.

    So it is not as simple as it seems.

    “George Orwell remarked that Gandhi’s methods confronted ‘an old-fashioned and rather shaky despotism which treated him in a fairly chivalrous way’, not a totalitarian Power, ‘where political opponents simply disappear.’ [162]

    In a post-war interview in 1946, he said, “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”[163] Gandhi believed this act of “collective suicide”, in response to the Holocaust, “would have been heroism”.”-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghandi#World_War_II_and_Quit_India

  • bobbyscott

    The only thing that I can think of to disagree with your post is the very first line…is there really only one thing that you can’t understand about Modern Christianity??? LOL!

  • Tracy

    Can you give us some examples please of what you would do if someone broke into your house and started to attack your family? That is one area I don’t think I could just lie down and die over. Perhaps trying to prevent them from harming people is different to trying to kill them? I would take action, but would not try to kill them.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I would take action as well, but would not kill or harm. The real example I usually give people (not sure if you know our back-story) were the times when my oldest daughter was being violent with knives, glass, and other dangerous weapons. There were times when I would have been legally justified in using lethal force to stop her from hurting my wife or myself, but couldn’t– she was my child. Instead, I used nonviolent restraint (you can get official training in it) that allowed me to subdue her and absorb her violence so that my wife or other daughter could move to safety. I’ve also said previously that I would be okay with pepper spray, which subdues but does not do lasting harm to a person. Folks confuse nonviolence with just saying “okay, you can kill my family” but that’s not it at all– it’s just an unwillingness to harm, most especially, kill.

  • coloradito

    So, if as the very last resort you had to use lethal force but in your heart was not how you wanted it to go and you did everything you could within the time provided to reach a peaceful conclusion, then would you consider that a “righteous killing” and lesser evil of allowing an innocent/weaker person or even yourself to be slaughtered?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    No. I was always unwilling to take the life of my child, no matter how violent she got. I would especially disagree that it would be a righteous killing to take another life instead of my own– this would require the sin of judging that my life is somehow of more value than another. It’s not. My life is no more valuable, and no less valuable, than anyone else.

  • Livin

    You can let yourself die and your child while allowing a murderer to go to hell. Or you can kill the psyco keep him from killing. He goes to Heaven and you have taken the burden from him of killing. That is much more merciful and more people live in that scenario.

    Hey putting down a rabid dog is more merciful to the people and the dog. But we do need to try other options first. Violence can cause more violence and thus dose hurt everyone involved.

  • Jeff Bys

    Sorry you had to go through that with your daughter and I commend you for the way you handled it. But I assume you were larger than her and thus in an andventagious position to subdue her without harming her. However, most violent offenders choose victims much smaller and weaker than themselves. If I understand your point of view correctly, a 140 pound woman with her 3 young children should have no recourse against a sexual predator trying to take one of her kids if said recourse would result in the predator coming to harm. I find that point of view completely irresponsible. It would be great if we lived in a world where violence was not necessary, and some day we will, but we aren’t there yet. I think it foolish to be willing to sacrifice the innocents we should be protecting in order to attempt to make this world what only Jesus can make it.

  • coloradito

    Ben, if all lives are of equal value, then saving two lives by killing one would mathematically and logically be a lesser evil. Where is it a sin to judge? How is this post not “judging” conservatives that have different views on self-defense (including that violence should be reserved only as a last resort)? I agree that we are to love/foster peace and shun violence, but I am yet to be convinced that I should not protect the weak.

    Also, just as you have a responsibility to protect your daughter no matter what it costs you. I believe I have the same responsibility to protect my children from those who attempt to harm them.

  • Robert Mark Wade

    The average American church goer is taught that God is keeping tabs and will settle the score some day. Also, if we keep a set of rules, we show our love for Him. This is why you get the shun your gay child responses. They geninuely believe this is a loving response. If we examine the life and words of Jesus, we’ll find a much different story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.hawkins.7509 Christopher Hawkins

    Well-put! Some folks forget that our roots go back to radicals: martyrs who stood death in the face as they were burned at the stake or ravaged by animals. It seems at times, though, that we’ve forgotten that Radical Love that Christ came to earth to teach us about in so very many ways, ultimately dying for it. “The Kingdom of God is Within You” by Tolstoy comes to mind.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

    I think it’s telling that one of responses you get when you tell people you a pacifist is an increasingly improbable set of scenarios designed to get prove that pacifism doesn’t work. This totally ignores the root causes to violence. Violence begets violence. To often the question that gets asked is when is violence justified rather than how do we build a society where violence is never necessary. Love your enemy is easy to understand but very hard to master. Yet it is the only way that we will ever bring about God’s kingdom on earth.

