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    August 9th, 2012 @ 6:28 am by Kevin

    It’s not often that you’ll find me sitting in church these days. Due to my hectic travel schedule, the 8:30am service time and my increasing ambivalence about institutional Christianity, my attendance record is rather spotty. But last Sunday there I was, two rows from the back, waiting for the service to start. Normally, it would have been a great time to catch up on email. But I figured the elderly ladies sitting nearby would frown at that. So I picked up a Bible instead. It opened to the Gospel of Luke, where I read the following:

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

    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And 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. But 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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36).

    This is one of my favorite Bible passages–probably because it is also the most challenging. It flies right in the face of our deepest instincts when threatened by evil. If aliens were to observe human culture today, they would likely conclude that we live by the following code instead:

    Love your neighbor–but keep a close eye on him–and hate your enemies, do violence to those who hate you, curse those who curse you and ask God to damn those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, cut off his hand. If someone takes your coat, burn down his house. Don’t give to everyone who asks–make sure they deserve your help first. And if anyone takes what belongs to you, bomb them back into the stone age. Better yet, don’t wait until they take your stuff. Shock and awe them into oblivion before it’s too late.

    I don’t believe we live by this second code because we are inherently evil. I just think the world is a violent, scary place. So it’s only natural we would want to protect ourselves–preemptively striking those who appear to be a threat, if need be. However, in the midst of our fear-driven lives, what we tend to forget is that violent behavior motivated by fear can only lead to one thing–escalation. Consider this conversation from the closing scene of Batman Begins:

    Batman: We can bring Gotham back.

    Lieutenant Gordon: What about escalation?

    Batman: Escalation?

    Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor-piercing rounds.

    Batman: And…

    Gordon: And you’re wearing a mask, jump off of rooftops. Take this guy… Armed robbery, double-homicide, got a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card. (Hands the Joker’s calling card to Batman.)

    Batman: I’ll look into it.

    The next film in the trilogy, The Dark Knight, reveals Gordon’s wisdom and Batman’s naivety. Batman is confident he’s using the right tool–violence–to control crime. He just hasn’t applied it to the appropriate degree. When the Joker shows up, he demonstrates not only the foolishness of Batman’s thinking but also the kind of person Batman must become if he’s truly going to win the arms race against evil. The Joker knows the only way Batman can defeat him is to become like him; and he’s über-confident that Batman doesn’t have the guts.

    I think we live under a similar delusion. We think we really can win this precarious game of one-upmanship against our enemies–never stopping to consider what kind of people that will require us to become. At what point do the violent acts done in the name of “civilization” cause us to ask whether a civilization whose existence demands such bloodshed is worth protecting? At what point do we realize we are engaged in nothing more than “mutually assured damnation”?

    Worse, we project this same logic onto God. We may lose the arms race in the end, but God has infinite resources, so we believe God will bring about the final, ultimate, violent victory over our enemies in hell. This seems to fit perfectly with the “code of human civilization” I outlined above. Not so much with the teaching of Jesus. Because if this is the way God finally deals with evil, I have some questions for God, namely, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”

    Rather than grant divine sanction to our fear-driven survival instincts, I believe Jesus is describing the only possible way out of this vicious cycle. And it’s not by delivering the final, knockout blow against our enemies. It’s by absorbing that blow instead. This may kill us–as it killed Jesus. But I’m confident that our refusal to play the game–our refusal to be an enemy–will eventually encourage our enemies to do the same.



leave a comment on this post (55 Comments)

  1. Great Post!!! Great challenge and reminder.. And I know exactly how you feel (regarding your sentiments of institutional Christianity and being busy) It’s good to know we aren’t alone. Cheers.

    http://mypresenttense.wordpress.com/

  2. Excellent words Kevin. They echo my own thoughts. Violence and fear are tools of control and the message of Jesus was about freedom. Freedom is terrifying to those who hold any kind of power because it is unpredictable but it is the way that Jesus taught. Love is the only real and lasting agent of transformation. Fear cannot change a heart only love can do that. When we live in “abject terror” of a wrathful God our hearts are not truly transformed as can be evidenced by our reactions to “the other” when we encounter them. When we begin to realize and experience the love of God that is when transformation begins, that is when “the other” takes on a new look and our treatment of them displays our transformation. Yes, as you say, it may cost us our lives (both literally and figuratively) but once true love has been experienced I am spoiled for anything else.

  3. Guardian Strangel August 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Law enforcement, security, and military personnel use force when it’s necessary to protect innocent life. It’s not about the criminal, it’s about the victim. When a criminal chooses violent crime, they unfortunately set the rules of response.

    Is there a more effective way to stop a perpetrator from hurting someone? If so, please let those in charge of defense know about it so we can outfit police and others with more effective tools.

    If not, then I’ll recuse myself from the discussion because my priority is that we should attempt to save someone rather than ignore their plight by allow a person performing a hateful act to harm them.

    Even Jesus, the very embodiment of love, told a sinner on the cross that he would be going to hell. Well that certainly seems like a hateful thing to say based on this logic. Why would you wish damnation on someone? Justice and love only coexist perfectly in God. In the broken world, we have to choose. So will you allow a criminal to hurt their victim? Or can you stop the criminal out of love for the victim.

    I, for one, trust myself to stop and not kill someone more than I trust someone performing a hateful and selfish act of theft or murder. Later on? Yes, try to love that criminal into seeing God, absolutely. But why would a criminal see God’s love in allowing him/her to go through with a terrible sin from which a life could be lost?

    • Guardian Strangel August 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Edit, reread the cross scene in Luke, for whatever reason I thought He says something to the criminal that didn’t repent… my bad, but to my point, how about humiliating Pharisees? Beating people in the temple-market with a whip?
      Jesus did not tell every single person that they were going to heaven and saved, that’s the point. Some people didn’t make it. Is it “unloving” to allow someone the consequences of unrepentant actions?

