Violent Christians

I had an unusual experience on Facebook this week—an actual civil conversation with someone who disagreed with me about a controversial situation. This doesn’t happen often so it is certainly worth nothing. However, that does not mean the comments made by others in the midst of our discussion were civil.turncheek

The conversation began with the story of the recent killing by ISIS terrorists of a Jordanian pilot. You might remember the story and how they attempted to negotiate with Jordan, offering to release the pilot if Jordan would release a couple of their captured comrades. As with most countries, Jordan was unwilling to negotiate with terrorists. Instead, they replied with promises to kill their prisoners if the terrorists went through with their threats.

The conversation began with several folks praising this approach to terrorism, suggesting that fighting fire with fire is the best, most effective approach. It was clear that many felt like the only appropriate response to violence is greater violence.

I joined the conversation and suggested that it might be time to consider a different approach, especially since this was not working. Specifically, I suggested we might consider Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek. The terrorists had already killed the pilot by the time I piped in. Perhaps more astonishing than the civil conversation I had on this subject was the preponderance of hateful, violent suggestions made by others. Here are some examples:

  • Besides totally misrepresenting the meaning of “turn the other cheek,” violence is the ONLY response these barbarians respect or understand.
  • I guess Jesus should have turned the other cheek instead of all those tables when he saw wrong being done.
  • Seriously, the only way to stop those who want to kill you is to kill all of them, or at least enough that the survivors drop the idea.
  • The whole turn the other cheek thing can be applied to those within the body of Christ. Islam is an evil cancer that sole purpose is to destroy and enslave. The fact is you can not teach them the love of Christ because they do not know Him and have no desire to know Him. In fact, given the chance, will kill you for even mentioning Him (we can only look to the events in Oklahoma last year to see that in our own country). If we do not destroy evil there, it will come here, it is simply a matter of time. You can not coexist with people who want you dead simply because you follow Christ and not Mohammed.

I was somewhat appalled by the casual ease of some Christians who suggest killing is the best solution.Here is what we do know. For some reason (there are many I am sure), terrorists hijacked planes and killed more than 3,000 Americans. We responded with a 14 year crusade to retaliate, killing hundreds of thousands of their people. Yet, they are still at it. We have to sleep with one eye open because Islamic terrorists still want to kill us.

We have people, even followers of Jesus, loudly proclaiming that we need to kill even more of them. Where does it end? How many do we need to kill before they like us? How many do we need to kill before they cower in fear of us? How many more do we need to kill before we can feel comfortable again—without undressing before boarding a plane or rummaging through all of our bags at a sporting event?

How much more violence must there be before we are willing to say this is not working? I would like to think that followers of Jesus would be the first to speak up, but my Facebook experience this past week did little to provide hope of that happening.

I guess my real question is how did Christians get to be so violent? How can we be so casual in our turn toward violence (or greater violence) as the solution to this problem?

I am not suggesting that nations do not need to defend themselves, and I certainly agree with the idea that Jesus was probably not speaking of national defense when He spoke of turning the other cheek. But, it does seem apparent that killing someone we have captured is not going to prevent one of ours from being killed. Maybe we can negotiate with terrorists—perhaps a life for a life. I certainly don’t know. I’m not qualified to be a politician or a military tactician. All I know is that what we are doing is not working so I’m not really hopeful that doing more of it will be beneficial.

What would happen if we resisted evil by turning the other cheek? Jesus did not say. He did not promise that the evil doer would walk away in shame, nor did He promise God would miraculously intervene. The fact that Jesus did not promise immediate deliverance to the one who turns the other cheek is probably why we have such a hard time doing it. We are always looking out for number one.

Turning the other cheek might be the clearest path to humility. To turn the other cheek strips us of all pride and self-reliance and places us completely at the disposal of others. Lest you think this is not important, study all the times when Jesus spoke of the importance of humility and submitting to one another. It is the exact example He provided when He willingly submitted to the beating by Roman soldiers, and ultimately hanging on the cross. Turning the other cheek took Him straight to the grave, and we are afraid it will do the same thing for us.

It causes me to wonder how the world might be different if all followers of Jesus approached life with this type of humility. Would there be any reason for others to hate us?

All I am saying is that it is worth a try. It might be too late to stop the terrorists, but I suspect it is the only way to stop them. When someone hates you, you can hate them back which leads to more hate, or you can love them, which might make a huge difference.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Violent Christians

  1. Perhaps a undiscussed perspective might help here. From the law enforcement view there is force and there is deadly force. They are quite different legally, and in how they are handled. From Christs’ words the “turning the other cheek” would be by far the best way to handle force by a follower of Christ. Likewise, arming oneself, as Christ instructs his disciples to do in Luke 22 (selling your cloak to obtain a sword) is the best way to deal with deadly force. How this concept plays out requires one to realize that even though violence from and to our enemies “doesn’t work” as long as evil exists, NOTHING WILL. We are as “sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16 KJV) – otherwise, don’t be stupid when someone is trying to apply deadly force toward you, but be very sure it is defensive and not offensive. Our mission is to love everyone, even our enemies but not as victims but rather as spreaders of the Good News. I will be happy to define technically the difference between force and deadly force should anyone wish.

  2. Terry, you make a compelling argument and one that has great merit. You know, I think most people fear terrorists, and the knee-jerk reaction is to destroy, preemptively, the entire group, as opposed to “loving” them. To me, this is a war, and I want to tell you something that scares me even more than the knee-jerks, and that is war must be seen as a last resort, not the first steps in conflict resolution. What we have seen, from our leaders and others around the world is a knee-jerk response to bomb and kill these people and that just deepens the hatred and furthers the violence we hear about almost daily on various news programs.

    So no, it is not working and I hope and pray that other avenues are attempted, including the idea you write about in your eloquent post.

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