Fire, Fury and the Love of Christ

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Fire, Fury and the Love of Christ

Posted in : War on by : Michael Maharrey

According to the pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, God has given President Trump the authority to “take out” thousands of innocent North Korean peasants.

Those weren’t Robert Jeffress exact words, but that was the substance of his proclamation.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Jeffress either hasn’t considered, or simply doesn’t care about, all of the innocent people who will certainly die if Trump acts on his “fire and fury” threat. Do the lives of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans mean nothing simply because they had the misfortune of being born on the wrong side of the 38th Parallel? Do they share some kind of collective guilt because they happen to live in a country ruled by a nutty tyrant?

I find it hard to reconcile the wholesale slaughter of North Korean peasants in the name of taking out their government leader with Abraham’s plea to spare Sodom if even a few righteous people could be found there.  Abraham valued innocent human life. He was not willing to sacrifice a even few innocents, even to destroy a great evil. If he had to crack a few eggs, he’d just do without the omelette.

Jeffress went on to chide “pacifist Christians” who cite Paul’s admonition in Romans 12, “Do not repay evil for evil.” According to the Washington Post,  Jeffress said that passage only refers to Christians, not the government.

If that’s the case, maybe Christians shouldn’t participate in the government.

Leaders in the early church took a dim view of Christians taking part in Roman empire-building and war-making. Tertullian went as far as to condemn Christian service in the Roman military. He argued that there was no way to reconcile war with the teachings of Christ. Those who claim citizenship in the Kingdom of God should not fight in another kingdom’s wars.

“But how will a Christian go to war? Indeed how will he serve even in peacetime without a sword which the Lord has taken away? For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion became a believer, the Lord, by taking away Peter’s sword. disarmed every soldier thereafter. We are not allowed to wear any uniform that symbolizes a sinful act.”

If Jeffress is correct and the “government” gets to operate on a different set of moral standards than the rest of humanity (a dubious assertion), why would a citizen of God’s kingdom yoke himself to it? You may be able to make the case that Christians should “submit” to governing authorities – i.e. don’t resist them with force – based on Romans 13. But it doesn’t follow that Christians should take part in their evil schemes. In fact, it doesn’t even follow that Christians should obey every government edict.  The Old Testament, New Testament and church history are filled with accounts of people who went to their deaths refusing to obey laws and commands handed down by the “governing authorities.”

Jesus commands his followers to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies, and to put away the sword. He rejected the power of violence and military conquest. Jesus did not come to remake the world’s system. He came to overthrow it, and establish a new kingdom based on faith, peace and love. Far too many Christians try to shoehorn the teachings of Christ into a few verses Paul wrote in Romans 13 instead of reading them in light of what Jesus said.

The ethics of government may call for “fire and fury” to rain down on the heads of North Koreans in order to take out their “evil” leader. The ethics of Jesus do not.

The question is whom do you follow?

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