Are Christians to Defend Themselves and Others?

Jesus was non-violent.

Can we honestly read the New Testament and come to any other conclusion?

Obviously, I can’t.

The cross was the ultimate representation of Jesus’ non-violence. The cross was also the fullest and most complete embodiment of God’s essence – love. Remember, God was in Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5.19)

Jesus willingly was crucified instead of doing violence, as was expected by everyone else, including the Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and his own disciples. He chose love – “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” – over any semblance of violence. (John 15.13)

Christians are to follow Jesus.

Jesus says we should take up our own cross.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 16.24-25)

Jesus says we should love one another as he loved us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13.34)

Therefore, Christians should be non-violent like Jesus.

In my experience, I have found that many Christians will philosophically believe this and quote the scriptures above as well as others. Yet, when the discussion turns to living this out in their actual lives, they don’t really believe it and they don’t think it is possible.

Typically, when I profess that Jesus was non-violent (Isaiah 53.9 says “he had done no violence”) and we should do the same, I am almost immediately confronted with questions about self-defense. And, if I say that we should not use violence in self-defense, then I am confronted with the seemingly ultimate question, “What if a rapist broke into your home and attacked your wife?” For, isn’t it clear that everyone would use violence in that situation?

But, what does scripture reveal about Jesus?

And, what does scripture reveal about the followers of Jesus?

He and they never resorted to violence in any situation, even in self-dense.

Have you noticed that?

In every situation where we could expect some sort of violent reaction or self-defense, Jesus and his followers responded without violence and without defending themselves. They did not do nothing, but they responded in a way that did not involved violence or self-defense to express God’s love. And, keep in mind, that God’s love is most fully displayed by one laying down their life, literally in death if necessary, for another.

Here are just a few examples to prove the point.

In Matthew 2, the life of the baby Jesus was threatened by Herod and his edict to kill all the male children. Did God send someone to kill Herod? Did anyone rise up to do any violence to protect Jesus? No. Instead, God sent an angel to Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.

In Mark 3.1-7, Jesus entered a synagogue and healed a man. This enraged the Pharisees because Jesus healed on the sabbath. The Pharisees went and conspired how to destroy Jesus. “Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.”

In Luke 22.47-53, Judas came with a great crowd with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. The crowd laid hands on Jesus and seized him. Then, one of the disciples took out a sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus said, “No more of this,” and he healed the ear of the servant. In Matthew’s account, Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Jesus neither defended himself nor needed anyone else to defend him. Also in Matthew’s account, Jesus asked if they didn’t realize that he could appeal to his Father and at once have 12 legions of angels to defend him. But, he didn’t do that.

In both Matthew 27.11-14 and Mark 14.53-65, Jesus was on trial. Yet, he said nothing in his defense. He did not answer a single accusation.

In John 8.53-9.11, Jesus defended the woman caught in the act of adultery without any violence.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for preaching Jesus. They were threatened by the authorities to never teach about Jesus again. But, just read their words to the other disciples in response.

“‘And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4.29-31)

The disciples very lives were being threatened. Yet, they prayed that they would speak about Jesus with boldness. As they spoke, God will heal and do signs and wonders. Jesus had been crucified unjustly. That’s what the disciples were speaking about. It’s what Christians are to be speaking about today. How could they, and we, use violence to defend ourselves when Jesus never did.

The apostles were brought before the chief priest and the council again for preaching about Jesus. They were threatened again. They were beaten and told never to preach about Jesus again. “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5.41-42).

They were teaching that the Christ was the one who was crucified, the one who willingly laid down his to life to show God’s love and forgiveness. How could any of them use violence to defend themselves and preach that message with any integrity at all?

Stephen was doing great signs and wonders when men from the synagogue argued with him. They seized him and brought him before the council. Stephen goes on a long speech about Jesus. This enraged the council and they had Stephen stoned to death. Yet, there is no account of any follower of Jesus defending Stephen. There is no record of anyone using any form of violence to stop his arrest or execution. Surely, some of the other apostles and disciples were present at his arrest. Surely, some of them tried to hear and see what was going on at his trial. But, we have no record of them doing any violence to stop it.