      • Actually, you have your facts wrong again. Humiliating the Pharisees is a far cry from violence. And if you look at his exchange with Nicodemus, you realize he’s doing it for their own good–to shake them out of their darkened way of thinking. So his purpose is ultimately redemptive rather than retributive. Second, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus beat people in the temple with a whip. He used the whip to drive out the animals. And even then, this can’t be taken as him sanctioning violence–not even against animals. Rather, he is referencing the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah (56:11 and 7:11 respectively) and performing a prophetic act in the tradition of Jeremiah who often acted out the judgments he spoke to the people. The larger point, however is this: Instead of building your argument for divinely sanctioned violence on a single act that was the exception in Jesus’ ministry, you should build it on the rule of his ministry. And that rule is a consistent rejection of violence, even though the temptation is pressed up on him by nearly all of his followers, including his disciples. Rather than give in to the temptation, he submits to the violence of his enemies instead as a way of demonstrating the horror of their ways and then showing them how to break free of them.

        • Guardian Strangel August 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

          Totally sideways from my point. As I just replied elsewhere, God doesn’t reward every single action we take.

          The point, once again, who saves the victim? What’s going on with the victim here? We can fantasize about how wonderful it would be to treat everyone with perfect forgiveness and love all the time, but when it comes down to a deranged gunman, you’re either going to be rough with him in the moment, or allow the killing of innocent bystanders.

          I would have thought about that snippet much more if I thought I’d be treated like an athlete that just gave a political opinion at the Olympics.

        • The animals would have probably also been used for the sacrificial system. Jesus act would also have quite likely been a rejection of the sacrificial system, and it’s related violence. This would have been fitting with his constant use of the phrase “mercy not sacrifice”, quoting from the prophets. In other words Jesus was speaking out against the priestly tradition of purity and sacrifice, with it’s related violence, and coming alongside the prophetic tradition of mercy.

      • Law enforcement, application of the rule of law in society, is biblical. The personal choice to be wronged and respond with love is entirely separate from societies obligation before God to be just. The sense I got from reading Kevin’s post here was that he wasn’t thinking about law enforcement so much as foreign policy, and domestic social justice. As far as America’s foreign policy goes, you don’t have to hold it up to such a lofty measure as Jesus’ ethic of love, even against the measure of Old Testament law “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” it is condemned. (An eye for an eye was intended to impose restraint in retribution, as opposed to killing for the loss of an eye, burning down a village for a murder etc). While it is fair for secularists to reject the bible as a guide for a just society, when you have people claiming the God of the Bible is for them, God is with them in their nations actions, it becomes fiercely relevant.

        I believe in the rule of law, democracy free markets and many other things as the best options currently available for running a society; but NONE of these things are engines of renewal, they are only safeguards and mechanisms of restraint. All of them are curently failing in the United States. Democracy requires informed citizens to be vigilant and informed, and make good choices. Free markets and government require the supervision and fair application of the rule of law, or corruption will make all these ideals hollow shells rather than reality. While a well set up system will slow the institutional decay of a society, it will not prevent it. All things decay without a source of renewal, and that source is not political.

        To quote Leonard Cohen’s “The Future”
        “You don’t know me from the Wind, you never will, you never did,
        I’m the little Jew who wrote the bible.
        I’ve seen the nations rise and fall, heard their stories, heard them all,
        but love’s the only engine of survival”.

    • Jesus never told the robber crucified beside him that he was going to hell. What your saying is another example of how Christians can read “hell” into the Biblical text when it just isn’t there. Luke 23 records this conversation saying the following.

      Luke 23: 39-41

      Now one of the hanged malefactors blasphemed Him saying, “Are not you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”. Yet answering, the other one, rebuking him, averred, “Yet you are not fearing God seeing that you are IN the same judgment…..”


      Notice that it was the other thief on the cross that responded not Jesus. As well this thief said that the first thief was not fearing God because he was IN the same judgment. Therefore he wasn’t talking about a judgment to come.


      Jesus explains this “judgement” in

      John 3:19

      Now this is the judging: that the light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light, for their acts were wicked.


      In other words the first thief was already under the “judgment”, of God allowing him to go into his darkness to the point that he didn’t love the light the was hanging on the cross right beside him.

      This passage says nothing about “hell” or afterlife punishments.

      • Guardian Strangel August 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

        It looks like, in making my main point, I used a reference that I didn’t fully vet. It has completely distracted readers from my other points. I made a mistake and I’m asking for the forgiveness of those who read it.

        I wonder how all of you will respond?

        • With forgiveness of course! Interesting note: Last night I was reading about Wes Craven’s first film “Last House on the Left.” It’s a horror movie about some criminals who kidnap, brutally rape and then kill two teenage girls. Then they find themselves stranded in a storm, and their only refuge is the home of the girls they’ve killed. Not realizing who the criminals are, they take them in. But when the family discovers what’s happened, they take brutal revenge on the killers. The film ends with the family utterly conflicted about what they’ve done–and who they’ve become. Something to think about.

          • Guardian Strangel August 9, 2012 at 11:51 am

            That’s incredibly compelling!
            I am 100% behind the use of force, but only as far as it will immediately protect others (ala exodus 22). I would turn the other cheek, for my own sake because my soul is prepared, but I would never assume the same for others.

            As for those movie criminals… Wow, I would love to think I had the strength to forgive and discuss with them what they had done, and what compelled them to those actions. I would love to think that, and even though forgiveness is ideal, I would never totally expect someone to have that kind of strength, to not sin given those circumstances.

        • No worries. I’ve done similar.

    • Did Jesus tell the ‘wrong’ criminal that he was going to hell? I thought he just told the one who asked to be remembered, that he would be with him, that day, in paradise. My reading of it is, that he didn’t reply to the other guy. Perhaps I missed something? Do you mean by implication that he would go to hell? Isn’t that our interpretation rather than what Jesus actually said? I mean, we’re the one who see it as either paradise or hell — but those may not be the only options — the Bible has three different meanins, for eg., for the words we have all translated as hell in English. Not sure I understand what you mean here — can you clarify?

  4. I know how you feel about the institutional church. We left a mega church years ago because of the pastor’s “vision” which was his own vision and not the Lord’s. Needless to say, he got rich, but we were torn apart, like sheep scattered. The church dissolved and I think he now has a street ministry in Asbury Park. We began to meet in homes and share Christ. To read more about this, I recommend Frank Viola’s books. Blessings.

