Monday, August 18, 2014

Should Persecuted Christians Fight Back?

            The social media was rampant with gory details of persecutions of Christians in Iraq by the ISIS and the savagery of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Thus it’s merely reasonable to think about the rightful response to these persecutions by the persecuted.

            Notwithstanding a reasonable thought, an article by Michael L. Brown, an eminent Messianic Jewish scholar, recently asked the same question – should persecuted Christians fight back? He provides the pros and cons for retaliating.

            Here is a summary from his article (please refer his article for his exposition).1 Dr. Brown’s reasons against retaliation are:

            “1) Jesus went to the cross willingly and instructed His followers not to fight for Him (John 18:36). We are to follow in His footsteps (Matthew 16:21-26).

            2) None of the apostles resisted persecution.

            3) Jesus taught against fighting back (Matthew 26:51-54).

            4) The entire testimony of the New Testament is against us violently fighting against our persecutors. We are called to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48), we are the lambs going to the slaughter (Romans 8:35-39; 1 Peter 2:21-23), we are promised persecution (2 Timothy 2:3; John 15:18-20), and only those who suffer with Jesus will reign with Him (Romans 8:16-18), and great is their reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12).

            5) Jesus told His disciples that if they were persecuted in one city, they should flee to another (Matthew 10:22-25). He could have given military alternatives as well, but He did not.”

            Dr. Brown apparently suggests reasons for Christians to retaliate…

            “1) From a humanitarian perspective, a how would a father of three young daughters offer them to the persecutors for rape, torture and sex slavery, would he not fight for their lives?

            2) What do we do when we can’t flee?

            3) Today persecution is a geo-political issue. Should not Christians take up arms to defend themselves just as anyone else in their shoes would fight against an invading army?

            4) It is the proper role of government to use the sword to fight against evil and uphold good (see Romans 13:1-4). Some terrorist groups, like Boko Haram, are in complete violation of their country’s laws, so for Christians to fight against them is no different than a Christian homeowner using physical force to stop a dangerous intruder.

            5) The Scriptures call us to rescue those who are perishing (Proverbs 24:11-12). So why not fight those who are beheading Christian children and slaughter others in the most gruesome ways?

            6) Luke 22:35-38 suggests that swords could be used for self-defense…”

            The reasons to fight and not to fight sounds compelling, but is it more compelling to fight back or not to? Here is my personal take on this situation.

            If the persecutors force themselves to violate the sanctity of my children or any other member of my family, then I would do all that it takes to defend my family. I would rather give up my life in defending my family than not. Only the creator and the Father God has the right to take life off this earth (Cf. 1 Samuel 2: 6-7; Job 1: 21). Loving our neighbor entails protection.

            If the persecutors are in the business of slaughtering Christians for their faith in Christ, then I would most willingly offer my life for the sake of Christ. In other words, I would not recant my faith in Christ to live a few more miserable years. A profitable reminder from history is the martyrdom of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). 2

            From a nation’s standpoint, the ruling authority should do all that it takes to protect the basic human rights of all its citizens. The world should intervene during persecutions to protect those being persecuted.

            But what if persecutions are engineered by the ruling authorities? A typical case in point would be the persecutions organized by Hitler or Mao Zedong.

            If Christians are being persecuted by the governing authorities, then the Bible does not offer any tangible reason to fight back the governing authorities by means of violence. Fleeing is an option, but if fleeing is not possible, then persecution should be endured. Christians cannot take up arms to fight or rebel against the governing authorities.

            There could be persecutions at the workplace. Especially if we are ardent in our faith in Christ, then the ardent believer(s) of other worldviews may innovate methods to jeopardize our presence at the workplace. In such situations, our primary response should be to allow our work ethics and proficiency to strengthen our presence at our workplace.      

            There is never a good reason to fight our persecutors at our workplace. Therefore, when the going gets tough, then we, as tough Christians, should increase our work efficiency at our workplace to let our work defend our presence.

            If persecutions at work go out of hand, and there are good instances where it can get harsh on us, then it may even be a viable option to consider moving out. But in any case, we should love our persecutors. We should never hate or retaliate against them. We can never repay evil for evil (Romans 12: 17).

            In some instances, our own family members would persecute us (Matthew 10: 21, 35-36; Luke 21: 16). They, like the other persecutors, may say all kinds of evil things against us (Matthew 5: 11) or use our own words against us (Matthew 22: 15; Luke 11: 53-54) or raise false accusations (Matthew 26: 59-61; 2 Timothy 2: 8-9) or crucify our character (Luke 7: 34; John 7: 12, 9: 24) or simply term us as the devil (Matthew 9: 34).

            While we suffer these persecutions, we ought to seriously consider if we are on the side of the truth or not. If we are not for Christ, then we are against HIM (Matthew 12: 30; Luke 11: 23).

            The objective for every Christian is to be in Christ and in HIS truth always. If we are in Christ, then our persecutions would be for HIS sake. The greater reward, according to the Bible, is only to those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ (Matthew 5: 10; 2 Timothy 3: 12).

            HoweverTherefore, if we are persecuted by our own, then we should endure it and not retaliate against them. 

            Retaliation is never an option for a Christian or a group of Christians. Retaliation against the governing authorities, through formation of rebel outfits, is out of question for Christians.  

            In HIS own mysterious yet marvelous ways, God will help those being persecuted (Psalm 46: 1). These verses summarize the state of the believers being persecuted, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-11, NASB, Emphasis Mine).

            To God be the glory (Jude 1: 25). Amen.

The discussion whether to retaliate or not does not imply that a nation not defend itself when it’s under attack (persecution). When a nation is under an unjust aggression, it does possess all reasonable rights to defend itself. Failure to defend, I believe, is a gross injustice to its citizens.


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 2 “One of the most stirring martyrdoms recorded in church history is Polycarp's. When the venerable bishop of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir, in Turkey) heard the Romans were planning to arrest him, he heeded his friends' advice and withdrew to a small estate outside of town. But while in prayer there, he had a vision. "I must be burned alive," he told his friends. When the soldiers arrived, his friends once more urged him to run, but Polycarp answered, "God's will be done."

After being escorted to the proconsul, Polycarp carried on a witty dialogue with his questioner, who flew into a rage and threatened Polycarp with death by fire. "The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little," Polycarp answered; "for you do not know the fire of coming judgment, and everlasting punishment, that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will."

At the execution scene the soldiers began to secure him to the stake, but Polycarp stopped them: "Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails." He prayed and the fire was lit. The second-century chronicler of this martyrdom said it was "not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace." The martyrdom, he added, was remembered by "everyone"—"he is even spoken of by the heathen in every place."” ( 

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