A Christian response to violence

I am going to break away from my current blog series on the church to engage you about recent events that occurred in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California; specifically, the current concern over terrorism. Many opinions have been given. A variety of actions have been proposed for addressing the issue of terrorism from the White House to presidential candidates, even religious leaders. The purpose of this blog is not to add to what has already been submitted, but to consider a Christian, biblical view.
The role of Religion
In the first of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul addresses other “faiths”. This was a contemporary issue for them, as they lived in an inclusive, polytheistic culture, as do we. He does so in the context of Christians eating things sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-6). In Paul’s day, other religions were founded upon idols, which many considered to be gods that were worthy of worship, service, and sacrifices. You can still witness food sacrifices in some Chinese restaurants today. For some, to eat things that were sacrificed to an idol was akin to participating in idolatry.
Paul begins by saying that Christians have a knowledge and understanding regarding other faiths, that many lack (1). “We know that there is no such things as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” (4b). He acknowledges that though others may hold to many “so called gods” (5), that does not make those gods real. So he concludes, “…there is but one God…” and we come into existence through Him and our life is fully about Him.
As a result, the Christian understands that other religions, though having passionate followers, are no more real than the stone or wood idols worshiped in the 1st Century. I know this is not a popular position to hold in our present culture, but it is true nonetheless. As such, we may be giving too great an emphasis on a particular false faith than we ought to. I have no desire to disparage people’s deep felt beliefs and convictions, wherever they are put. In fact I have a regard for their religiousness, with the hope that one day it will be directed upon the One who is worthy of it. All that to say, to place a great focus on Islam or any other religion, might be missing the mark with regards to current affairs. In truth, we may be giving the religion far more credit or blame than it deserves. Not just because it is a false religion, but because it is a product of man, not God, and in the end has of no greater value or power than a 1st Century idol. Thus, our present terrorist acts may not be so much about a false religion, but possibly something far more dangerous.
Spirit and Flesh
If indeed other religions are not real, and in-and-of-themselves, can do nothing to affect or impact those who hold to them, than what is behind all of the terrorist activities in our world today? And maybe we should add to these horrible acts, the other mass killings that have taken place in our nation—those not directly tied to religion. I wonder if something other than a false faith is at play here and it seems to me that that “something” is being completely ignored.
The Bible teaches that we live in both a physical and spiritual world. As westerners, we are more in tune to the physical world (science, etc) than the spiritual world. As a result, we look to things like medicine and psychiatry, or sociopolitical ideologies, to answer the horrific acts of some upon the innocent. Thus, we medicate, provide counseling and pass laws in attempts to remedy and mitigate the problem. What if the problem has an entirely different source; one that neither science nor politics either acknowledges or can resolve? What if the problem is a spiritual problem?
The Bible teaches us that there is a spiritual realm that is filled with powerful entities. It teaches that human conflict does not have its origins with people: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 6:12). And the implication is that these spiritual forces can have a profound influence on people. I believe the god of this world is boldly showing his hand and no one is acknowledging it. There is present in our world a thief who has come to harm us. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10a). Our own 9/11 revealed this strategy. Planes were stolen in mid-air and employed to kill as many people as possible and destroy the governmental and financial centers of our nation, as well as its spirit. We were all directed to focus on the perpetrators, but the one who influenced them were completely ignored. He is using people to accomplish his work and to bear the blame for it. And of all people, Christians should know this. It is not about flesh and blood.
You see, from a Christian perspective, Hitlers don’t become mass murders without spiritual deception and influence. Suicide bombers don’t blow themselves up in order to kill innocent people, without spiritual deception and influence. Young adults don’t enter their own schools in order to kill fellow students, without spiritual deception and influence. In Jesus’ day, the demon would attempt to throw the person possessed in the fire or water, to destroy them (Mark 9:22). Satan has upped his game in our generation. It is not enough for him to harm one, he is now after the many.
If our battle was against flesh only, than I suppose regulating guns or arming oneself with a gun, might be a solution. But it is not just about flesh, and as a result it is not just about guns, and I am saddened that this is missing in the present debate. However, it is about a fight and a war and about violence against a real enemy that is not flesh and blood. I want to stand on record for encouraging violence upon the spiritual influences that are behind mass killings. The Bible calls us to such violence. The apostle Paul employed a sword (something Peter was familiar with) as the metaphor to be armed with, in our time, he would use a gun. Paul admonished the Ephesians to prepare themselves for battle (put on the whole armor of God), and to take up the sword of the Spirit (the word of God). If he were alive today, he would probably say get ready for war (put on your spiritual bulletproof vest) and arm yourself with the gun of the Spirit (the word of God).
I am impressed again with the vital role the church has in our world. It is called by God to impact its spiritual environment and it is time for it to do its job. I fear our lack of diligence to this task is harming our nation. This is not the kind of warfare the world can do. It is the task of the church and I believe we need to take up arms, now. The enemy of our world has done enough harm. It is time to push him back.
So in the end, it is not about a false religion or about the tools used to accomplish evil (pipe bombs, fertilizer, guns or planes). It is about the souls of people and the deceitful influence of the god of this world on them. It is once again about God and His influence on the world through His church and the power given to that church to resist the devil, to be victorious conquerors over the enemy of this world.