Saul approved of his execution. “But, Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (Acts 8.3) Here is the very example that gets thrown out by Christians in their arguments against being non-violent. Here, Saul, a great persecutor of Christians, is coming into their very homes and dragging off men and women to prison. Yet, we don’t have a single recorded instance of self-defense. There’s no statement of Christians protecting their families or their property.

Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why?

Paul, the converted Saul, went from barging into people’s homes to drag them off to prison to becoming one of those Christians that never defended himself. He was beaten and flogged. He was left for dead outside a city. He was lowered in basket over the city wall to flee his persecutors. Instead of defending himself at trial, he preached the gospel. Ultimately, he was beheaded for his following Jesus.

But, after his conversion, Paul never did any violence. Instead, he said talked about rejoicing and participating in suffering.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1.24)

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3.10)

Paul routinely and repeatedly cited his sufferings and his willingness to undergo those sufferings as evidence for the veracity of the gospel that he preached. In other words, Paul’s words about Jesus would have had no power if he had remained the violent Saul. Paul could not have spoken truthfully about Jesus if he used violence to defend himself. Paul’s message of a Christ who died for you out of love to forgive you would have carried no weight. For, how would Paul be able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2.20-21)

Just as it was for Paul, so it is for Christians today. If we want to preach Jesus Christ, Christ crucified, then we have to lay down every violent tendency and every need and reason for self-defense. For, it is the willingness to suffer, to even die, for the ones you are preaching Jesus to that lends power to the gospel.

In my opinion, there is why the American church is seemingly so weak. We have lost the understanding of the power of suffering. American Christians negate suffering at every turn. Instead, American Christians seek to defend our families, our property, our rights, our country, and on and on. And, we kill you if necessary.

Yes, this sounds foolish, but “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.18) “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1.25)

Therefore, if Christians today truly want to preach the message of the apostles, the early church, and Paul, we need to lay down all violence and self-defense (even in words). We need to be willing to lose our lives. This is to follow Jesus and pick up our cross daily. This is to have the same mind as Jesus (Philippians 2.1-11).

How Have We Been Called to Follow Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: 1 PETER, 2 PETER

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.21-22)

Peter says servants should be subject to their masters. Yes, be subject to the good master, although this is relatively easy and does not give you much, if any, credit or glory. But, be subject also to the unjust, harsh, or crooked master. For, if you do good while suffering for it, then that is a a gracious thing in God’s sight. In other words, doing good while suffering is a thing that God rejoices over.

Peter says this not as an endorsement of the master-servant relationship. He is not saying that the servant must remain subject to his master forever without exception. Peter is not saying that the servant is forever forbidden to seek freedom.

Peter says this for one reason only. Doing good while suffering, being a servant to an unjust master, is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christ did good while suffering, leaving us an example to do the same.

Peter then tells us exactly what the example is we are to follow.

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22)

Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53.9. His quotation is fairly close to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “Because he committed no lawlessness, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” The Hebrew version is similar, saying, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

So, we have the terms violence, lawlessness, and sin all used in the same place. Therefore, on one hand, these words interpret each other and may even be somewhat interchangeable. On the other hand, I think we can see a progression in the thought there Jesus did no violence, no lawlessness, no sin.

The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. It means violence and by implication wrong. According to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) the word implies “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy, kill, often implying a lawlessness, terror, and lack of moral restraint.” Interesting, as that is exactly what many Christians think Jesus is going to do upon his second coming. Even though Isaiah 53.9 says that God’s servant, his messiah, “had done no violence.”

The first time hamas is used in the Bible is Genesis 6.11-12, which says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” The earth was filled with violence that was direct result of mankind, all flesh, corrupting his way of living.

