“Then saith Jesus to him, Return thy sword to its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Just like the Jews, many Christians have not understood that the Old Covenant was abolished and that there is a New Covenant established now. By the Old Covenant, the people of Israel was chosen by God to be His Kingdom on earth where His standard of holiness is applied through His earthly ministers, whether judges or kings. The Law of God says “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13); and as God is the Supreme Ruler, and the messiah king of Israel was the king chosen by Him to apply His rule, so those who disobeyed the Commandment not to murder would be punished by death, because God is the Creator who has the right to judge and to give and take lives: “Whoever shall smite a person mortally, at the mouth of witnesses shall the murderer be put to death; but one witness shall not testify against a person to cause him to die.” (Numbers 35:30) Yes, God would apply His judgment on that murderer through His earthly government which was represented by the judge or the king of Israel. Again, the adulterer and the adulteress should be put to death: “And a man that committeth adultery with a man’s wife, who committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, — the adulterer and the adulteress shall certainly be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10) But the Jews did not understand that these were civil commands to be applied by the earthly government and not by individuals… Therefore, in the instance of an adulteress woman (just like in other instances also), the Lord Jesus corrected the error of the Jews by saying: “Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her.” (John 8:7) No human is without sin, and we all deserve death, so no human has the right to individually apply God’s judgment on anyone’s sin. The earthly government of Israel had this right in the Old Covenant, but Israel refused his King the Messiah Jesus, and therefore the King Himself has declared the end of the Old Covenant and has established a New Covenant in which the King Himself sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet (cf. Psalm 110:1), and the judgment is not fully applied until then. Meanwhile, a time of Grace is opened for people to repent and enter the Kingdom of God, and there are earthly authorities in all nations, and they bear the sword to keep an order in their earthly kingdoms (Romans 13:4). And Christians should be in subjection to these authorities whatever is their nature, even if they persecute the Christians: remember that Nero was the man in authority when Paul advised the Christians in Rome “Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above [him]. For there is no authority except from God; and those that exist are set up by God. So that he that sets himself in opposition to the authority resists the ordinance of God; and they who [thus] resist shall bring sentence of guilt on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2) It is not the work of Christians to correct political orders or to rebel against a foreign occupation (like it was the case with Rome occupying Israel in the days of Jesus), but we are to preach the Kingdom of God: “Suffer the dead to bury their own dead, but do thou go and announce the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) Thus, one of the Twelve, Simon the Zealot (cf. Matthew 10:4), was previously a Zealot, but Jesus saved him from his hatred. The Zealots were a Jewish political party that opposed the Roman occupation. They hated the Romans, and their goal was to overthrow the Roman occupation. But when Simon the Zealot was saved by Jesus, he left that sinful rebellious party, and went to announce the Kingdom of God that should be built in the hearts of men and not in the political systems of this world. This is our calling when we come to Christ. In the same way, although slavery was a bad system resulting from human sinfulness, yet the Apostles didn’t try to overthrow that system by rebelling against the instituted governments and political systems of their time, but they worked to overthrow all sinful things by building the Kingdom of God in the hearts so that people may be free, free indeed.
These are the basic truths that people misunderstand, and therefore they do not imitate Jesus, although many of them are called “Christians”… Christians should imitate Jesus, and here is what Jesus did…
When the leaders of the Jews came with soldiers to arrest Jesus and then crucify Him, the disciples of Jesus asked Him: “Lord, shall we smite with [the] sword?” (Luke 22:49) And then “a certain one from among them smote the bondman of the high priest and took off his right ear.” (Luke 22:50) But Jesus said: “Return thy sword to its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
And before Pilate, Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants had fought that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence.” (John 18:36) If the Kingdom of the Christ were of this world, Christians would take up weapons to defend their King and His Kingdom. But the fact is that this Kingdom is not of this world.
And, just like our Lord and King, the Apostles and we also, “Railed at, we bless; persecuted, we suffer [it]; insulted, we entreat: we are become as [the] offscouring of the world, [the] refuse of all, until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13) “According as it is written, For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter.” (Romans 8:36)
How great is the sin of those who become stumbling blocks by taking up weapons in the name of Jesus Christ and killing their brothers, thus preaching an earthly Messiah and an earthly kingdom, while we have seen that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world, and the children of this Kingdom do not defend it by earthly weapons. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:7)
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