Christianity Today recently posted an article in this vein.
Here's a quote from the article, from the security head at a Dallas church that draws approximately 8,000 folks to Sunday services:
You can use your hands, you can go tactical, but these days, that's not the way people roll... You have to match force with force.
This chilled me to the bone.
I know that I'll sound crazy here... but the church can't operate this way.
A church security guard killed a man... and Jesus absolutely would not have condoned such a thing. Period.
How can I say this? Pretty simply. Look at the scriptures:
You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.Matthew 5: 38-39
Everything Christ says of violence in His ministry is in the negative. And when push comes to shove, of course He sticks to it.
Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword."Matthew 26: 50-52
Now certainly this scenario is different from others that we may imagine: Christ is dying "that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." But can you honestly see Jesus having condoned the violent reaction in any other circumstance? If it had been the arrest of John the Baptist, perhaps, or someone else? No. We also see this reflected in the martyrdoms of the disciples, none of who offer violent resistance.
So, when the Lord Jesus's physical body was being destroyed by the Romans, He in fact did not call down the legions of angels to His aid. He didn't even so much as let Peter use his sword. Instead, Christ responded by calling down the grace of God: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." Yet when we, the Body of Christ, see our members being harmed, we strike back in force, efficiently.
This is not what Jesus would have done.
Of course it just makes sense for there to be security at events with lots of people, and it's practiced across the board. Sports, political events, malls, Wal-Mart, where ever and whatever occasion. It's ethically justifiable for these security guards to kill, if they're protecting their charge. We have laws to protect those who kill in self-defense. But Christ is not operating this way.
It's almost like the flip-side of the "teleological suspension of the ethical" that Kierkegaard describes in Fear and Trembling. He is explaining how Abraham, as the man of faith, is absolutely justified in his deceptions leading up to the binding of Isaac, and would have been absolutely justified in killing the boy, because the call of faith supersedes the mandates of the ethical. Here however, the example of Christ is not allowing the Christian to supersede the ethical, but rather drawing a line before it is reached, and saying "this far, no farther. You are released from the ethical command to preserve your life."
This seems preposterous on so many levels. We know that the preservation of life is good. We know that you can't just let a man walk into the church and kill people. We seem to forget, however, that the church is not some other worldly organization. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We naturally can not think of this in the same terms that the world does, in the terms that we have been raised to think of it in. Our kingdom is "not of this world."
So what's the alternative? I'm not sure. I'm torn between options.
One the one hand, I'm reminded of a story from Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, where a gunman in the Brooklyn Tabernacle repents shortly after intending to murder the Reverend.
On the other hand I recall Columbine. These gunmen didn't repent, and Christians are murdered because they stand there and allow it--they choose it, even.
But then I'm also not sure as to why I'm unsure here. It does seem like this should be a difficult question to answer, or at least it seems this way so long as I ignore the fact that Christ has already answered it.
You seek the Kingdom of God, and, if need be, you let them kill you.
Now are we supposed to just stand there like sheep, letting the killer walk up to each completely unhindered? I think not. I think that Christians are called to stop the man, I just don't think we can justify whatsoever killing him. We catch bullets for others. We try our damnedest to get his gun away. But we do not kill him. We love him, all the while, as ourselves.
I realize that in the moment, with the man firing rounds nearby, the security guard's natural reaction will be to shoot him. Probably, it would be mine as well. That's just what we would instinctively do, what is ingrained in us. I'm not criticizing the guard for this. But is this what Jesus would naturally have done? No, I think not. And we are to be like Christ. "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." I don't suppose St. Paul would have shot the man either. For Christ(and for Paul), this wouldn't have been the natural reaction. In the moment, His instinct would not be to kill the man. Thus ours should not either. He would simply have loved God, loved the man, and sought the Kingdom. We as a new creation, filled with the Holy Spirit, are to be cultivating these things are our new nature as well.
So should the guard have been put in this situation in the first place? Should we really carry guns in a church? Well, here we must ask ourselves what the point of the gun is--is it to prevent something? How? By killing? I don't think Jesus would have owned a gun.
Is there a difference between the man killing Christians and the murdering robber or psychopath? To say 'yes' and act accordingly, I think, would be to confirm some sort of spiritual/secular rift in regards to our actions: here killing is a spiritual issue and I will not do it; here, on the other hand... can we say that?
There are a lot of questions and there is nit-picking that can be done, but in the end, I can't help but point to one real question, one that surely, and perhaps only, must matter: how much are we REALLY supposed to be like Jesus? Because I simply do not see the Son of Man killing someone in ANY circumstance whatsoever. Ethical justifications, natural, good inclinations, the realities of the deadly potential of our weapons, whatever--these must go out the window, and the hackneyed but important question remains: what would Jesus really do?
For some more reading on all of this, Ben Witherington III also has a long, interesting post on the recent shooting(s) in the news.