Happy Friday, everyone. We’re continuing our discussion on God, guns, and biblical manhood we started in episode 306 and picked up last time, in episode 317. There’s more to say about guns and biblical manhood especially for those in law enforcement and the military. Pastor John, pick up your train of thought from yesterday’s episode.
Last time, Tony, I raised the question: Is the possibility of someone going to hell if you kill him a sufficient warrant for not killing him. And I answered no. This question today is: Is the New Testament commandment not to return evil for evil a sufficient warrant for a Christian not to be a soldier or a policeman. And the reason that seems so relevant, and several of our policeman friends asked it, is that the New Testament is filled with statements to this effect.
This is Romans 12:14, 19-21: “Bless those who persecute you. . . . Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Spheres of Justice
Now the question is when a policeman reads that, or a soldier reads that, should they say: “Well, I guess I have got the wrong job, because I am not waiting for God to take vengeance. I am involved in it right now. I am returning evil for evil, harm for harm. I am not turning the other cheek with my billy club. I don’t give to him who asks to let him go on beating that woman. I hit him and stop him.”
“The spheres that make society work have God-ordained situations that demand we not turn the other cheek.”
And so my answer to the question: “Do those texts prevent a person from being a policeman or soldier?” Is no. In fact, I would go further and say: God has arranged that the spheres that make society work, all of them have God ordained situations in them that demand that we not turn the other cheek. The spheres I have in mind are: The state, the family, business and commerce, the Church. God has built in to each of these spheres the necessary principle of justice, not just the principle of mercy where you treat people better than they deserve. In other words, treating a person as he deserves as well as sometimes treating him better than he deserves is essential for the loving, just working of these spheres.
Let me just give you four biblical examples.
1. The State
Romans 13:4: “He is God’s servant for your good. . . . an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” So he is talking about soldiers and policemen, there, that carry the sword. They don’t turn the other cheek. They do strike in order to defend the father-land or to defend the innocent citizen who is being victimized of a crime. So, state.
2. Commerce and Business
Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” That is not mercy. That is justice. The employer does not turn the other cheek. If a man doesn’t come to work, day-after-day, and says, “I just don’t feel like it,” he gets fired. He gets paid less. You can’t run a business without the principle of merit, without the principle of a day’s work for a day’s wage.
3. The Family
Ephesians 6:4 says: “Fathers . . . bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Parents who only turn the other cheek, and do not return spanking for insolence, breed brats, not pacifists. And the Bible is so clear. Parents have the right to operate on the principle of justice as well as mercy. You have to spank you children, discipline your children.
4. The Church
Church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Mercy and Justice
In all of these we are hoping for the good of people, but in the short run we are not giving to him who asks. We are not turning the other cheek. We are returning some measure of harm because of behaviors that were harmful or wrong.
So the point is this: Each of these teachings of the New Testament show that a just and loving society, inside and outside the Church, requires more than not returning evil for evil. It also requires, in the spheres where God assigns it, a principle of justice that returns what a person deserves. So my answer to the question is “No.” Is the New Testament commandment not to return evil for evil a sufficient warrant for a Christian not being policeman or a soldier? No.
Both of these, that is treating a person according to justice and treating him according to mercy, are essential in bearing witness to our God. Just like I said last time, in our personal Christian readiness to suffer and be cheated without vengeance, we display something utterly crucial about God. He is our all-satisfying treasure, and he will reward us fully in the end, and he will settle all accounts at the end time. And, secondly, when we function as a policeman, or soldier, or parent, or employer, or church elder, we also apply the principle of justice and display something else about God, namely, he has ordained that even in this world, even in the church, there be a limit to evil and display of justice.
So there is just no doubt. I mean, I realize as people are listening to this they are saying, “Whoa. Those two principles are going to collide.”
They are going to collide in my life. And my answer is: Absolutely they are going to collide. This way of living creates tensions. They bump into each other. And that is just the way it has to be, it seems to me, in a partially redeemed world.