  • Livin

    Eventually the earth will be swallowed by the sun. Only then will their be peace. Christianity seems to think that people are good. All of us are evil to the core. Life itself is without meaning or virtue. We live,we sin,we die;the end.

  • Anthony

    I have two comments to make (one question and one statement), but I’ll split them to simplify.

    Fundamentalists and evangelicals are criticized by progressives for inconsistently applying scripture in a literal way. You made a similar argument in a recent post that said something like “if you think homosexuals are going to hell, then so are people who don’t recycle.” What I hear over and over again from progressive Christians is that what the text of the Bible MEANS, and not just what it SAYS, should be the focus of serious study. Conservatives’ belief that the Bible is inerrant is cited as the cause of a lot of bad theology and behavior.

    Can you explain how you can suggest, on one hand, that Matthew 5:44 (for example) should be applied to life in a literal way (to the point you do not support violence even in self-defense), but on the other hand oppose belief in an inerrant Bible (in the fundamentalist sense) and argue on other issues that what the Bible MEANS, and not just what it SAYS, should guide Christians?

    I mean this as a genuine question. It seems to me that belief in nonviolence with no exceptions rests on (1) the literal application of what (2) an inerrant Bible (3) SAYS, which is what progressives criticize fundamentalists for doing.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    That’s a really good question. For me, it comes down to literary genre, authorial intent, and context.

    For example, Gen 1 is more poetic- written in a time of oral culture where such things were written to convey a story in a way one could remember. In this case, the “truth” would be the deeper truth as it would have been understood in ancient times, and not a scientific truth as we look for today.

    The teachings of Jesus, however, aren’t something that strike me as being metaphoric. He came to usher in a new Kingdom, a new way of living– and his teachings give us the outline to what that looks like. So when I read “love your enemies that you may be sons of your father in heaven” I see it as not somehow metaphoric, but as an actual ethic to live by. Certainly, we know that the original audience understood it that way and lived it out radically.

    The criticism of fundamentalist is that they almost always demand literal without taking actual historical context and genre into consideration. This is not to say, that there are not somethings that are literal and black and white in scripture, because there certainly are sections like that. The ethical teachings of Jesus are such that I know no legitimate way to dismiss them.

    Short answer to a complex question- maybe I’ll blog about it, but hope that somewhat helps.

  • Anthony

    That really helps, thanks. I’m grappling with this particular issue and also with understanding how to properly interpret scripture in general. Discerning when one should focus on what scripture says versus what it means is tricky, especially for novices like me.

    I’d be eager to read a more detailed essay on the issue if you decide to write one. If you do, it would be helpful to know how you go about taking explicit things Jesus said (or scripture in general) and applying them to scenarios he didn’t specifically address. For example, Jesus clearly calls us to love our enemies. It’s clear to me that that means violence is almost never okay, but it would be helpful to know how you (and others) conclude with so much certainty that Jesus meant violence is NEVER okay.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I know you don’t have time to respond to every question and comment you receive, so I appreciate your taking the time.

  • Anthony

    I’ll follow up my hard question (or at least I think it’s hard) with a word of praise.

    What I think some of your critics on this issue are failing to recognize is something you convinced me of last week in our comments section exchange. It goes something like this….

    If Jesus calls for us to love our neighbors as ourselves and I am to view, as you pointed out, an intruder (or foreign terrorists) as having just as much intrinsic value as myself and my loved ones, then, even if I disagree with you about what I am expected to do in a true life-or-death scenario, at the very least I should view harming an intruder (or foreign terrorists) as an absolute last resort when it’s the only option. I should do everything humanly possible to avoid violence.

    Even if Christians did not concede to the idea of nonviolence without exception, truly viewing others as having as much intrinsic value as ourselves and loved ones would force us to re-examine our views on just about everything. Violence would have to be viewed as a TRAGIC last resort, of course, but we’d have to re-examine our views on everything from immigration to American foreign policy to health care to environment. Your giving me that lens has shaken up my beliefs about a lot of things.

