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A correct explanation of Scripture about Jesus and the sword...

Reader comment on item: Islamists, Get Out
in response to reader comment: Jihad and Islam -Read it carefully friends

Submitted by Sara Bennett (United States), Dec 30, 2013 at 23:12

Dear Nida,

I have just now come across your comments in response to another article, and your comments about Jesus really distressed me. Just as you fear, and cannot stand that, others have taken the teachings of Islam way out of context and have missed its true meaning, you have done the exact same thing to the teachings of Jesus and the true meaning of Christianity.

All I see displayed on the news in America are horrible images of war being waged within Islamic nations...many of these wars fought are on their own soil and amongst themselves, and I see the most sad images of innocents (old and young) that have suffered...bodies battered and ripped apart by the most terrible means imagined. There are people that have been physically mutilated, young and old, by Islamic leadership in its effort to advance its agenda. I understand that you say true Islam does not hold to this teaching and Allah would never support those actions, but why do we see SO many Islamic nations experiencing these kinds of battles and turmoil on their own soil on an almost daily basis???

I would love to believe that Islam is peaceful as you have plead its case in this forum. I have a lot of respect for everything you explained about your religion, but I can also see where you have completely done against my own religion (Christianity) what you cannot stand to be done against yours.

In your defense, I do understand that you do not like violence and it probably breaks your heart, as it does mine, to see visions of young children on a televistion screen being carried away on stretchers, lifeless and bloodied, while their parents or townsfolk cry out in anguish...all while bombs are exploding in the background, and people are frantically trying to find shelter.

The reason I bring up instances like the one I just mentioned is because I cannot stand to see someone on the news that says they are a Christian and says that God told them to kill someone or carry out some act of violence in His Name, when God would never stand for it.

As I understand it, the word you regard as Holy, and the one I regard as Holy, both begin with the same five books...or similar versions. Your book also speaks of Moses and Abraham...Isaac and Ishmael. The battles that occurred in the beginning of our Holy Book are the same as in yours. You stated in your post the reasons that support when war is acceptable in Islam and these same rules apply for today. One of those reasons was when someone or some other culture attacks Islam or incites war against Islam. With that in mind, the Christian Bible's Old Testament followed something similar to that. When Moses was instructed to wage war, or battle was called for, it was usually in instances of standing against cultures that had attacked God's people or were infiltrating God's people and corrupting them/leading them away from His truth. In order to understand the context of why battles were waged you have to do deeper study and search other Scripture from that time period. War was never waged because God hated His actual creation. He hated the corruption that existed. The original meaning in Scriptures that we read today that speak of God hating are usually stating that God hated what someone was doing. He hated the evil in someone's heart. He could see through their motives and He hated those things that would lure His people away from Him. In many instances, He gave His people instruction on how to overcome and take what He had rightfully placed in their hands. Many wars were waged on behalf of God's people in an effort to purge evil customs out and away from them at the hands of those that had knowingly and deceptively infiltrated God's people and their culture.

Many times the true meaning behind words in Scripture are not understood properly and they are taken completely out of context. It is SO important for everyone to go back and study the Hebrew and Greek meanings behind certain words and how those words are used in different Scriptures in order to know what the true meaning was and why wars were waged, etc.

When Jesus came in the New Testamament, He came to fulfill the Law...In the New Covenant for God's people there is Grace. There is no condemnation, and there is never a call for violence. Those that have waged war in the name of Christianity since the coming of Jesus have acted completely out of line, and were not following what Jesus taught. I believe you are saying the same thing regarding the images of Islamic leadership that we see waging attacks on innocent people...you say that those leaders or groups of people that we call terrorist groups are not acting in the name of true Islam. We Christians can also say that there are MANY that have acted and done things in the name of Christianity, but their actions were exactly the opposite of what Jesus told us to do.

I found a great site, and I will include a link to it here so I can give credit where it is due, and I am also going to paste the author's words here, because they address and explain some of the Scripture you incorrectly used to back up your reason why Jesus is not one to be believed...You took all three Scriptures out of context, and I am afraid that your reasoning may lead people astray from the true meaning behind Christian Scriptures and what Jesus said.

The explanation to one of the verses you took out of context is as follows, and the link to the website I am citing here will be after the explanation. Thank you for reading my post; I pray I have been able to help make some sense of the Scriptures that you have misunderstood. Thank you for your honesty and sincerity in your love for God and His Truth...I pray God blesses you with His understanding and a life full of His Love, Joy, and Peace. In the Name of Jesus:

A Brief Explanation of the Sword in Matthew 10:34

James M. Arlandson

I read constantly that Christians should not be proud of a verse attributed to Jesus. The verse reads:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.

