Like Button

Monday, February 08, 2016

Wrestle Not

It seems to be a common idea these days. We ought to avoid conflict. The mentality of earlier America, for instance, when "Live free or die" was an actual motto and people thought that fighting for freedom was noble is no longer "in". We prefer now a "kinder, gentler" perspective. Do not take up arms. Do not go to war. There isn't anything worth fighting about, at least not seriously. Well, at least not Christians. Christians are not supposed to fight. You know, like the Bible says: "Wrestle not."

Except that's not what it says. Here's what it actually says.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:10-12)
Well, now, that's not quite the same thing, is it?

Of course, no one has ever told me, "The Bible says to wrestle not", but they have told me that we're not supposed to fight. And by "fight" they don't mean "put up your dukes". They mean that we're supposed to not dispute over doctrine, not disagree over what God says, not defend the faith, not take a stand against evil. The Bible, on the other hand, argues that we are in the fight of our lives, not against people, but against "the rulers of the darkness of this world." We might say that there is a conspiracy of evil going on and they'll tell us, "You're just being paranoid", but Scripture says it's true ... and it's not the evil people. It's "the rulers of the darkness of this world." "Things aren't getting worse," they tell me, yet God's Word warns of "spiritual wickedness in high places." They are "saying, 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace."

So am I trying to be confrontational? Yes, I am. Am I determined to be armed? Yes, I am. Will I "wrestle not"? No, that's not an option. There is a conspiracy of evil in which many of the people who complain when I use that kind of language are only unwitting pawns. Too many Christians have forgotten that we're in a real fight. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." (Eph 6:13) Them's fightin' words.

What I wrote here was primarily with spiritual warfare in view, with defending the faith and standing firm in the Lord and taking on the full armor of God and such. What took place in the comments below was more along the lines of pacifism versus the alternative. Without looking, I accidentally came across this article written by Dr. Daniel Heimbach, Senior Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (and a second cousin of mine). He wrote this article -- Why I am Not a Pacifist. Worth reading.


Bob said...

the christian view today can best be described as passivized appeasement to a politically correct world view. just think about how children are taught to handle bully's today.
just report and roll over. when has that ever been the rule. in the past a bully was corrected by kicking his ass. this is the oldest axiom of school yard politics. now we are taught that we should not confront him/her but rather we should let him/her have their way until the school authorities steps in. yea right... as Christians we love to quote " turn the other cheek' love your enemy, we are sheep let to the slaughter. but we forget, we have a responsibility to defend ourselves and protect the innocent. one on one we should love our enemy, two against one. we should fight. prayer + action= thank you Jesus , pass the ammo.

Stan said...

I'd think you'd have to admit that correlating "turn the other cheek" with "pass the ammo" isn't very easy, especially when "turn the other cheek" seems to come from Jesus while "pass the ammo" is the common world perspective.

Bob said...

Yea but got to admit is sounds cool. i am just an old Bronx scrapper. at times i struggle with the need to punch the wall. although i have never actually punched a wall, there is in me a frustration at what we call correct behavior. it has gotten so bad. that we are practically being encouraged to lay down and watch little sally get mauled. why? because to lift a finger to help ( BEAT DOWN THE BAD GUY) is construed as being UNCHRISTIAN. i can understand the concept of turning the other cheek, if someone slaps me personally, but how does that apply to me as a witness or bystander?

Stan said...

It is difficult to correlate "pass the ammo" with "turn the other cheek", but it is equally difficult to find correspondence between "don't fight with those who oppose you" with "defend the faith", "take up the full armor of God", and the like. It appears that fighting can actually be biblical. Just not so sure about punching him in the nose.

Josh said...

Jesus rebuked Peter for defending Him with force, when Peter was a witness and bystander. There are so many verses you have to ignore to even type "thank you Jesus, pass the ammo"

David said...

There are also plenty of verses you have to ignore to preach total passivism as well. What I take away from the balance of peace and fight is, don't go looking for or encouraging a fight, but defend yourself if you must.

Stan said...

