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Comments by Neville Fowler - 14 Jan 2002 - 0342
The teaching of Jesus - mandatory for any who claim to be Christians - is very clear. We should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, not returning hate for hate, or violence for violence. This instruction is clearly meant for the here and now and not for the time when God's kingdom has been established on the earth. I do not believe however that this means that we cannot exercise reasonable defense if, for example, we are attacked with a knife by some one who is mentally ill or disturbed or simply of evil intent. Even then we would want to avoid causing injury to our assailant if at all possible. We should never allow hatred to dictate our actions.
There is all the difference in the world between this situation and that in which the governments of nations organise wars against one another, often for very dubious ends. One of the greatest apostasies of Christendom has been to deliberately flout the teaching of Jesus and to give its unreserved blessing to war-mongering politicians and even literally to bless their bombs and bullets in the name of Christ. It is well known that the clergy of the Church of England acted as recruiting sergeants in getting young men to sign up as volunteers for that territory grabbing holocaust called the First World War. In all the major wars most of those who call themselves Christians, those to whom Jesus said: "Love one another; by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another", having willingly and even enthusiastically followed the orders of the politicians to hate and kill one another. I am reminded that Jesus said also: "By their fruits you will know them."
There was a time when I felt it my duty to attempt to persuade my own government to adopt non-violence as its programme, to disarm unilaterally. In fact my wife and I originally met one another at 'Easter' 1959 at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march from Aldermaston to London! My understanding and attitude now, since I have spent more time studying the bible and taking the trouble to understand it, rather than using the bits I liked to support my enthusiasms, is that man is not going to create the kingdom of God on earth.
Present human governments, under God, have a job to do ruling a fallen world. They have only the power that He permits them to have and for as long as He permits it. Christians have a duty to be obedient to them except in so far as such obedience would conflict with God's requirements for them as individuals. A clear example of that would be if a government, local or national, were to ban the preaching of the gospel of God's kingdom.
So far as civil matters are concerned, Jesus himself gave an example of paying taxes, even unjust ones to an oppressive colonial power. Each of us has to make up our own mind, in the light of the scriptures, our conscience, and above all the leading of the Spirit of Christ, what should be our response in particular situations. For myself, I would still refuse, as a soldier of Jesus Christ whose kingdom is distinct from the kingdoms and governments of this world, to do 'compulsory' military service. That was my decision when I was 18 (45 years ago!) when Britain still had conscription for 'National Service'. Governments will do what they feel they have to do. My eyes are on the return in power and glory of the Messiah, that 'stone cut out without hands'. Then the human kingdoms will be blown away like chaff from the summer threshing floor. (Daniel 2:34,35).
None of us can tell others what they must do. It is the responsibility of each one of us before God to decide His will for us. What we MUST do is to love one another. If we do not do that then we show to the whole world that we are NOT his disciples.
Isaiah writes about the Messiah as being "The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus calls upon all believers to become peacemakers, and says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons [children] of God" (Matthew 5:9). Paul writes, "For the anxious longings of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons [children] of God" (Romans 8:19).
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