At first glance it indeed appears that Jesus encourages violence and calls his disciples to practice it, presumably righteous violence. But appearances can be deceiving. A text without a context often becomes a pretext, as the old saying goes. Once this verse is read in its historical and literary contexts, the meaning will change.

It is time to set the record straight about that verse.

The historical context, we should recall, is Jewish culture, as Jesus ministers to his own people. He sends out the twelve disciples to the "lost sheep of Israel," not yet to the gentiles, who will be reached after the Resurrection. It is not surprising, historically speaking, that he would spread his word by proclamation to his own, by Jewish disciples. Second, he predicts that some towns may not receive the disciples and that the authorities may put them on trial and flog them. In that eventuality, they should shake the dust off their feet, pray for them, and flee to another city. Third, it is only natural that first-century Jews may not understand this new sect or "Jesus movement" (as sociologists of the New Testament call it), so they resist it. Does this mean, then, that Jesus calls for a holy war with a physical, military sword against his fellow Jews—say, against his own family who wanted to take custody of him because they thought he was "out of his mind" (Mark 3:21)?

Next, those cultural facts explain the immediate literary context, which shows division among family members. The context must be quoted in full to explain the meaning of "sword" in Matthew 10:34 (bold print):

32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6]

37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

The one key element in this lengthy passage is the word "sword," and its meaning is now clear. It indicates that following Jesus in his original Jewish society may not bring peace to a family, but may "split" it up, the precise function of a metaphorical sword. Are his disciples ready for that? This kind of spiritual sword invisibly severs a man from his father, and daughter from her mother, and so on (Micah 7:6). Given Jesus' own family resistance early on (they later came around), it is only natural he would say that no matter what the cost, one must follow him to the end, even if it means giving up one's family. But this applies only if the family rejects the new convert, not if the family accepts him in his new faith; he must not reject them, because the whole point of Jesus' advent is to win as many people to his side as possible, even if this divides the world in two, but never violently. (my emphasis to the statement added and in other segments to follow).

Furthermore, we can reference the larger textual context in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Garden of Gethsemane, during the hour when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter struck off the ear of the servant of the high priest in order to protect his Lord. But Jesus tells him to stop.

Matthew 26:52-53 says:

52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (NIV)

Jesus denounces violence to accomplish the will of God—at least as Peter imagines the will of God. Then Jesus says that he has more than twelve legions of angels at his disposal. He did not come to crush the Roman Empire. Instead, he willingly lays down his life and dies for the sins of the whole world. Will it accept this wonderful gift?

Now we can appeal to even a much larger textual context. The non-literal interpretation of the sword is confirmed by a parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 12:49-53 reads:

49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo [my death], and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

It is entirely possible that these two parallel passages in Matthew and Luke represent two different occasions. After all, when I teach the same topic in two different classes, I also change the wording a little. Neither class knows about the slight change, but this does not matter, for the meaning is essentially the same. Likewise, in the three years that Jesus taught, he most likely repeated this call to commitment several times to different audiences (though recorded only twice in the Gospels), as he crisscrossed Israel. He issued such radical calls often, telling his listeners to pick up their cross and to follow him (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27).

Whatever the case, the proper way to interpret Scripture is to let verses clarify other verses, particularly parallel passages. And now Luke 12:49-53 confirms our interpretation of Matt. 10:34. Jesus did not endorse physical violence against one's own family, but he warns people about possible family division.

So what does all of this mean?

History demonstrates that Jesus never wielded a sword against anyone, and in Matt. 10:34 he does not order his followers to swing one either, in order to kill their family opponents or for any reason. But a true disciple who is worthy of following Christ and who comes from a possibly hostile family has to use a sword of the will (never a physical sword) to sever away all opposition, even as far as taking up his cross—another metaphorical implement for the disciples. It is true that Jesus divides the world into two camps, those who follow him, and those who do not, those in the light, and those in the dark. However, he never tells his followers to wage war on everyone else, and certainly not on one's family.

It is true that the Roman Emperor Constantine, Medieval Crusaders, and Protestants and Catholics have used the sword against unbelievers and each other. However, none of them is foundational to Christianity—only Jesus is, and he never endorses the sword to spread his message. Also, Christianity has undergone Reform (c. 1400-1600) and has been put under the pressure of the Enlightenment (c. 1600-1800), which demanded peace. Be that as it may, Jesus himself never calls for military holy war, and only he sets the genetic code for his movement.

There is not a single verse in the New Testament that calls the Church to commit violence to spread the gospel or to plant churches or to accomplish anything else. Rather, the New Testament hands the sword over to the State (Rom. 13:1-6). In any case, Jesus says a spiritual sword, not a physical one, may sever family ties, so his disciples must be ready for that.

Go here to begin a series on pacifism and the sword in the New Testament.

Copyright by James Malcolm Arlandson.

Articles by James Arlandson

link to website: http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/matthew_10_34.htm


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