We're going there again? With that we make the police, the armed forces wrong, the father who defends his children, the husband who defends his wife all evil, all violators of Christ. It is a sin to use violence to defend or protect. Since I see Jesus using violence, I can't go there

Josh said...

FYI it isn't passivism. In fact pacifism isn't passive. There is no account of Jesus physically harming a person, what I mean by violence. There is a big difference between police work and the statement "thank you Jesus, pass the ammo". Also, I think I missed the verse that says two on one we should fight. This is what I remember:

27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful

Stan said...

"There is no account of Jesus physically harming a person" is an assumption given "making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple." (John 2:15) That is, He used a whip of cords, but He didn't actually touch anyone with it.

Bob was speaking about defending the weak and Bob said that he had difficulty with seeing cruelty on one hand and "turn the other cheek" on the other. If defending someone in trouble is somehow different than a police officer who shoots an attacker of some woman to save the woman, I'm not sure how. However, pacifism, as it is generally offered by folks like you, cannot correlate "defend the weak" and "turn the other cheek". To this kind of pacifism Memorial Day is an affront because killing for the defense of a nation is evil.

However, it's moot. I didn't actually have physical violence in mind when I wrote this article. Back when I wrote From a Bad Movie about how people tell Christians to put down their weapons I was told that it sounded defensive and combative. I was arguing here that it was and is ... and should be. We are warned of spiritual assault and spiritual warfare and we are commanded to defend and stand. To be spiritual pacifists would defy God's Word. And the Christians that don't see that are endangering themselves.

Alec said...

The key seems to be Ephesians 4.26 Be angry and sin not. The fact that the God-breathed verse is there tells us that there must be times when anger is appropriate. False teachers, wolves, seeming angels of light which lead people blissfully to hell are all good objects of righteous anger.

And let's not be fooled. Plenty of these people are passive-aggressive bullies.

"Correct" behavior may be "nice", but it sure ain't Christian.

Kenny Rogers got it right: Sometimes you' got to fight when you're a man


PS Josh (2/08/2016 1:42pm ) - you drank the kool-aid. PS It was spiked.

Josh said...

Jesus used the whip, sure. To drive out the animals. In the account in John that is the only one to include the whip is also the only one to include the livestock.

Memorial day is not an affront to USA patriotism, but as a Christian I would hope it would cause you to pause. Explain to me how or why we should celebrate Memorial Day, 4th of July, or veterans day at church.

I understood your initial meaning. My response was more to Bob than you.

Stan said...

" In the account in John that is the only one to include the whip is also the only one to include the livestock." Which means that either 1) Jesus didn't use a whip or 2) Jesus only used the whip on livestock? Based on what? A previous assumption that "There is no account of Jesus physically harming a person." Note, in fact, that Hebrews is abundantly clear that "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." (Heb 12:6) (Note: That "chastises" is literally "flogs" or "scourges".)

I didn't suggest that Memorial Day was an affront to American patriotism, but an affront to Christian values if pacifism the defining value and all violent responses are evil.

But, as I asked at the beginning of this conversation, "We're going there again?" As you indicate you understood, neither pacifism nor physical violence are in view here. We can let that go, right?

Bob said...

I cannot speak to Josh's experience, like i said i am an "old Bronx scrapper" that means i have had to fight maybe two to three times a week. how many knife wounds do you share? how many times were you knocked down in the street,and bloodied from some bully? how many times did you have to witness others being stabbed or shot? i am always suspect when i hear from those that deal from an antiseptic life experience.
my world in the Bronx was full of violence. i agree of course with the idea of turning the other cheek, and believe me; the concept is very much part of my life. the statement 'thank you Jesus and pass the ammo" Goes to balance. on the one hand we trust that Christ will prevail and one the other hand, we deal from a position of strength to defend the innocent.

Josh said...

I will let it go, but the irony is I am arguing or "wrestling with" a point I believe to be Biblical. This is what your post was about.