In all the Old Testament there is only one that ever commits violence  – mankind. And, mankind’s violence returns upon its own head throughout the Old Testament.

“His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” (Psalm 7.16)

“No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58.2)

“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalm 73.6)

“The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you.” (Habakkuk 2.17)

Not one time does the Old Testament say that God did violence. However, God is said to save and deliver us from violence.

“My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my savior, you save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22.3)

“You delivered me from men of violence.” (2 Samuel 22.49)

“From oppression and violence he redeems their life.” (Psalm 72.14)

Even though the Old Testament speaks of violence done through trade and divorce, it’s easy to construe it as speaking of physical violence only. Then, those that want an excuse to soften the example that Jesus gave us to follow always ask, “What is violence?” In other words, “How can I physically harm someone and have it not be considered violence?” Or, they ask, “What about violence done in self-defense?”

Here’s where the Septuagint begins to provide a progression of what encompasses violence. For, the Septuagint replaces violence with lawlessness (anomia in the Greek) in Isaiah 53.9.

Lawlessness simply means without law.

But, what does that mean in the context of Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?

Matthew 22.36-40 says, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus simply defined the law as love – first for God, second for your neighbor. Therefore, to be lawless, to be without law, is to not love, to be without love.

Peter takes it even a step farther by replacing lawlessness with sin. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It’s enlightening to see where the hamartia might have come from though. According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible, hamartia is from the Greek word hamartano. Harmatano is perhaps from the negative particle a, meaning not, and from meros, which means to a division or share (to get as a section or allotment). Hamartano properly means to miss the mark but with the idea of to not share in the prize.

Many Christians are aware of sin, hamartia, as missing the mark. But, seeing the possible derivation of hamartia, reveals that sin, by missing the mark, can be seen as a not sharing in the prize?

What is the prize?

The divine nature.

God’s life.

When we sin, we miss the mark and fail to share in the prize that is God’s life, the divine nature.

Therefore, Peter writes in 2 Peter 1.3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”

To sin is to be lawless and without love.

To be without love is to be violent.

We are violent because of our sinful desires.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

That Christ did no sin, now lawlessness, and no violence, and had no deceit in his mouth is exemplified in his crucifixion.

The cross is the epitome, the fullest revelation, of Jesus and God.

“But we preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.23, 24)

On the cross, sin was crucified.

Jesus bore our sin in his body. And, his body that bore our sin was cursed, hung on a tree, and crucified so as to kill every sinful desire that when they conceive give birth to sin and mature into death.

On the cross, love was fully displayed.

Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men, men without law, without love. But, love, God, was manifested when Jesus laid down his life to be crucified on the cross.

On the cross, God put to death the idea that he was in any way violent.

Jesus did not do violence of any kind during his life. And, he most certainly did not violence on the cross. Instead, he suffered every form of violence on the cross.

He was mocked.

He was derided.

He was spat upon.

He was slapped in the face.

He was stripped naked.

He was tortured.

He was crucified.

On the cross, Jesus suffered everything from evil words spoken against him to being killed.

Yet, he did nonce of those things.

What then is the violence we are to not do as the example Jesus set for us?

Everything from not speaking against someone to killing someone.

It’s all violence. It’s all lawlessness. It’s all sin.

Notice what Peter goes on to say after he said Jesus’ example was he did no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2.23)

When evil words were spoken of Jesus, he spoke no evil words in return.

When Jesus suffered, that is when he was crucified, killed, murdered, not only did he not do any violence in return, he did not even threaten those who crucified him. He only commanded (the Greek verb is in the imperative) his Father to forgive them.

He did not even threaten those killing him.

Why was Jesus able to do this?

Because “he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus just shared in the divine nature, lived out love, laid down his life for the whole world.

He simply obeyed the commandment to speak eternal life, forgiveness, his Father had given him.

But, Jesus left the outcome in God’s hands.

Why do we not follow Jesus’ example?

