For years, I have puzzled over what Jesus meant when He told His disciples in Luke 22 to buy swords. I knew He didn't mean it literally, as evidenced by how He healed Malchus when Peter put his sword to use to cut off Malchus' ear. Today, God opened my understanding, finally after having been a Christian for 49 years, but it is timely.
I am not against people having guns, though I personally have never owned one, nor want to. I have never handled a gun, except to move a BB gun in a home I lived in, so that I could vacuum under the spot where it stood. I don't know how to release the safety catch, and even if I did, I have never been good at hitting a target with darts or a popping a basket ball in a hoop.
At times, I have thought that I might conceivably shoot someone dead in self–defense or to defend my family, or to defend other innocent persons, but with huge regret about killing someone who then went to Hell where they were going to suffer forever. I figured it would be better to have the kind of faith where I would just speak a word and people would fall backwards, like the mob that came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Supernatural intervention has happened in modern times. I have heard of Bibles made invisible to police in countries where Bibles were prohibited. I have heard of weapons jamming, giving people time to run away from someone who intended to murder them. I heard the testimony of Nora Lam, who said a bright light flashed when a communist Chinese firing squad tried to shoot her and none of the bullets touched her.
It seemed to me that Christians should develop the kind of faith that can produce these miracles of protection, but if our faith has not reached that level, God will not condemn us for using force to protect ourselves or others from being murdered.
It would seem that a lot of pastors would not agree with that statement. I have heard many of them call Moses a murderer because he killed a cruel taskmaster who was beating a Hebrew. They condemned him for not being more spiritual, for not knowing, at that time in his life, how to rescue the Israelites without killing someone.
Hmmm. So, would those pastors stand aside and watch someone be beaten to death, without trying to rescue them? How could Moses intervene in that situation without killing the man? If he ordered the man to stop, then he would be reported as sympathetic to the Hebrews, which would generate his own death warrant, as there were some in Pharaoh's court who didn't trust him and were watching for signs that he was loyal to his Hebrew roots.
I believe that, before Moses turned to God, he did murder people, and some of them were Hebrews, to prove his loyalty to the Egyptians, that they required it of him, and he would have been tortured and killed, if he did not do what was expected of him. When he chose to suffer with the people of God, rather than enjoy sin for a season, he knew that it could involve being tortured and put to death. He hoped to rescue the Hebrews before that could happen, though.
Moses was shocked when he realized that the Hebrews were not ready to accept him as their leader and he didn't know what to do about it, except run and hide until he could figure out a strategy. He figured he could do it because, after all, he was Egypt's General of the generals; he had saved Egypt from being over–run by the Ethiopians and had, instead, made Ethiopia a vassal state that paid tribute.
During his years in Midian, God used Moses' fierce Arab wife, Zipporah, to completely undermine his self–confidence, so that he would have to depend on God alone. In so doing, He prepared Moses to lead His people out of Egypt during a time when nature seemingly went wild and decimated their enemies, facilitating the Hebrews' exodus, without the Hebrews having to lift a hand against their rulers. If they had engaged in a physical fight with the Egyptians before then, it would have triggered their slaughter, with the law being on the side of the Egyptians.
So, I always pondered how God has a better way of dealing with violence against His people than for them to need to physically defend themselves, and, yet, He does not condemn people for using weapons for self–defense, nor people who choose the military as a career, if they do so for the right reasons. God gives each of us differing levels of grace, always with the intention to lead us deeper into His grace.
Some Christians are enabled to be fierce fighters within the military, and some are enabled to be medics who courageously rescue the wounded in the midst of flying bullets, and some are like Bill Drost, who was conscripted to be in the military during World War II. He felt he had no choice about being in the army, but he did believe that God could get him through the war without shooting anyone.
Bill was given a hard time in the army because of his Christian testimony. He didn't want to see movies, as he (rightfully) considered them a bad influence, but he was ordered to go to the tent where they were being shown. He obeyed the order, but then knelt at his seat, with his back turned to the screen, and prayed. The projector caught fire and the tent had be evacuated. After that, Bill was allowed to skip the movies.
