Read Matthew 26:47-54
47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? 54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” (NLT)
It is so easy to resort to what we might call the world’s methods when confronted with challenges. We can resort to political lobbying; slick advertising; manipulative relationships. And we can even resort to violence.
Church history is littered with instances of the church using violent means to achieve what it thought to be noble ends. In Gethsemane, at least one disciple figured violence was the way out of a tight spot. Until Jesus reminded him that such violence doesn’t work and that there was something wider and deeper going on.
The Christian theologian Miroslav Volf, who himself has experienced violent persecution, suggests that the church resorts to violence when it has political power. When it uses religion as a sort of marker to highlight a group identity. The Inquisition is an example of the former and the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland are an example of the latter.
A marginal church which sees all people as loved by God will not so easily turn to violence. A grace-filled church which realises it is no way superior to others will not use violence to establish supremacy over others. A humble church which recognises it doesn’t have all the answers will not seek to coerce others to believe through violent means.
We win our battles by putting away our swords.