Christians, we have a huge problem. Instead of following the teachings of Jesus, we’re mostly waiting around for Jesus to come back and fix everything.
For example, we live in a violent world. War, genocide, murder, hate crimes, mass shootings, and riots are commonplace in our world. Instead of seeing this as proof that we have more work to do, we tend to throw our hands in the air and say something like, “this is just the way things are” and “none of this will change until Jesus comes back.”
Not only is this a failure to follow the teachings of Jesus, it’s flat out wrong.
See, according to the scriptures, the Messiah who was to come would teach us to walk in a new path. This new path would eventually lead his followers to do two things: One, to beat their swords into plowshares and Two, to study war no more.
But, instead of doing this, we point to Jesus and accuse Him of not fixing our violence problem the first time and now we’re waiting for him to come back the second time to make all things new.
Honestly, most Christians who believe this way actually do NOT think that Jesus will return to bring peace to the world that second time. What they believe is that Jesus will return riding a war stallion and brandishing a sword [out of his mouth] to slaughter his enemies in a robe dipped in blood.
What they misunderstand is that this violent end times imagery is allegorical [first of all], and that the blood covering Jesus is his own blood, and that the sword in his mouth isn’t a real metal sword of violence but a figurative, metaphorical sword of the Gospel of peace which transforms enemies into friends and responds to everyone with love…which is why the sword isn’t in his hand but comes out of his mouth, like the Gospel message of mercy, forgiveness and grace.
Here’s the real problem with saying that the peace we need here on earth is supposed to come after Jesus comes back again: The scriptures never teach this.
What we see is that, as in Isaiah 2:2-5, that Messiah comes [the first time] and that people from all nations [every tongue and tribe] come to him and say, “He [Jesus] will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.” [v3] and what is the result of walking in the path of Jesus? Simply this:
“They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.” [v.4-5]
So, if we refuse to walk in the path of Jesus and if we refuse to listen to his teaching and his ways – which were about nonviolent, others-centered love – then we don’t get to lay the blame for this on Jesus.
If anything, it is Jesus who turns to us and says: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, lord’ and not do what I say?”
The fact that we don’t see anyone beating their swords into plowshares or their spears into pruning hooks is because – wait for it – because WE have not been willing to turn our weapons into gardening tools.
The fact that we don’t see nations refusing to take up sword against other nations is simply because – for the most part – Christians of every nation for the last 1,600 years have been all-too-willing to take up arms against others to defend the honor and interest of their birth-nation.
Let’s put it this way: If every follower of Christ refused to fight in wars, there would be no more war. Or, if nothing else, it would be much harder to fight a war without the willing participation of people who claim to follow Christ.
Sadly, Christians have largely proven that they are more willing to lay down their life for their country than they are to lay down their lives for Christ.
See, while we’ve been sitting around waiting for Christ to return, the rest of Creation has been waiting for us. Or, as Paul puts it:“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” [Romans 8:19-21]
In other words: It’s time to stop waiting and it’s time to start living the life that Jesus came to give us so abundantly. We are the people we have been waiting for. Jesus showed us the way, now it’s time to walk in it.
So, friends, if you claim to be in Christ, you must walk [and live] as Jesus did. [See 1 John 2:6]
This means taking his words and putting them into practice. It means listening to his teachings and walking in his path and learning his ways.
If we do this, then we ourselves will begin to refuse violence and to embrace our enemies and to abandon our weapons of warfare – because we know that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual authorities and powers that can only be overcome by the irresistible power of love.
When do we start this? Right now.
When do we refuse to study war? Today.
When do we start using our weapons for garden rakes? As soon as possible.
Jesus has already shown us the path. Now, we simply have to walk in it, one day at a time.
Are you ready?
Keith Giles is a former pastor who left the pulpit 11 years ago to start a church that gives away 100% of the offering to the poor in their community.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho.
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