  5. Though I stand with Kevin on the grounds of love, I also stand with Gaurdian on the very same grounds. Jesus never denied sacrifice – it’s the way people viewed it that set him apart. And as Gaurdian has eloquently put it, to not sacrifice your own self for the sake of others is hardly loving.

    With that said, I’m not certain Kevin is arguing for an extreme pacifist view, being the rough hockey player he is, and being the kind of person who believes in the unconditional love of God. My guess is Kevin would lay down his own life to force a gunman (as in Colorado) to his knees even if it meant knocking him in the nogen (spelling) a violent act.

    So I tend to think both are right and that their not contradictory. In different senses or under different circumstances both are true. God hates violence, yet God has a severe form of mercy that breaks us of our arrogance.

    Kevin, I still don’t understand why you see retribution and redemption as being antithetical. Retribution can be redemptive, it merely means to “pay back” and I believe God CLEARLY states he does so – often he states he pays back many times over the sin – why do you attach the terms “without purpose of redemption” to it?

    • Gene: I’ll respond with something Brad Jersak sent to me yesterday in response to the piece:

      The basic logic comes out in an argument I had with a Christian friend. He is a foster dad. He told his foster son that he cannot control what the son does outside the house nor the consequences of those actions outside the house (e.g. if he gets beaten up). BUT in order for the foster son to feel safe, he had to assure him that if he comes home and a bad guy comes to get him, if that bad guy comes through the door, he will exit through the front window. This is a very good parable of America.

      My response, parallel to yours, is that this response is naive because it fails to account for the problem that the evil and violent person is more evil and violent than you. Simply put, the evil and violent man who exits the front window will never conclude, ‘Well, I sure learned my lesson. I won’t pick on that kid again.’ Rather, he will return with gasoline and matches and a gun, and while the family flees their burning house, he will shoot my friend in the head.

      This is not to say we don’t use threat of force. Just that threat of force only works on fairly good people. However, actual force can make fairly good people into the next violent threat.

      Overall I think you are pushing back at the charge that the Jesus Way proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount is naive. You don’t necessarily absolutize pacifism, but you believe that ‘love your enemies’ is a genuine Christian commandment. That this commandment is naive is the predominant sentiment of American evangelicals.

      • If someone says Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is naive, then justice is naive. I understand Jesus was endorsing eye for an eye even though he says “you’ve heard it said, but I tell you”. He wasn’t objecting to the law, but was clarifying its real intent – justice (reconciliation). His objection is to injustice.

        But here we may disagree. You seem to conclude that people who are humbled will never be humbled except through kindness. Using the word “never” seems too extreme to me. I understand Nebuchadnezzar and the Pharaoh to both have been humbled through harsh measures – and both came to obedience. Therefore I doubt your premise.

        Overall yes, the commandment to love our enemies is profound beyond words. And I agree, most Christians don’t employ it into their own world view simply because they believe God is both yearning for sinners to repent and holding a knife to their throat threatening them if they don’t – all at the same time.

      • You’re not making pacificism absolute, but you’re making it almost absolute. Essentially the behavior described in the Sermon on the Mount is intended to produce positive changes, not simply laying down before evil for its own sake. If your enemies aren’t persuadable- shake the dust from your feet, and don’t throw pearls before swine. The passive acceptance of evil promoted by liberal Christians does not produce a better world, but only fear and despair and probably worse violence than if somebody responsible had done something. But it’s more fun to tell people Jesus condemns them because they can’t live with passively assenting to their own destruction than to give a nuanced, hopeful answer. There’s Deuteronomy Pharisees, and Sermon on the Mount Pharisees. I much prefer the former.

        • Jim: I’m going to respond with a quote from Rene Girard: “There can no longer be any question of giving polite lip-service to a vague ‘ideal of non-violence’. There can be no question of producing more pious vows and hypocritical formulae. Rather, we will more and more often find ourselves faced with an implacable necessity. The definitive renunciation of violence, without any second thoughts, will become for us the condition sine qua non for the survival of humanity itself and for each one of us” (Things Hidden Since The Foundation of the World, p. 137). All that to say, embracing this view is not a matter of passively accepting evil at all. It’s not about being a doormat either. Jesus wasn’t a doormat. He actively confronted his enemies and sought to show them how their violence will only come back down on their own heads–which it did in 70 AD.

          • -Gotham City in fact did not need a guy in a Halloween costume fighting crime, and it is reasonable to think that such a guy would stimulate the appearance of criminals in Halloween costumes. What it did need was an aggressive, effective police force- trained officers with guns, batons, Tasers, and pepper spray. Cops carry all that stuff so they can use it if necessary, it’s called the “monopoly of violence” and is a basic requirement for civilization.

            -Because the police can’t be everywhere at once, or respond instantaneously, in the US people are permitted to use force in self-defense. (Not so in the UK, I don’t know about Canada.) Burglaries of occupied dwellings and home invasions are much less common in the US than in the UK. In many jurisdictions people are permitted to carry weapons, and this has a proven deterrent effect. The possiblity of defensive violence reduces offensive violence. The two are not morally equivalent.

            -What you speak of works with people who have at least *some* level of conscience. Otherwise it’s suicidal. Gandhi said the British should not oppose a German invasion. In a world of pacifists and barbarians, pacifists are dead or slaves. Pacifists depend for their well-being on people who are not pacifists, see the first two paragraphs. Pacifists tend to be very proud of themselves and not acknowledge this.

            -I can’t speak to Girard’s personal experience with violence but from his biography it appears to be zero. Perhaps you can share with us instances where you have responded to violence against yourself with non-violence. If you can’t, it would be honest to say so. Non-violence does not include using proxy violence such as police or discouraging attackers with your own capacity for violence, however subtly intimated.

            -The idea that in Christianity, violence is never legitimate requires a very limited reading of the scripture. Violence is legitimate in the Old Testament. Pretty much every thing in the New Testament comes from the Old Testament, so to claim Jesus established pacifism is hard for me to believe. There is a Christian philosophy of violence developed in the Middle Ages and referred to generally as “chivalry”. Violence is legitimate to protect the weak and not as a matter of ego or self-aggrandizement. Society needs people who are capable of violence to protect itself and maintain justice (knights or “chevaliers”) but who are kind and charitable. Luther first suggested pacifism as a society wide matter because he didn’t want to help the Pope fight the Turks. In England after the civil wars the Calvinist/Quaker/Methodist commercial class wanted to reduce the power of the Anglican/Catholic military aristocracy, so military virtues were denigrated.