So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. John 2:15

Alec, I've never said we shouldn't be angry. I've never said we shouldn't defend the faith. I just believe there is a big difference between anger and violence. I'll drink the kool-aid that looks more like Jesus.

Alec said...

Hi Josh,

Hope this response is acceptable to Stan.

With respect to Stan, your allegation that physical force (as you term it violence) is anti-Christian is all cases is dangerous. I'm sure that you are sincere. But you are not basing your position on an accurate reading of the Bible.

There are two wrong presuppositions to what you're saying.

1. Just because Jesus did or did not do something does not mean that we should or should not do something. Because we are Christians does not mean that we should emulate Jesus in everything he did.

2. We are commanded to defend the powerless. How can one defend the orphan or the widow or anyone else without force?

The whole notion of non-violence in the way you seem to be presenting it violates the whole tenor of the Bible.

What led you to this belief? Did someone teach it to you or did you come up with it on your own? The Bible is your supreme guide to beliefs and practices, isn't it? If not, we really cannot even have a discussion.

As one example of a Christian leader who would not agree with your position, Luther, who when asked if it were permitted to defend oneself when attacked, said clearly no. But then added, if someone was attacking another, one is obligated as a Christian to go to their aid.

Would you stand by idly as your girlfriend was groped, or raped, as happened recently in Cologne? Do you think that would be a good Christian testimony? It looks more like cowardice to me, something which God clearly condemns.


Stan said...

Josh, I see where you're coming from. My translation (ESV, because it is the most literal version available) says, "And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15) Your version leaves room for "He drove out the animals" with the whip; mine indicates that the "them" that He drove out included the moneychangers.

You and I can leave that there.

Josh said...

1. Jesus didn't just model this behavior, he also taught on it. See they entire passage I posted above.

2. Defending the powerless doesn't necessarily mean decimating your enemies. It could mean wrestling an attacker to the ground or forcefully restraining an attacker. I can understand how forceful restraint could be a loving alternative to killing an attacker. I just can't seem to understand how loving your enemies could ever include killing them.

This teaching does not violate the whole tenor of the Bible. In fact it was the understanding of the church for the first 3 centuries, until Constantine. To say that we can't have a conversation means you are unwilling to take Jesus at face value when he tells you to love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you.

Would I stand by while someone attacked my family? No. Would I kill that person? I hope not. If I did kill them would it be a sin? I think it would.

To the world it probably looked like cowardice when Jesus allowed himself to be killed on the cross. Boy were they wrong.

Stan said...

I forgot, Josh. I believe you are of the view that Christ "overwrote" the Old Testament, so to speak. He nullified at least some of it. So when God orders His people to kill, Christ would now call that sin. Is that right? We aren't allowed to look back at God's instructions in the Old Testament regarding murder and killing (like Gen 9:6) and when it was justified, right? Jesus declared what God did back then as no longer good, right?

(By the way, you're a bit mistaken on the "understanding of the church for the first 3 centuries". They wouldn't serve in the military, but that was because service in the military at that time included idolatry.)

Alec said...

Hi Josh,

" The Bible is your supreme guide to beliefs and practices, isn't it? If not, we really cannot even have a discussion."

Is the Bible your supreme guide to beliefs and practices?


Josh said...

Christ didn't overwrite the Old Testament. He did bring clarity to teachings, like the one in question. It is clear from the old testament that God's ideal is non-violence.

Stan explain to me how you can kill someone and love them.

Forcefully restrain and love...sure.
Painfully punish and love...sure.
Painful inoculations and love...absolutely.
But, Kill and love ...surely not.

Josh said...

No, the bible isn't my supreme guide to beliefs and practices. Jesus is. The Bible is not a flat book. Each verse doesn't get equal weight, and as a Christian I follow Jesus. Is the Bible the inerrant, infallible, word of God? Yes. Is Jesus the WORD of God? Yes. Is Jesus the whole point of the Bible? Yes.

I guess I will ask you the same question. How can you kill a person and love them at the same time?

Stan said...

