“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20.
What is the difference between seeing a machete in the hand of a farmer and the same machete in the possession of an armed robber? I guess you might reason that the farmer could achieve lifesaving results, while the latter poses a threat to life and property. The same machete, different users, different results. “…A man is a slave of anything that rules over him” (2 Peter 2:19). This brings us to history.
An Apostle Learns A Lesson
As early as 35-37 AD, the disciples of Lord Jesus Christ already knew that anyone who lived a Godly life will suffer persecution. In that garden where Jesus was betrayed into the hands of religious and political mercenary, someone thought of a way to retaliate. He drew a sword and cut off an ear of one of the opposition, but he soon learnt from Jesus that that was not the Way of Truth.
Shortly after the outpouring of Holy Spirit, around 37 AD, believers were thrown to savage beasts, tortured, imprisoned and subjected to countless cruel experiences. But the persecutors were clearly people who did not believe the testimony of Jesus Christ, whether they were Jews or Romans. This lasted for more than 200 years and in that period, the believers had learnt the lesson of the Apostle: “God fights for Himself.”
By 312 AD, a Roman Emperor arose who claimed to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It was a new dawn and Christians were free to worship. But it did not take very long for schisms to arise among the Christians. Some persons felt they were more zealous than others and had a special call to protect the purity of the faith, so they devised means of getting political power to persecute other professing Christians who they felt were not in right standing.
Some of these were exiled, some imprisoned, later on, others were put to trial and condemned to death. Almost 1,000 years later, people were burned to death at the stake because they had translated the Scriptures into their own native languages. Summarily, Christians became the persecutors of fellow Christians.
Unfortunately, and more recently though, two groups, both claiming to be followers of Jesus took up arms and fought themselves to death for 30 good years (1618-1648). One of these groups as usual had a claim that it was ‘the custodian’ of the faith, hence, must have its will enforced. The other, feeling threatened by the physical threats of the former also took up arms to defend itself. And so it went that in 30 years, 35% of a country’s population was wiped out “in the Name of Christ Jesus”.
It ‘seems’ believers sometimes forget the words of Jesus and walk in the flesh by striving with other believers.
What Truth Is
Jesus says: “love your enemies…”; the flesh says: ” hate your enemies”. Jesus says: “blessed are those who mourn…”; the flesh says: ” blessed are you who make your enemies mourn”. Jesus says: “blessed are the merciful…”; the flesh says: “blessed are the retaliators”. Jesus says: ” blessed are the peacemakers”; the flesh says: “the weak turn the other cheek”.
Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight so I would not be delivered to the Jews; but now, my kingship is not from here” (John 18:36). When people take up arms to fight ‘using the Name of Jesus as an excuse’, what kingdom are they defending?
When a disciple resorted to physical violence in defense of his betrayed Lord, the Lord urged the disciple to put away the sword and warned him that those who kill by the sword die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).
Is it possible for someone to be good intentioned and take up arms in the ‘Name of Jesus’? Yes, but such a person is ill-informed. He is like that machete that is available for the use of an armed robber. He leaves destruction in his wake.
The Scripture refers to this as walking in the flesh and the works of the flesh are manifest (Galatians 5:19-21). The one who walks in the Spirit will suffer much, but the hallmark is Love. He is the very much blessed one that the Lord speaks about in Matthew 5. Like the machete in the possession of a farmer, he is on a life-preserving mission and the fruit of the Spirit is evident (Galatians 5:22-24).
This brings us back to the quote from James 1:19-20. In all the historical episodes above, whether the fight was done out of good or bad intentions, to preserve the purity of the faith or for personal vendetta, we understand that “…the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” It takes the imagination to contain how much blood has been shed by professing Christians through the centuries.
The Father who Jesus teaches about knows how to win the fight His Way, so, “let the Lord fight for you while you hold your peace”. No reason should be great enough to destroy people who believe differently.
Commit it to God in love. The heart’s attitude should be a desire for the restoration of others, not their destruction. God will do it His way.
Once again “… the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”.