            -Violence, like many other things, can be bad or good. Bad violence leads to more violence and oppression. Good violence leads to less violence and freedom. The idea that supposedly good violence can be bad, and because we can never really know or distinguish between the two we should never be violent is intellectually nihilistic and a cop out.

            -Absolute non-violence is just as bad a choice as absolute violence. Among a lot of pacifists it seems to indicate pride.

            -Jesus *does* give us a way out of the vicious circle, which is to try to deal with others in an open-hearted way while understanding this will not always work or be appropriate (Matthew 7:6) I’ll admit my interpretation on violence is non-standard- everything else seems to be “pacifism” or “God wants pacifism but realistically we as sinners can’t do it” but so is yours on Hell.

  6. Awesome post. I read this out loud to my wife and we about cried 🙂 Then I promptly posted this to my Facebook account. Can’t wait for the movie!

    • To expand a bit on that… I really believe that the understanding of the true nature of God’s love and the accompanying plan for the ages is to have a revelation of the heart first. We can know God’s heart, and then seek how to understand the Scriptures in light of that knowledge, whereas we arrive at many “ah ha” moments that will soon follow. It’s not true in the other camp, however. Nobody has a revelation that God is retributive and vengeful first, and afterward finding the Scripture to support it. On the contrary, they have to explain how the vast weight of reconciliation/restoration passages can fit such a view of the Father. They do manage to do that somewhat, but there is always a tinge of guilt, or even embarrassment, which needs a “God’s ways are higher than our ways” disclaimer.

      I believe our natural, God-given conscience reveals His true character if we will just trust it, and realize that even though a surface-level reading of the text may seem to say something different (probably as a result of embedded preconceptions on our part), we can trust His heart and know that we will understand eventually.

      Recommended reading:
      Creation’s Jubilee – Dr. Stephen E. Jones
      http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.org/books/creations/index.cfm

      • Dan. I agree with you 100%. The Bible is like a mirror that reflects back what our hearts believe about God. I think that when someone seeks to know God and not just doctrine and theology, then their hearts will start to change in their understanding of God, and they will become more and more open to seeing ultimate reconciliation that is written plainly throughout the text. “For them who have eyes to see let them see”. Not that the ultimate reconciliation stance doesn’t have doctrine and theology, but I’m not sure if these make any sense to a person until they have eyes to see.

        It took me 10 years to be able to “see” the truth of ultimate reconciliation, and it came after a journey of learning what God was really like and sorting our the truth from the false Christian philosophies that much of Christianity programs us with.

        • Yes, exactly — it is what is taken to scripture that determines what is interpreted. I’ve seen the same piece of scripture (for eg., “Those who pick up the sword — will die by the sword”) to either support capital punishment or oppose it.

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  8. I think this post describes a dividing line for when our faith goes off the rails. It was the same for the disciples, every time they sought justice, or retribution, their faith left the rails and were returned with a stern and loving rebuke from Jesus.

    Mercy in the face of injustice. Forgiveness when not deserved. Faithfulness in the face of unfaithfulness. Assistance and servanthood over revenge.These are the ways of living found firmly on the track Jesus would set us on.

    For most of us, these are not foreign policy statements, or anything to do with politics. They are about what we do when we are hurt, especially when we are hurt deeply by others. To respond in love in the midst of pain is a dreadful adventure full of counter intuitive, heart wrenching decisions, and the hope of life.

    By practicing this love, over vengeful justice, I think we open the door to God’s real work.

    • exactly! And why it is so hard! It can literally feel like ‘dying’ — right? And why we need each other to help us do what feels, often, so unnatural and so, at times, impossible. But yes, that was what Jesus preached, lived and died — hard to see it any other way.

  9. While God is sometimes merciful to His enemies, as in the touching story in 2 Kings 6, the fact remains that He usually takes violent retribution on them…He has done so in the past and the biggest slaughter is yet to come. He does not permit us to do this, except as provided by law (read Romans 13, which upholds the civil authorities’ right to capital punishment).
    Read any reference to the Day of the Lord…how about the (oh-so-appetizing) Supper of the Great God? Why do you insist on denying who God is?
    Na 1:2 God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies;
    (and, yes, I know what the next verse says…it still doesn’t negate this one)

    • David. I take it that your using Romans 13: 4 as your support of capital punishment. Consider reading Romans in context. First of all this text never specifically mentions capital punishment. Next Paul was writing Romans to the, um, Christians in Rome in the context of early culture not ours. Roman capital punishment include such things as feeding people to lions, and , er, nailing people to crosses where they would hang dying for days. Roman capital punishment would have been considered oppressive and against their ways, to Jewish people (of which Paul was of course a member).

      With all of this in mind if Paul was writing to support Capital Punishment he would have been supporting these things, and not any modern view of capital punishment. There is absolutely no way that an early Christian would have supported having people fed to lions, and nailed to a cross to die in disgrace and misery over a period of days.

      Next. On other posts I’ve touched on what Paul’s understanding on God’s wrath was, so I won’t go into this at length. But suffice to say that in Romans 1 and 2 Paul expresses his understanding of wrath as God allowing us to go our own ways into depravity, like the prodigal son, where we learn our lessons.


      Then in Romans 6 he touches on the idea of “how else shall he be judging the world”. In other words God judges the world through allowing them to go into their depravity and learn their lessons “how else”…. indicating that God doesn’t express active wrath on humanity or punitively judge humanity.

      Thus in Romans 13 Paul is saying that the “authorities” are God’s means of judging humanity because God doesn’t actively “judge” us in a wrathful way, and therefore works through the human system. In other words the authorities “sword”, or active involvement against wrongdoing is how things are set right. The prophetic understanding of such things in the Old testament was not punitive, but rather restorative justice. Restoration for the culprit, and justice making for the victims.