I suppose this comes down to the same problem you and I have always had. We define words differently -- "Sovereignty" and "Omniscience" to name two. If your complaint -- "You can't kill someone and love them at the same time" -- is true, it puts us in a difficult problem. God fails. If all killing (humans, of course) is sin, then God fails. If it is not possible to love someone and end their life, then God fails. If Jesus is our prime example and He spoke of "the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 8:12), Jesus fails. It appears that you've set an insurmountable problem. Either you don't properly understand love or God (Father and Son) fails. How would you resolve that?

Alec said...

Hi Josh,

Thank you for your honesty. You and I follow different gospels. We will never come to agreement. You reject God's word, and so come under the condemnation of that Word (Rev 22.19). I hope that you will repent. Otherwise, you are in danger of going to hell.

Jesus never contradicted the Word of God - how could he? John 1.1


David said...

I assume you believe the death penalty is sinful also. Sometimes, in this sin-sick world, lethal violence is an unfortunate necessity. It certainly isn't ideal, or the goal, but sometimes people need to be put down to enable the safety of others. God believed that human life was so precious that anyone that committed murder forfeit their life. How can you justify the God given death penalty against "all killing is sin"? If there is a biblical allowance for killing, then any passage that appears to say all killing is sin must either be contradicting Scripture, or has a limited scope. Does it really mean for us to love our enemies to the point of our death? In some cases(ie, when your death is for the glory of God), sure, but certainly not all. Sometimes, only reason and peace will simply lead to more violence because some people are just broken.

Josh said...

You dodged my question.

Jesus is the lens with which we must read the Bible. If he says it is sin, then it must be. We must reexamine the violent portrayal of God in the OT, because we now have the clearest picture of what God is like. Most of the violent portrayals of God in the OT can be explained by God removing his protection and allowing evil murderous entities to do their work. He does not murder, but allows it in certain circumstances. Another aspect of the OT, is God was working through the nation of Israel. God uses nations like Israel, even today, to exact judgement. Are we as Christians to be a part of this? I'm not so sure. We have a new Kingdom, and a new King.

Again I ask, how does your definition of love include killing?

Stan said...

Some thoughts in answering your question.

1. My definition of love would include killing the guilty if it was required to protect the life of an innocent. Your definition of love would require losing the life of the innocent if it required taking the life of the guilty. Which is love?

2. If God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is justified in commanding the deaths of some at the hands of His people, then it would follow that there must be times at which killing another human being is not a violation of God's commands.

3. If Jesus said that it can be worse for some sinners in judgment or that some would be better off tying a milestone around their necks and being drowned, then it stands to reason that terminating a murderer before he/she can continue to commit murder would be a kindness, both to the innocent and to the murderer.

4. It doesn't look like love when a parent chastises a child or when the Father chastises us, but it is (Heb 12:6).

5. There are times when loving one person does not look like loving another. You know, like if a parent takes one kid out for a special time but leaves the other at home or Christ saves one but not another. Does it look like love to terminate the life of a murderer to save the life of someone else? Probably not to you, but it sure does to the one whose life you saved ... if you did it, of course. I suppose the killer would appreciate you letting him/her live while he/she killed your loved one.

5. If the Bible says it is necessary (Gen 9:6), then I have to conclude that it is necessary.

But, look, we really are done here, Josh. When we end up erasing parts of the Old Testament God in favor of the New Testament Christ, we've come down to an impasse. Either the Bibles we have are not reliable and all that Old Testament stuff is in question or God (Father and Son) are not reliable and we've got nothing. As it turns out, in either case we've got nothing because it was Jesus who said that "not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matt 5:18) Unreliable Scripture or unreliable God, and we end up in either case with no God at all. While you are certainly free to go with rewriting the Old Testament to match your version of Jesus, I can't go there. But when you do, we lose all common basis for discussion. Thus, we can't go much further.

Josh said...

Alec, Explain to me how I reject God's word? God's WORD is Jesus. If you put the Bible above what Jesus says you are the one that rejects God's WORD. Revelation 22:19 is talking about the book of Revelation, not the Bible. It seems you are the one adding to them (Rev. 22:18).