    And that’s to say nothing of the fact hardly anyone will ever encounter a true life-or-death scenario. It reminds me of when pro-choice people bring up rape, incest, and threat to mother’s life scenarios when debating abortion. If you conceded to let Christians use violence in life-or-death scenarios, you would be eliminating the overwhelming majority of violence (on an individual scale and in war).

    You don’t have to accept nonviolence with no exceptions to realize that too often Christians support violence even when it’s NOT the only option on the table – and there’s no debating Jesus’s views on that.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Cue the ridiculous strawmen about “well if an evil terrorist comes and tries to kill my family, I shouldn’t stop him!!?”

    The post is more about the paradigm. Yes, most will not literally “turn the other cheek” if literally struck. But how does the paradigm of compassion and sacrificial love affect our collective view of bombing cities, treatment of prisoners, love of guns etc.?

  • Michael Wilson

    Benjamin, I am curious and at times perplexed by Christian ideas of pacifism. there is a question of what did Jesus expect and a separate question of what ethical and just. Now, if I’m reading you right, you believe that it would be counter Jesus’ expectations to resort to killing to save another’s life. Putting aside the ethical question and dealing with the practical, would that mean that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus would not vote. I have no quarrel with some one that wants to be a pacifist, but I find pacifist that participate in elections hypocrites because they are participating in a command way with a system that reserves the right to kill to achieve its ends. The paying of taxes to fund war I can understand, since Jesus said to give to Caesar, and if your taking Jesus’ literally, he says to give to all that ask and not to resist evil, so if the evil government wants your money, what are you to do but give it? But voting is different. in a democracy, all its citizens are little Caesars and by voting you expressly recognize the authority of the state and are complicit in its laws. To vote for someone because you want them to do X makes you responsible in a small part when they do Y. A vote is a command that the law recognizes with force. If Bush had decided he wanted to remain president, Obama our law would use force, possibly deadly force if needed to eject Bush. If a Pacifist Voted for Obama out of the hope of causing less death, they are making judgments between what people will be killed. Their still explicitly involved in what ever death happened as a result of drones, Libya, and the police domestically who carry guns. Even if you vote for a pacifist that swears they would disarm the government, you still are implicitly saying that you expect your vote to be honored, which is backed up by police with guns. It would be hypocritical to say, I don’t kill but I will order others to do so. So the only way to be consistent in not killing would be to not participate in government and not vote. Am I wrong?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    No, you’re not wrong at all. This is why many (perhaps most, I’d have to take a poll) Anabaptist and Mennonites, myself included, do not vote.

  • Michael Wilson

    Thank you Benjamin. I respect the consistency of your position.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    This struck me as not likely to be the case. Polls have been done; a google-n-wiki showed that “In a sociological study of five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ groups in the United States and Canada in 1972 (Kaufman/Harder, 1975), 76 percent of the respondents said that church members should vote in public elections.” http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Political_Attitudes
    My guess is that an even higher percent now vote.

  • Anthony

    Here’s a question just for fun….

    If being a consistent pacifist means not voting and pacifists would be happy to convince more and more people to become pacifists, taken to its logical conclusion doesn’t that mean, if pacifists are successful, the electorate would be left with nothing but non-pacifists who would then vote for non-pacifists?

    it seems to me that pacifists could influence government to be more non-violent (albeit, imperfectly) if they did not disenfranchise themselves. Is it really more consistent to refuse to participate even when doing so could result in less violence?

  • Michael Wilson

    But then your not really a pacifist, you a part of a war party you happen to think will decrease violence with its own violence. Thats why I vote Republican, because I think the way to reduce violence is challenging those that want to rule by brute force rather than the rule of liberal democratic law. I’m not a pacifist, so their is hypocrisy. But if I say my position is I think killing anyone is rebellion against God, then my vote to use a government that has a monopoly on violence to reduce violence, I am defacto ordering others under the law to kill on my behalf and thus rebelling against God. People that vote for so called peace canditates are still partcipating willingly in a orginization that claims the right to kill if necessary to enforce law.

  • Anthony

    How, then, will democratic(ish) governments ever become nonviolent if nonviolent people don’t participate?

  • Michael Wilson

    I don’t think, understanding Jesus as opposed to violence, particularly killing, that the point is to use government to achieve peace. One might think of Satan’s offer to Jesus to be given the kingdoms of the world. It may be, that in the strict pacifist line of thinking, that using police and force of other kinds to govern people is worshiping Satan and using his methods. Rule will always be in the hands of who ever chooses to use force. In that sense the kingdoms of the world are Satan’s to give, if he represents the will to use evil to achieve a supposed good.