      Here Paul wasn’t saying that God put everybody in authority and that say even Hitler was put into authority by God, but rather that the idea of authority in setting up a just and legal way to deal with bad behaviour. It is a way that God has set in place for dealing with human sin and evil, when God himself does not actively wrathfully punish us.

      • Christopher, you gave an interpretation of Romans 1-2 but perhaps you don’t realize that you never offer any evidence that it’s correct.

        Paul’s explanation that he allows people to fall deeper into their own depravity is axiomatic. But suddenly trying to score “God does not actively punish people” is not qualified at all by this notion. It is totally logical and reasonable to say that it is true God allows people to fall further into their sin while at the same time actively punish them.

        The evidence that God actively punishes people is overwhelming. That’s not to say it’s right – for perhaps God has given us a mystery so great and hidden, it’s near impossible to see. But until someone sees that, it won’t be some exegetical approach that makes it clear.

        I imagine God can use whatever means he deems necessary in saving someone. It really would be helpful if those who don’t believe in God’s wrath could demonstrate in scripture where it states he doesn’t and I’m afraid it’s not in Romans at all. In fact, if you try to locate where scripture declares God never punishes, you won’t find it. But you will find hundreds of statements that God’s wrath is powerful and God punishes the wicked.

        • Gene. In Romans 1 and 2 Paul is clear what God’s wrath is, and then later on he is clear that he being a Christian is under said wrath. These two things completely destroy this idea that all of humanity is under a perpetual state of wrath after the fall, and that Christians are not under this wrath because it was “appeased” at the cross. It’s clearly a false understanding. Likewise, as explained before, when Romans talks about wrath throughout it shouldn’t then be prooftexted into another understanding but instead read in the light of what Paul has explained at the beginning of Romans.

          So my argument is not so much that God doesn’t express any direct judgment on wickedness, as it’s that one shouldn’t read into Paul’s understanding of wrath anything other than the understanding that he’s given us, especially in Romans, where he is continuing with (building on) the line of thought expressed in Romans 1 and 2 throughout the epistle. One cannot place their understanding of wrath on to Paul’s when he clearly showed a different understanding.


          So therefore even if your right that God directly punishes the wicked, that is not the concept that Paul is dealing with in Romans. As I’ve stated before in Romans Paul understands Gods wrath as coming against EVERY sin, in accordance with truth. If one places an understanding of God’s active wrath on to this, along with Paul’s understanding that Christians are also under this wrath and judgment, then that would mean that God has to be actively punishing us throughout every day because after all we are often doing something sinful, and that Christian’s are not saved from this.


          It would also mean that God wouldn’t be able to show mercy.

          These things are obviously not happening. God isn’t constantly actively punishing us, and he is obviously merciful. So therefore Paul’s understanding of wrath obviously cannot be an active wrath on God’s part.

          So we can discuss whether or not God actively punishes from various other Biblical writings such as that one part in Hebrews, but I don’t believe that Romans, and most likely many of Paul’s other epistles with a connected understanding of wrath, leave any room for it.

          • Christopher,
            Good to talk to you again.

            Nothing I read in Romans 2 confirms your interpretation to me. The points you make are only speculation and are not “clearly” defined by Paul. For you it might be clear, but for most, I believe it’s not.

            I need to say that I’m not sure exactly what your point is in defending the passive position – if you even can do that. I’ve said before that I’m ok with God having a “passive” wrath/judgment/anger against wickedness (in face I’m very open to this point of view). But the direction I see you heading in is that God has no wrath/anger/punishment/retribution. If you agreed with me that God’s wrath is passive, such as natural consequences, then are you willing to say a tidal wave is an act of God’s judgment? I doubt it. In fact usually people I know argue it’s absurd to make such a claim. In the podcast on Beyond the Box “Ananias and Saphira” – the group there came to the conclusion God did not kill Ananias and Saphira – yet it may have been hemorrhoids that killed them. You see on one hand I feel you (and Kevin) want to say, Yes God has wrath, but on the other hand every time some text is appealed to, you decline that God is involved in any such action. The reason is because there is 0 difference between an active punishment and a passive one. Killing is killing whether it be the God father who ordered the hit or the hit-man who executed the violent act – both are guilty of murder.

            So here’s my notes of Romans 1-2 that tell me you’re reading into the text what isn’t there.

            1) God’s wrath is being revealed against all godlessness and wicked people.
            2) God’s invisible qualities have been made known to all since creation so people are without excuse.
            3) Their (the wicked) foolish hearts were darkened
            4) God gave them over to shameful lusts.
            5) God gave them over to a depraved mind.
            6) They are filled with every kind of wickedness.
            7) They know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death.
            8) We have no excuse to judge others when we practice such things.
            9) We know God’s judgment against the wicked is based on truth.
            10) No one will escape God’s judgment.
            11) Those who practice evil are storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.
            12) God will repay each person according to what they’ve done.
            13) Those who practice good – eternal life, while those who practice evil – wrath and anger.

            I see nothing where Paul is clarifying – God’s wrath is passive and he does not actively bring trouble on anyone. It simply isn’t there. I realize it does not say God does actively punish people – but my point is this – God does have wrath whether it be active or passive and that means even if people (like Ana&Saph) die of heart attacks, it was still God causing that because of their sin. I don’t believe Sin is a real tangible force that wrapped around their arteries and squeezed them till they dropped dead. I believe God punishes and has wrath and will pay back people who practice sin. How he does that, directly or indirectly is up to him, IT’S STILL HIM.

          • Hi again Gene. I’ve already explained what Paul’s saying in Romans at some length. But then please explain…. how is it possible for Paul to be speaking of an active view of God’s wrath that Christians are under, which comes against EVERY one of their sins…. and then later on say that Christians are saved from this wrath through Christ? Which one is it? How do those two parts of Romans line up together under the active retributive view of wrath?

            Your notes on Romans line up exactly with what I’m saying. Paul mentions God’s wrath, explains that truth is written into the creation, and then explains how God’s “wrath” allows those who don’t follow these truths to go down their own dark paths. As far as this goes I think we’ve reached a stalemate in this part of the discussion.