Why do we ask, “What is violence?” so that we can follow Jesus without picking up our own cross daily?

Why do we seek to justify our violent response to those seeking to kill us?

Why do we seek to justify speaking evil word to those harming?

Because we haven’t entrusted ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t given ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t put the overcome in God’s hands.

Instead of simple obedience, we want to control the outcome.

We want to save our life. But, we will only lose it in the end.

Instead of losing our life now to gain the very life of God.

But, this is the example Jesus has set for us.

This is how we have been called to follow him.

As the Lord Lives, or Jesus Is Lord

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 4-5

“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and him shall they glory.'” – Jeremiah 4:1-2

If Israel was going to return to God and if they were to swear “As the Lord lives” in truth , justice, and righteousness, then the nations would be blessed and glory in the Lord.

Israel was originally called by God to be a witness of him, a light, to the Gentile nations. They had failed in that calling because they had become enslaved to idols and false gods. But, if they would return to God, turn from their false idols, then they would once again be a witness of God to the nations and the nations would be blessed through them.

A condition of their returning to God was to proclaim “As the Lord lives” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness.

What does “As the Lord lives” mean?

And, how do we see Jesus in this proclamation?

“As the Lord lives” was something Israel was to swear. Therefore, this phrase is an oath. And, it is used that way all throughout the Old Testament.

However, you could swear “As the Lord lives” falsely.

Jeremiah 5:1-2 says, “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. Thought they says, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely.”

Israel was proclaiming “As the Lord lives,” but no man could be found who did justice and sought truth in all Jerusalem. In other words, men were claiming “As the Lord lives” but their actions revealed that oath they swearing was not a reality in their lives. So, the profession “As the Lord lives” was false because their words did not line up with their actions.

Jeremiah 23 connects the oath “As the Lord lives” to Jesus.

Verses 5-6 say, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.'”

Remember that Israel was to declare “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness but not one man could be found to do so. However, in Jeremiah 23:5-6, we find just such a man.

Of course, these verses are referring to Jesus, the righteous branch, that came forth from David. This one man, Jesus, does not profess the oath, “As the Lord lives,” verbally, but he does profess it with his life. Notice that these verses say Jesus would reign as king and deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness. In other words, by the life he lived, Jesus professed “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness and all the nations are blessed in him, just as Jeremiah 4:1-2 says. Here is the one man in all the streets of Jerusalem that could not be found in Jeremiah 5:1-2.

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus declared of himself that he is the living one, alive forevermore, the Lord that lives.

In the New Testament, we do not find the words “As the Lord lives,” but we find a similar oath.

Romans 10:8-9 says, “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

1 Corinthians 12:2-3 says, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

In the New Testament, instead of professing “As the Lord lives” we profess “Jesus is Lord.” This is our oath. This is the declaration we swear to live by. But, we can swear it falsely, just like in the Old Testament, if our the actions of our life do not line up with the words we say. This is why Paul says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Not because you can’t literally say the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit, but because you can’t actually live the life that reflects the reality of the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

How do we go about professing “Jesus is Lord?”

Notice that back in Jeremiah 4:3-4 it says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.'”

Jeremiah stated that in order to swear truthfully “As the Lord lives” one had to break up their fallow ground and be circumcised, removing the foreskin of their hearts. In other words, one had to repent and be baptized.

This is exactly what we see in the New Testament. In Acts 2, Peter delivers the first sermon in church history. He closes it in verse 36, saying “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” In other words, Peter closed by saying, “Jesus is Lord.”

What was the response of the hearers?

Verse 37 says, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” The hearers had come to see that “Jesus is Lord” just as Peter proclaimed. What should they do in response?

Verse 38 says, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Just like Jeremiah 4, you need to repent and be baptized to truly profess “Jesus is Lord.” And, Peter says that you will receive the Holy Spirit to ensure that the profession of your mouth lines up with the profession of your life.