    Again, my interest was in the practical application of the principle, not whether it was ethical or if it were what Jesus intended. Personally, I think it is a bad idea to confuse the collective state with the Christian individual. Most of the worlds genocides were committed because the people doing the murdering thought they were getting rid of the wicked, not out of greed. Remember, if a state turn the other cheek, then it has no reason to exist. All governments are effectively monopolies on the use of force to defend a society. A government that does not defend its citizens will quickly be eliminated by an entity that will use force, hence Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, it really couldn’t be.

  • http://www.realfreshcontent.com Bobby Burns

    I agree with you, Ben, that loving our enemies means just that: loving them. But let’s not confuse love with accepting sin or evil, or excusing them. Jesus loved those who put Him on that cross. He also loved those He drowned in the Flood. Or, more to the point, He loves you and I, but we both are deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Thank God for His love!

  • CroneEver

    Excellent post. I love the scenario of the two children: I have used that with regard to the whole belief in hell as a place of eternal punishment. I’ve asked parents, okay, which of your children should go to hell for eternity? And so far, every parent has said “None of them!” And even of the grown child who is now a criminal, etc., they still don’t want eternal punishment for them, but help, treatment, healing, transformation.

  • Heather McCuen Dearmon

    Ben, Leo Tolstoy touches on this very issue in his book “What I Believe”. He even covers the question of “What if an intruder tries to kill your family?” Look here on page 16: https://archive.org/stream/whatibelievemyr00tolsgoog

  • Jake Enns

    People find genuine love to be unrealistic. It does not fit our life experience and what we have taught each other. It is birthed in the us-them paradigm that most humans have concluded is a de-facto reality that cannot and will not ever change. Since THEY are not US we are not obligated to treat them like US. Here is the root that is so very hard to let go of.
    Love your neighbour as yourself = they are united with us. There is no longer any us vs them. Once we allow this to become truth then we can take the next step and allow ourselves to love them. I chose those words very carefully, we can come to the point where we ALLOW ourselves to love, because it is natural for us to love, it us unnatural to hate, we were designed to receive love and ALLOW it to flow in, through, and then out of us.

  • Tlynn

    Amen.

  • Tlynn

    It’s why I left Catholicism. For some reason, the church’s mission seems less about loving all people and social justice in favour of following strict doctrine. I lost a little bit of of faith that Christianity is capable of excepting different viewpoints.

  • Terry Steiden

    …he says, as he rejects a viewpoint he disagrees with and leaves the church.

  • Tlynn

    Actually, it’s she sais and yes I left. What’s the point staying when you no longer believe in the doctrine? What was I supposed to do, fake it? Sometimes you have to follow your conscious.

  • Terry Steiden

    So, are you saying that every person who has ever killed for any reason does not love his enemy? Do you not believe that love can transcend the act of killing another person?

    What about someone like Bowe Bergdahl who collaborated with his “enemies” and helped to destroy his “friends” in order to preserve the lives of his enemies. Is this act more noble than simply killing your enemy as he tries to kill you and your friends and loved ones?

    And what about intent? Does your desire or to kill or not kill enter into the Lord’s judgement of the act or does he only care about the act itself?

    I have no problem with a pacifist position if that is what the Lord has led you to, but I think that what Jesus asks for is far more complex than being a pacifist.

    God help me, but I would kill a man that tried to kill my family. I would hate it. I may even rather die myself, but I have a sacred duty to my family as well as the stranger who would do us harm. Which to choose in the face of deadly force? I have to choose the one I swore to protect.

    I believe I am no less an enemy lover than you.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Am I saying that killing your enemy means you do not love your enemy? Yes. I’ve never once heard of a situation where killing a person was the best way to love them… especially if 1 Cor 15 is the standard of what love is.

    “You have heard it said and eye for an eye, but I tell you to love your enemies… that you may be sons of your father in heaven”.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ the Old Adam

    Nothing is complicated about it, at all.

    We just flat out refuse to do it…that’s all.

  • John A. C. Kelley

    This post resounds quite nicely with “A Farewell to Mars” by Brian Zahnd!

  • Eric

    A yes, the false-American-religion-meets-Christianity thingy!