            What Paul is saying is basically another way of telling the prodigal son story. The Prodigal son was allowed to go his own ways, he ended up in a bad place and payed the consequences. It hurt…. it was horrible…. caused anguish and distress. But the father was waiting with open arms, running towards the son when he learned his lessons and returned.

            That’s God’s wrath. It can be read as a punishment that is built into the system… or not, I suppose. But Romans is clear that God is full of longsuffering love towards the prodigal, and the parable of the prodigal son is clear that God “hikes up his robes” and runs towards the returning prodigal in shamless abandoned love upon the prodigals return. None of these indicate a retributive God.

            Also that bit in Romans about eternal life is better translated as aionon (age-abidding) life.

            As to whether or not a tidal wave is the natural consequences of our sins. I don’t know. The consequences I’m talking about is something that is plainly seen in the world. Going down wrong paths has bad consequences. Sin is it’s own punishment.

          • As well Gene. Under and interpretation that Paul is speaking of an active wrath against EVERY sin in Romans 1, then how is it that so many people are getting away with so many atrocities without any sign of active wrath punishing them? Why so the people that hurt us get away with it without active punishment? After all, Paul’s view of “wrath” is that it is against EVERY sin according to truth.


            I’m not trying to be snarky but really, can you explain this?

  10. Chris,
    I don’t read you as “snarky”  Good questions, ones that need exploring. I appreciate your patience and kindness.

    Your first question regarding: an active view of God’s wrath that Christians are both under and delivered from.

    I don’t think a rigid interpretation is necessary in Romans. Is Paul saying “Christians are appointed unto wrath and their not” – I don’t think so. Paul can me many things such as – DON’T LOSE YOUR SALVATION, such as in Hebrews 6, 10 and Peters words of returning to vomit. Paul does not have to mean a contradiction but can be understood as an endorsement of righteous living; “do you think you will inherit eternal life? If you live in hypocrisy, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Can you fool God.”

    I question your interpretation that Paul argues that every sin has an immediate consequence (that’s what I make of your position). Suppose Tommy steals $50.00 from the student store on Monday. If Tommy is not punished on Monday, then would you conclude that there was no punishment for his sin? But suppose Tommy is found out on Friday and is expelled from school. Would you still conclude that Tommy was not punished for his sin? Pauls’ words are “the wrath of God is BEING revealed”. You seem to read Paul as saying – every sin that is committed suffers the consequence immediately (otherwise there was no consequence). For me this is illogical and does not conform to my experience with life. It’s why I understand David’s frustration that those who mock God seem to prosper.

    So I think you need to clarify what part of Romans tells you:
    A) Every sin committed is dealt with immediately at that moment.
    B) If sin is not dealt with immediately then it cannot be seen as having received punishment.

    Furthermore, Paul clarifies this by saying “they are STORING UP wrath” by which he means something terrible is coming that hasn’t yet been reaped – the consequence may be delayed, but that does not negate the wrath.

    Also Paul says “he will REPAY”. It hardly seems viable to say that he doesn’t repay (re-tribute). I fell you and others polarize by stating that if God pays back for the evil people do, then he is paying back evil for evil – and that is clearly a fallacy.

    For this reason I’ve said I believe it’s compatible that if we say it’s built into the system – IT DOES NOT NEGATE THE FACT THAT GOD DOES IT. Therefore God has wrath and is retributive. What you (and others) need to do (as far as I can tell) is prove that retribution or wrath has nothing to do with turning one away from their sin, that it has nothing to do with reconciliation. I believe all the language of wrath and retribution (pay back) is for restoration.

    Yes God is longsuffering, but don’t forget – LOVE GETS ANGRY – slowly, but it does.

    As for your last question: why are so many people getting away with atrocities without any sign of active punishment?
    As I stated, Paul’s saying – they won’t. If delayed punishment is not punishment, then neither did Adolph Hitler suffer any consequence for his murdering millions – for he lives a good number of years before he met his doom. But if delayed consequences are punishment, then what makes you frame your question with “getting away with atrocities without any sign of active punishment.” Are you expecting an immediate consequence? If not, then if it came later, why would you say they were not under wrath?

    If you’re on Facebook – look me up in Kevin’s friends  I’d love to add you to our discussion on this topic .

    Gene

    • Hi Gene. I’ve friended you on facebook. I’ll respond more to your commentsa and questions when I have time.

    • Hi Gene. Here are some of my responses.

      You had said:
      Paul does not have to mean a contradiction but can be understood as an endorsement of righteous living; “do you think you will inherit eternal life? If you live in hypocrisy, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Can you fool God.”

      But can’t you see? It is a contradicton. In Romans 1: 18 it says “For God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against ALL the irreverence and injustice of men”. Then Paul talks about this judgment according to truth and says that whover does these things will NOT BE ESCAPING the judgment of God (Romans 2:3). Next in In Romans 3:4-8 Paul talks about this “wrath” and says that he (being a Christian) is still being judged as a sinner.


      Then later on Paul says that Christians are saved from “wrath” through Christ Jesus. So if Paul is saved from an active wrath through Christ Jesus…. then how is it that he can still be “judged” as a sinner, according to an active vengefull wrath against ALL of his sins according to truth? Is Paul saved from this active wrath against ALL of his sins. or isn’t he?

      But if the wrath is God allowing us to go our own ways (the broad way) into depravity, being that ALL sin is a step into this depravity….. then it makes perfect sense that through the help of Christ we can be saved from this and thus follow the narrow way (the Way) of life. This is not contradictory.


      You had said:

      I question your interpretation that Paul argues that every sin has an immediate consequence (that’s what I make of your position).

      I was responding to your position, in the sense that if your position is true then there would have to be active consequences to ALL mankinds sin as Paul said that God’s “wrath” goes against ALL sin.

      I agree with you that under your interpretation the consequences do not have to be immediate.

      Under my position there is consequences to all sin. It all leads to darkness and death…. thus the “law of sin and death” that Paul is talking about later in romans. Sin causes death…. which leads us to sin…. which causes more death ….. which leads to more sin. Thus it’s a vicious cycle. Paul gives us the answer to this…. being life. Christ offers us life in order to help with the problem of the law of sin and death. This if of course through various life giving means, especially baptism and the eucharist.