So, what will the life of one who proclaims “Jesus is Lord” with his mouth and the actions of his life look like?

I believe there are threes specific actions the flow out of allegiance to the oath “Jesus is Lord.”

Isaiah 53:9 says, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

Daniel 9:9 says, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.”

Jesus lived a life that was marked by absolutely no violence and no lies. This is why he was also to go to the cross and be crucified to be free us from our bondage to sin, idols, and false gods. And, it was because Jesus lived a life marked by no violence and no lies that he was able to proclaim forgiveness, mercy, to us from the cross.

Jesus proclaimed that the same should be true of us. In John 8, Jesus said that Satan was the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. He told the Jews he was talking to that Satan was their father, meaning their lives were marked by murder, violence, and lies. But, Jesus told them that those whom the son sets free are free indeed. Therefore, to say that “Jesus is Lord,” means that your life is no longer characterized by the works of Satan – murder of lies – but by Jesus, who did no violence and no lies.

In the context of loving your enemies, in Luke 6:36, Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The ultimate display of that mercy was Jesus’ forgiveness of us even as we were crucifying him. Therefore, our lives should be marked by the same level of forgiveness.

Remember that Jeremiah 23 said that Jesus was the one man that was found who said “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness. And, that Israel would truly swear “As the Lord lives” if there profession was lived out in truth, justice, and righteousness.

To live in truth is to live without lies.

Righteousness is not the right moral action alone. It is more than that. Righteousness is setting things right. For Jesus, this meant bringing to life. In John 10:10, Jesus said he came to give life and life more abundantly. This will be fulfilled when the last enemy, death, Satan’s chief weapon, is defeated. To live in righteousness is to bring life and overcome death, murder, violence.

To live in justice is to give mercy. Mercy, forgiveness, was Jesus’ justice from the cross. James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Paul sums this profession, “Jesus is Lord,” in two ways for me.

First, in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, he says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And, in Galatians 6:14, Paul says, But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Second, in Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Let me close with two final points.

First, “As the Lord lives” is used eight times in the book of Jeremiah. Eight is the number of new beginning or new creation. When we proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and truly live a life marked by no violence, no lies, and complete forgiveness as Jesus did, then we participate with him in ushering in the new creation and causing the nations of the world to be blessed and glory in Christ.

Second, “As the Lord live” us used 35 times in the Old Testament. The number 35 speaks to vindication and hope. Remember, we can say Jesus is Lord because he is the living one who died and is alive forevermore. That Jesus lives and is Lord is both or vindication and our hope.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, if Christ has not been raised, then our faith would be without hope, without vindication.

However, 1 Peter 1:21 says, “God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Jesus has been raised, resurrected. He is the living one. “As the Lord lives” he is our vindication and hope.

Jesus is Lord!

Love: Everything Depends on It

TODAY’S READING: PSALM 119

Psalm 119 is all about God’s law, commandments, rules, precepts, testimonies, statutes, and words.

Or is it?

As I was reading the psalm this morning, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that Psalm 119 is all about love.

“God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

How do we know God is love? What makes God’s love real to us?

“God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:9

Psalm 119 states a connection between life and God’s law, commandments, rules, precepts, testimonies, statutes, and words.

“Give me life according to your word.” – verse 25

“Give me life in your ways.” – verse 37

“I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” – verse 93

“Give me life according to your rules.” – verse 156

But, we saw in 1 John 4 that we live when God’s love is manifested to us when Jesus laid down his life for us on the cross. We live when we come to know that God’s law, commandments, rules, precepts, testimonies, statutes, and words are all about laying down your life for the benefit of another. That is love.

In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus showed the relationship between love and law.

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. this is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'”

Jesus said everything depends, or hangs, on love. Love is the single principle that holds the creation together.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” – 1 John 4:18

Fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. We fear that we will be without what we need or want. This fear then propels us to act like Satan – lying and doing violence. James 4:2 says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Fear is the emotion that drives all lying and violence in the world. But, there is no fear in love and perfect love casts out all fear.