David, God's command for capital punishment, was a command on how to govern a nation. Here is what Jesus says as a command for Christians (Christ followers) to follow:

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

I don't rewrite the OT. Jesus explains his teachings. "You have heard it said..., but I tell you..." If these are true, then our understanding of the OT must have been lacking. The best analogy I can give is a movie like the "6th Sense" or "The book of Eli". The ending of the movie makes you look back at the whole movie differently. This is what Jesus is like. He re-frames the entire scripture. You realize the whole thing was about him. Does this make interpretation challenging at times, sure. But if Christ isn't the focal point of our interpretation of scripture, then we are missing the point.

Stan said...

Josh, just a note here. When Jesus referenced Scripture, He said, "It is written." In the texts you speak of Jesus says, "You've heard it said." Not the same thing.

Two (important) points.

1. If Jesus is above the Bible, you can't know a thing about Jesus ... since what we know about Him comes from the Bible.

2. Jesus said that He was speaking the Father's words and doing the Father's works. The suggestion that they got it wrong in the earlier texts simply, in the end, pits Jesus against Jesus.

At the end of the day, I'm not disagreeing that Jesus is central. But if the Jesus you're looking at contradicts Scripture or contradicts God, that is not the Jesus of the Bible. Concluding that "Jesus was opposed to violence of all kinds so God could not have commanded what the Old Testament says He did" or the like is simply a contradiction, not a revision. They must not be opposed; they must be aligned. When you see them united rather than disparate, you'll be closer to the real Jesus.

Alec said...


You are either intentionally misunderstanding or you are writing (and possibly thinking) unclearly.

What are you trying to prove? Are you trying to get us to reject the Bible in favor of an imaginary Jesus of your own creation?

In this last post you state something really crazy: If you put the Bible above what Jesus says you are the one that rejects God's WORD

Insane and illogical statements cannot be discussed.

You'd be more honest (something Jesus always modeled) if you would accept that you are following a gospel which rejects the Bible. In other words, you are not a "Biblical Christian" but something else. Maybe you should call yourself a Jesusian. Of course, that's not true either, because Jesus always upheld the Scriptures, which you do not.

I hope that you will reread and consider what others have said. A false gospel cannot save. You may be saved and confused - that's between you and God.

Nothing more to be said. Signing off.

Josh said...

Everything that follows "You have heard it said" is written in scripture.

I didn't say that Jesus negates the Bible. I said that Jesus teaching carries more weight than other teachings in the Bible. Why do I say this? Because God said it during the transfiguration. Moses (Law), Elijah (Prophets), and Jesus are on the mountain. God tells Jesus' disciples “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” Then Moses and Elijah disappear. It seems that symbolically the Law and Prophets are giving way to Jesus. Jesus remains while the others disappear.

Stan said...

Sure, I understand your position. It's what I call (because others who understand it like you do called it this) the Jesus Hermeneutic.

Here's the problem, Josh. If Jesus is the expression of God (the meaning of John 1:1), then what God said in the Old Testament is what Jesus said. And, in fact, this is what Jesus Himself said. He was speaking His Father's words and doing His Father's works. Further, Jesus said that none of it would pass away until all of it was fulfilled. But many to varying degrees want to alter Jesus's words and say that it is because of Jesus they do it.

No one here is arguing we shouldn't listen to Jesus. The position here is that Jesus agrees with His Father from age to age (Heb 13:8). So the aim is to align, not contrast Jesus and the Old Testament.

As I said, I understand your position. I just disagree with it. I cannot see any way to look at it from your perspective without finding contradiction between God the Son and God the Father. Bottom line, though, it puts us at odds as far as any ability to agree since we lack any basis for truth. Yours is your understanding of Jesus; mine is Scripture as a whole. Right or wrong, a different basis for arriving at truth leaves little room for dialog. We have nothing on which to lean and say, "See? That is a statement of truth upon which we can agree and, therefore, arrive at an agreement." Different starting points will certainly lead to different conclusions ... which is what we're doing.