      Of course this cycle of sin and death is connected to the idea of going our own ways into depravity (wrath) which Christ saves us from. Christ saves us from the law of sin and death, which is connected to the wrong “way” into depravity through the life giving things of the spirit and in our world. Thus through this Christ helps us to stay on “the way” which is the blessed life of freedom. Christ helps us to stay on the narrow path, so that we don’t go on the wide path (which God’s wrath will allow us to follow) which is the path of “bruising” or destruction of self.

      So in this regard. If you have a look at my lengthy response to David on the “Brian Mclaren” post, I get into the mechanics of this stuff to some degree.

      Here’s I’ll just touch on the understanding of “the Way”. The early Christians called themselves “the Way” which is connected to various mentionings of this in the Bible. “the Way” is the way that we should live which is written into the very fabric of creation, thus in Romans 1 Paul talks about the truths that are written into creation which people fall away from into their own paths.

      This, of course is connected to Jesus saying. “I am the way the truth and the life”. See how it all lines up with Romans 1. Jesus is “the Way” , “the truth” of Jesus is written into the fabric of creation…… when people don’t follow this “truth” and “the way” they go their own ways into depravity. This is a judgment that Paul later says is according to “truth” ….. Christ helps us to stay on “the Way” through “life”.

      So then Christians were (are) to follow “the Way” and not to fall away from “the truth”. Paul then later says in Romans that we are not to take vengeance on our enemies. Thus taking active vengeance is against “the Way” for us. If Jesus (being God) IS “the Way” then it is also against “the Way” for Jesus…… thus an active vengeful view of God’s wrath in Romans 1: is against “the Way”, and I would argue impossible. It would force God to be something that he says he is not…. it would force him to be against or opposed “the Way” and thus against or opposed to himself.

      Of course I would argue that God being “the Way” is unchanging (as the Bible says) and so therefore this also applies in the afterlife.

      • Chris,
        For me the difficulty of dismissing the wrath of God, which is something you’re trying to do while maintaining it, is that I understand in life (experience) that loving parents punish their children. If a parent does not punish their child then I do not believe they love their child. The reason is because, if we disobey, we can die. God punishes us for this very reason – to keep us safe.

        But here you want to affirm that God has wrath and then you want to turn and say it’s not active wrath. So I have to ask again, what exactly is the difference if God makes a world in which if his children disobey they will be punished (get hit by the car for crossing the street against his instruction) and God sending an angel to drive a car as the child crosses the street harming the child? They are the same thing. So this position to me seems hopeless.

        If Kevin argues that we ought not to practice violence in ALL situations because God does not practice violence in any situation, then one CANNOT endorse that God has any wrath. Isn’t this the point Kevin and you are trying to make?

        Now, as I stated Love gets angry, slowly, but it does get angry: Can you comment what that looks like in our experience?

        Everything else I agree with. I only think you’re trying to do two things:
        A) That we ought to have no wrath against our neighbor because God has no wrath against his enemeis. – God turns the other cheek as he goes to a cross and we ought to as well.

        B) God designed the world so that when his enemies lash out at him, they will get slapped in the face – non-active wrath.

        If you deny A or B then it seems you can only conclude God has NO WRATH at all.

        I’ll post this response on FB.

        Again, great chatting with you and thanks for the challenge. I truly do think there is weight to Kevin’s and your position. I’m just not certain it’s articulated correctly or that it’s sound in every aspect.

        Gene

        • Hi Gene. I agree with you that I’m probably not articulating my position correctly. I don’t believe that God has any wrath in the true sense of the understanding whatsoever. I use the word in quotes because Paul used this word. I think that paul was changing peoples understanding of wrath, as his understanding had been changed.

          Loving Correction is different from vengefull wrath, although it might not SEEM different at the time. Take for instance a child that is being corrected by his parents. The child might view this is being vengefull from his limited perspective, but the parents are doing it out of nothing but loving concern for the childs future.

          So in this regard I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to correct our children which of course leads to Hebrews 12: 5. This desciption of discipline is very different from a vengeful wrath understanding, but unfortunately some put a vengeful wrath understanding on to it.

          Right now I’m thinking that one could apply both the Romans understanding that I’ve been talking about and the Hebrews understanding to God dealing with humanity as a loving parent. Sometimes a wise parent corrects their children…. sometimes a wise parent allows their children to learn their own lessons. This is never vengeful in a true sense of the word, and never separate from full unconditional love.

  11. Does anyone reeally think a violent psychopath like the Joker of Saddam Hussein can be won over with love? Really, guys, come on. Someone busts in my door at night and he’s getting a 9 mm slug first a ‘and who might you be?’ second. I had hoped this pacifist nonsense would have died with Mohandas (an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind) Gandhi.

    • David. I guess I won’t be busting into your house anytime soon.

      The Bible says in John 1 that the light of Christ shines inside all people coming into the world and can’t be snuffed out. It says in Romans that the human conscience is attuned to God’s law (connected with truth and goodness).

      Therefore no one, repeat NOBODY is every evil enough that they are beyond the hope of God eventually reaching them. Even the most evil of men still has that flicker of goodness deep down inside them. It may be scathed over but it’s still there. The Bible says so.

      I even believe that someone who would murder another human being for busting into their door at night still has some goodness inside them….. somewhere.

      • Christopher…
        Of course anyone can be saved…King Manasseh comes to mind. If it is possible to capture a criminal and leave them alive we must do so of course.
        Also we must minister to them in their incarceration. However, there are times when there simply is no choice but to use deadly force. I hope you are rational enough to know that.
        Shooting someone breaking into your house would not be murder. it would be self-defense.

        • David. How come you didn’t respond to the other part of my post? The part about where the scriptues talk about the light inside all humanity that will never be snuffed out, and how deep inside the human beings conscience is in tune with God’s law and thus goodness?

          • Ro 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

            Joh 3:19-21 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

            Heb 10:39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

            All are made in the image of God with the potential for restoration. CLEARLY all will not have it so.

            What is plain here is that this post is full of dead theology that attracts spiritual carrion. No one here accepts God as He has revealed Himself and thus they shamelessly reinvent Him. Idolatry, I think they cal that.

