Not long ago a report came from the Philippines with this heading: “Battle Between Christian Sects in Philippines Leaves 11 Dead.” The account stated, “At least 11 people were hacked to death as armed Christian sects battled in a remote shrine. . . . About 100 members of the Christian Pulahan group, armed with machetes and hand grenades, surrounded 200 members of the Benevolent Missionary Association at sunset Wednesday. . . . Red-clad Pulahan members besieged the shrine until Thursday morning. Wearing amulets that they say make them invincible, the missionary association members fought back with machetes” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
As I read the account of this carnal fighting, I am reminded of other headlines that we notice: “Christians Battle in North Ireland” (describing the fighting between Protestants and Catholics); “Christians Battle with Muslims in Lebanon” (referring to Catholic or Orthodox members against followers of Mohammed); and “Christians and Hindus Battle in India.” Granted, the Press knows nothing of true Biblical Christianity, but such reports tell us something.
From the time of Christ until the present age, professing “Christians” have taken up carnal weapons either to advance their cause or to defend themselves against their enemies. During the Revolutionary War, both the British and the Colonists believed that they were serving God in fighting one another. During the Civil War in the United States, both sides claimed to be fighting for God and advancing His purposes. The triumphant song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” urged the northern soldiers to fight their southern brothers in the name of Christ.
But we could go further back into history. Think of the Crusades of the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, in which deluded but zealous Roman Catholic knights and commoners took up carnal weapons and marched against their Greek Orthodox brothers as well as the Muslimsall in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace! Think further of the inhuman Inquisition of the twelfth and following centuries, in which Roman Catholic clergy used the arm of the state to torture and murder many thousands (some accounts say many millions) of Jews and professing Christians who opposed Catholic dogma and practices. Protestant leaders also called for the use of carnal weapons on those who challenged their own teachings. Tens of thousands of sixteenth century Anabaptists were cruelly put to death by drowning, the stake, and other inhuman means because they dared to believe something different and opposed both Catholic and Protestant practices.
All of this should grieve us deeply. Professing Christians fighting other professing Christians as well as non-Christians has been a common practice down through the ages. How far this is from the way of life brought by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles!
There were those in the early church who cited the words of Isaiah as being fulfilled in the early community of believers: “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:4). Whether this was the precise fulfillment of the passage or not, we know that Jesus did bring into being a new thing: a way of life that exemplified sacrificial, outgoing love for all people, including ones enemies. Jesus told His apostles, “Behold, I sent you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). He uttered strange and radical words to His followers: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). When Peter attempted to defend the Lord in the Garden, Jesus answered, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
The apostles continued to proclaim this revolutionary way of love. Paul declared, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (v. 19). He went on to give shocking commands: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head” (v. 20). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21).
What if all of those who professed to follow the Lord Jesus had followed these radical teachings? Would there have been the senseless and wicked slaughter of the Crusades? Would there have been the heartless violence of the Inquisition? Would there be the violence, murder and gross carnality found even today among those who profess to be Christians? The entire New Testament witnesses against the counterfeit ways that have been passed off as Christian during the past two thousand years.
When we hear of machete-welding “Christians” in the Philippines, bomb-throwing “Christians” in Ireland, or “Christian” militants in the Middle East or Africa today, let us see the contrast between this and the way of the Savior. Let us remember that “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Christs suffering and death on the cross is our exampleand those who follow Him will “follow in His steps” (v. 21). Are you prepared to be a true Christian by following a radical Redeemer?