He got through the war without firing his gun, though he was sometimes in the midst of gunfire. I think he must have eventually contributed to enemy deaths, as I recall reading about an incident where he helped set explosives on a bridge, but without firing his gun. He walked upright in the midst of a hail of bullets, without any hitting him, because he trusted in God's protection. Bill told his story in Bill Drost; The Pentecost. He was a man of such faith and purity in his life that demons knew his name.
Today, as I read Luke 22, I realized that I had been on the right track all along, though I did not understand why Jesus told His disciples to buy swords. I knew He did not mean for them to take it literally, though these verses have been used to justify gun ownership. I definitely think that people have a right to privately own weapons to defend their property and their family, but we need to take a close look at these verses.
"And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough." [Luke 22:35–38]
It was what He said about the things concerning Him having an end that opened my eyes. He came to die on the cross to redeem mankind, though it gets applied only individually, when a person turns away from their sins and trusts Jesus to be their Saviour, both to forgive them and wash away their sins, as well as to help them not sin anymore. As a result of having accomplished our salvation, He was able to return to Heaven and send us the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to live inside of us and guide us in His ways.
He reminded the disciples that, when He sent them out to preach, they didn't need to carry money, or their next meal in a packet, or extra shoes, and they didn't carry a staff to help them walk or to defend themselves against bandits. He provided their lodging, their food, kept their sandals from wearing out like He did for the Israelites in the wilderness, or had them replaced for free, and any incidentals they needed. He gave them strength for their journey and also protected them from being harmed.
When Jesus told them to take on supplies and a sword, what He was really saying was that, if they had to cope with life without Him, they would have to depend on their own strength and resources. But His statement was veiled, like when He told the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. He wasn't talking about yeast, as it relates to bread, but the disciples thought that He was talking about literal bread, and that He was scolding them for not bringing food with them, though that made no logical sense, considering what He said. He was talking about the Pharisees' hypocrisy, and He was annoyed that His disciples were so spiritually obtuse that they did not pick up on that.
Again, Jesus was frustrated with His disciples' lack of understanding when He spoke to them about buying swords, but He didn't have time to explain what He meant, so He let them think what they wanted to think. After all, He was shortly going to go to the cross, die, get resurrected, return to Heaven, and send them the Holy Ghost, who would then teach them and lead them into all truth.
At this point, Jesus needed to prepare for the trial ahead of Him of allowing the sins of all the world being rolled onto Him and losing His sense of connection to the Father, which was more devastating to Him that anyone will ever understand, even with an eternity of getting to know Him better.
Basically, Jesus was saying that, without Him, people would have to fend for themselves, but since His assignment was shortly going to be fulfilled, He would always be with us and provide for us and protect us, just like He did before when He sent out His disciples. It is according to our faith that this will be so. It behooves us to get our faith to that point. How much better it is to see God intervene to protect us, and possibly see our attackers get saved as a result of their amazement at the miracle and learning the fear of the Lord (reverence for God).
When Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and healed Malchus by giving him another ear, it proved that He did not literally mean for His disciples to buy swords. I could never ignore this curious contradiction. Instead of using it to justify gun ownership, isn't it better to become the sort of Christian who never considers anyone their enemy, but rather see them as a soul that needs to be saved, and bend their efforts in that direction? This is especially necessary to realize in our troubled times, when many are bent on causing division and provoking people to take up weapons against each other.
I am certainly not saying that we should let evil people run our country into the ground or allow its invasion by communists. God sets secular powers into place to deal with law–breaking and defense of nations, which always works better when backed up with prayer by His people. But, should not some of us, who are Christians, but not called to be police or military or judges, aim to be like Jesus would be in this situation? He ministered to His own people, but also to the Romans, healing their loved ones when they asked, and afterwards poured out the Holy Ghost on Romans and other Gentiles who believed on Him as their Saviour. The life that Jesus modelled on Earth is the ideal and can become our own experience, if we will work on getting our faith to that level of purity.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. [Matthew 10:16]
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.