            I’m through casting the pearls of the precious word of God before hippie swine. Over and out.

        • And self defense makes perfect sense — as does Peter’s response to the unjust arrest of Christ by soldiers — meeting them with a sword. It just isn’t Christ’s response, which is really, kind of not instinctual at all. This gospel has always been really challenging, to say the least.

        • Hmmm, interesting post.One time when I read truohgh Acts, I wrote a note in the margin that this was the only time in history that communal living has worked. Ever. Even they had trouble the hellenized widows weren’t getting taken care of, circumcision arguments, etc. but they CHOSE to all sacrifice for the greater good and had help from God. Therein lies the key they chose to sacrifice and had a lot of help. Humans are naturally selfish and petty the beauty of a capitalist system is that it harnesses human weakness (greed) so that it benefits the greater good.Communism, at least in the Soviet model, is the ultimate expression of hypocrisy and delusion. Hypocrisy in that they claim to rule v imye naroda in the name of the masses but in reality they rule for the benefit of the very few who happen to be at the top. Orwell’s Animal Farm and Harry Turtledove’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies are fantastic commentaries on the Soviet system in novel form. The delusion came from their promises of utopia based on human strengths who did they think they were kidding? People are flawed, selfish and petty rather than create a utopia, all they did was destroy the soul and moral centers of the societies upon which they inflicted their rule.I could go on for days (I did in my masters thesis!) I am convinced that Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao are right up there with Mohammad and Hitler in Satan’s hall of fame for inflicting deception and misery upon the human race. Why I chose those names and in that order is probably a whole paper on its own, but I need to go change a poopy diaper how’s that for a mental grinding of the gears!Can’t wait to get to CO for Christmas!!!

      • Ex 22:2 “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.

        Of course, the Kevin Miller Study Bible probably says,
        “if the thief be found entering they house, see thou have milk and cookies for him and love on him in the Lord’sw name”.

        • Gene. You had said.

          :Ro 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;


          Read Romans 1. As I’ve been continuously mentioning it talks about God allowing people to go their own ways into darkness, and the text later says that God is longsuffering with them, waiting for them to come back to him.


          You said: Joh 3:19-21 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”


          Look at that text carefully. David why prooftext it and miss out on the goodstuff? Earlier it says……verse 17-For God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through him.

          Next it says “….. yet he who is not believing HAS BEEN JUDGED ALREADY…… Now this is the judging (not condemnation as you say): for light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light for their acts were wicked.


          David where is the violent God you speak of in that text? The judgment spoken of here is simply to allow people to love the darkness rather than the light because of their wicked acts. God had previously allowed them to get to the place of darkness where they did not love the light.


          You had said:

          Heb 10:39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.


          The Greek word for “perdition” in that text is “ap ol ei “- meaning “from-whole-loosing”. It can be translated better as “bruising”, or “pulling down”. Or even simply as “destruction” relating to self destruction. There is no mention of eternal torments in this text.
          Paul is simply saying to follow Christ and his help will save us from going down the wrong paths (or way) that will hurt us (cause bruising – destruction of self). Believing in and following “the way” of Christ will save our souls from this.

          You had said:

          All are made in the image of God with the potential for restoration. CLEARLY all will not have it so.


          I’ve just shown how those above texts say nothing at all about eternal torments. But then what about the Biblical passages that CLEARLY speak about the restoration of all?

          • Oops sorry. I ment to say “David you had said”. When I was writing this I was thiking through a response to Gene which I’m going to post shortly.

  12. I think this article is great! I especially like Kevin’s point that it is fear that causes so much of our violence and cruelty and not inherent evil. If we understand fear as much of the motivator — than we can understand it, compassion it, and thus go a long way to controlling it (and forgiving — absorbing — the violence of others). If we simply see violence as the result of inherent evil, no such compassion or forgiveness makes it easy to overcome. Great insight. And also the insight that our fears are grounded! We have good reason for our fear. One of the things I think Jesus did with his suffering, death and resurrection is walk us through what scares us most — and come out the other side with an alternative to either fight or flight (Peter’s response) which is so natural. The kind of Love Christ lived isn’t really ‘natural’ in a way. It is hard — but so worth it! The result of practising it might just be peace on earth. Thanks Kevin for pointing out the heart of the gospel.

  13. Keep driving this point home, as often as you can.

  14. I read through about half these postings and it seems that many people are falsely confounding defense/police work/military ops with eternal punishment. The two just don’t mix.

    (Christians are free to disagree about pacifism. I’m not a pacifist but some of my friends are. No big deal.)

    If an agressor nation attacks another nation, the attacked nation has a duty to protect its citizens from death by bombing, shelling, bullets, rape, torture, enslavement, etc. By killing x number of enemy troops and downing x number of enemy planes, the defending military preserves the lives (or at least the freedom & dignity) of (in some cases) millions of its own innocent civilians. That’s what we pay taxes for. When a police SWAT team snipes a hostage-holding psycho they save the lives of all the hostages. If criminals invade my home and want to rape and kill my wife and kids I will stop them with lethal force or die trying.

    Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” and “die by the sword” statements are open to diverse interpretations, not all pacifistic. But whichever interpretation one follows, context shows that these instructions were for individual disciples, not governments. When the soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do to get right he gave them various instructions. What he NEVER told them was to quit the Roman Army. Nor did Jesus give any such command to centurion who requested healing for his servant. Instead, this man (who was probably like one of those soldiers in the opening scene of film “Gladiator”) was praised for his faith and Jesus set him up as an example for all.

    (Disclaimer: Yes, there are unjust wars like Iraq; and police brutality; and totally unnecessary shootings of home intruders. I’m not speaking of those; only of the legitimate cases).

    But in none of these cases (defensive military action, deadly police intervention, self defense) is it necessary for the fallen enemy soldier/criminal/home invader to go to eternal hellfire. And that’s what I thought this movie was supposed to be about in the first place.

    Military and police ops and self-defense have no logical connection to the existence or non-existence of eternal damnation. A raging meth-head dies in a hail of police bullets. A nice old grandma dies of pneumonia at 90. Either way, they all fall down. What waits on the other side is the big question.

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