This week I had the immense joy of being able to go to an educational conference. And, wow. There is something magical about being able to go and learn with the knowledge that what I am learning has no "practical" application(i.e., I will not be tested, this does not apply directly to my major). It's wonderful to be enriched without any specific purpose. I left feeling filled, and I loved nearly every part.
BUT. There was one, thirty second instance, that made me... squeamish. A speaker, in the moments before he began to speak, referenced a certain flag hanging in the atrium of the hotel where we were staying, implying his temptation to take it down and display it like(indirect quote, mind you) "the head of Grendel, or the foreskins of the Philistines".
I tip my hat to his awesome Beowulf reference, and no, I am not squeamish at the idea of Philistine foreskins (it's in the Bible, friends). What bothered me was the implication of violence towards a faction that did not adhere to Christian standards. Like this faction deserved to be defeated with force. And although I don't think that's what he specifically meant, it did make me think about the role of violence and pacifism in this New Testament world we're living in.
Violence has no place against the enemies of God. Not anymore. And here's why.
When Christ came preaching a new world order, the Jewish people were expecting a Messiah to rise up and lead them against the Romans in battle. That's not what they got. Instead, they received a carpenter who instructed them to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and love their neighbor- to love their enemies! This was a completely new world that the Jews were not expecting, and their confusion was reasonable. In their Old Testament, God had struck down His enemies to show His faithfulness. But this sort of justice was(and is) no longer required. Because Jesus brought us a weapon more powerful than sin, hatred, or death.
Grace. And salvation.
Jesus did not speak about defeating those who were lost(although he came down pretty hard on those who thought they were found) because he was spending all his time with them, reaching out to them and ministering to them. Paul preached to his enemies while they had him in chains, and Stephen testified to the glory of God even before he was killed. Because the chosen people of God are not the only ones who can be saved now-- God's grace can cover all.
In the Old Testament, enemies of God were decimated because whether they died tomorrow or twenty years in the future, they could not be saved. They were cursed in their sin. But now all men can hear and be saved by the word of God. So when we imply violence against those who do not follow Him, we are essentially saying "I'd rather have this man burn in Hell than minister to him so he can join us in Paradise".
Our goal on this world is no longer defeat. It is salvation and conversion.
Now, this is not an argument against basic defense. You are not a martyr if you die from a robber coming into your house with a gun. But those who specifically speak out, even scream against Christianity? Those, we are called to love. And anything less is not what Christ died for. Even though they're the hardest to do so to.
So the next time you're tempted to compare an anti-Christian faction to an Anglo Saxon legend, think of the lions that ate Christians as those same Christians blessed the Romans who killed them in the arenas. We don't have it that bad. So we can do better. In fact, I charge you to. Leave your homes with that knowledge, and love your enemy.