Therefore, in Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

When you no longer fear that you will be without what you need or want, then you are able to love your enemies. You are no longer desiring and coveting what they have. Instead, you are willing to lose everything that you have so that your enemy will be loved.

Therefore, in Matthew 16:25, Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We try to save our life by holding on to whatever we have through lies and violence. This is the way of Satan’s kingdom and the world. But, if we lose our life, that is if we let go of protecting everything we have through lies and violence, then we find life. Then we know the love of God and can live.

The more I spend time with Jesus and the scriptures, the more I understand that salvation is not going to heaven. Salvation is freedom from the slavery of the fear of death. The fear of death leads us to act through all manner of lies and violence. But, salvation is the freedom to live through love. Salvation is to no longer protect my life and my possessions through lies and violence.

With this understanding of law, commandments, etc. depending on love and salvation as the freedom from lies and violence to love, even your enemies, Psalm 119 has some interesting revelation on how Jesus lived and how we are live like him.

“Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” – Psalm 119:23

Jesus’ enemies were continually plotting against him, but he meditated on God’s love. Jesus never considered lies and violence toward his enemies because he was always meditating on God’s love.

“Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!” – Psalm 119:29

False ways are lying and violence. We need to pray that all lying and violence – no exceptions – would be far from us. And, we need to pray that God would teach us his love.

“Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me; for I trust in your word.” – Psalm 119:41-42

When we have God’s promised salvation, the freedom to love with no need for lies and violence, then, and only then, can we respond to our enemies with love. It’s when we are free from lies and violence that we can repay evil with good instead of evil with evil as the world does.

“The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.” – Psalm 119:51

In our flesh, when someone really gets on us, we want to get back at them in an equal manner through some sort of lie or violence. But, Jesus never did that. He never did because even when the ridicule of his enemies was at its worst – if you are the son of God then take yourself down from the cross – he did not turn away from God’s love.

There are many, many more instances in Psalm 119 where replacing law, commandments, rules, precepts, testimonies, statutes, and words with love and salvation with freedom from lies and violence reveal deeper insight about how we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

Jesus Did No Violence and Spoke No Lies

TODAY’S READING: PSALM 9-17

In Psalm 17, David is proclaiming his innocence. It’s more than ironic that David bases his claim of innocence on lips free from deceit and his avoidance of the ways of the violent. Recall the whole incident with Bathsheba and Uriah.

But, the psalm isn’t really about David anyway. It’s about Jesus.

Prophesying of Jesus, Isaiah 53:9 says, “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

No violence.

No deceit.

Jesus never, ever did either anything violent or deceitful.

But, this is not the only time violence and lies are mentioned together in the Bible. In fact, if you read closely, then you will see that two concepts are mentioned together more often than they are mentioned separately.

I believe every psalm can be read in some way as a prayer of Jesus. So, let’s look at Psalm 17 in that light.

Verse 1 says, “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!” Here we see Jesus making the claim that he has never spoken lies or deceit.

Verse 4 says, “With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the way of the violent.” Here we see Jesus making the claim that he never did anything violent.

While the ideas of no violence and no lies are repeatedly linked in the Bible, it is especially true in the psalms. That the psalms are prayers of Jesus makes the link between no violence and no lies even more important.

That Jesus did no lies and no violence hits a fever pitch in the gospel of John.

In John 8, Jesus accuses the Jews of being of their father the devil.  In John 8:44, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Then, in John 18, Jesus has a conversation with Pilate just before he is executed. In verses 36 and 38, violence and lies come up together. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Do some word studies on violence, murder, mischief, snares, and pits and lies, deceit, deceitfulness, and flattery. Scripture could not be more clear that Jesus, and therefore God, did no violence and spoke no lies. This needs to be firmly fixed in our minds if we want to truly know God.