By Ven. D.C.A. Oguike
The case which the committee of nations are wrestling with and do not know how to handle in this 21st Century of our time is violence. Violence abounds everywhere, from domestic violence to political violence. Far too much violence is shown in the Television screen which leads to more violence in the homes and our streets. Now that our politicians and the populace are involved in partisan politics in Nigeria, it is therefore necessary for Nigerian Christians to know the mind of our Lord in this issue of violence.
One should be asking “Why limit this issue of violence on Christians?” Every Christian must know this that the peace of the World rests on the Christians response. It is only in the Christian faith that Love of the enemy’ is stressed. This love of the enemy, turning the other cheek if someone strikes one on the right cheek, or going the extra mile, should one force you to go one mile, is never seen in the vocabulary of the spurious ‘Holy books” of other faiths. So the Christian has a responsibility. The above preaching paragraph is important, but let us go to the issue
The consequent of Cannan as described in some cities like the Bible, was a bloody one. Jericho were put to the sword. Is it not dangerous to have such material in the Bible? Might not these stories incite Christians to acts of bloodshed or even genocide against others? The answer to this question is a very emphatic “NO!”
There are a numbers of reasons why the conquest of Cannan and other stories of conflict in the Bible do not incite Christians into violent acts of insurrection, murder and genocide.
One is that the account of the conquest of Cannan was entirely situation-specific. Yes, there is a divine instruction reported in the Bible to take the land by force and occupy it, driving out the inhabitants (Number 33:52). However, this was not an eternal permission to wage war. It was for a specific time and place. According to the Bible, the Cannanites had come under divine judgment because of their religious practices, above all, child-sacrifice (Deut. 18 10-12).
The sacrificing of first born children by immolating them before an idol was a persistent trait of Cannanite religion. The Phoenicians were Cannanites, and as late as second century BC the people of Carthage, a Phoenician colony, were scarifying children to their goddess Tanit. Archeologists have found charred remains of tens of thousands of new born infants and fetuse buried in Carthage. The practices of child sacrifice made the Romans despise the Carthaginians.
The Bible stories’ of the use of force against the Cannanites are more than balanced by the accounts of the destruction of Israel and Judah by foreign armies. These violent invasions are also described as being God’s judgement, now turned against the Israelites because they did not distance themselves from Canaanite religious practices. Even the kings of Israel and Judah are charged with practicing child sacrifice (II Kings 17:17, 12:6. Ezekiel 16:21).
Although the Old Testament does condone the use of force to purge a land of violence and injustice, the Bible’s attitude to such violence is not that it is sacred or holy. On the contrary, King David who fought many wars with God’s active support and guidance was not allowed to be the one to build God’s temple in Jerusalem, because there was so much blood in his hand (1 Chron. 28:3).
Violence therefore is regarded in the Bible as an inherently evil symptom of corruption of the whole earth after the fall: “the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 611). In contrast, prophet Isaiah looked forward to the day when the day of violence would be no more. Isaiah describes the Lord’s anointed as unacquainted with violence: “They made His grave with the wicked, and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully” (Is. 53:9).
In this way the Old Testament sets the scene for the revelation of Jesus Christ. The key question for Christians is, “what did Jesus have to do with violence?” When we turn to consider Jesus and His followers, we find a systematic rejection of religious violence. Jesus message was that His kingdom would be spiritual and not political. Jesus explicitly and repeatedly condemnes the use of force to achieve His goals; “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword”(Matt. 26:52′). As Jesus went to the cross, He renounced force, even at the cost of His own life: “My kingdom is not of this world if my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here” (Jn. 18:16 ).
At one point Christ said, “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on earth, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt, 10:14). The quotation is sometimes cited by anti-Christian apologists as evidence for Jesus Militancy. One should understand that this statement occurs in an extended passage where Jesus is advising His disciples on the inevitability of persecution. The sword He refers to is the one which will be raised against His disciples.
Jesus talk on violence was reinforced by the apostle Paul and Peter, who urged Christians to show consideration to their enemies, renounce retaliation, live peaceably, return cursing with blessing, and show humility to others (Rom. 12 14-21, Titus 3 U2, 1 Pet, 2 20’24). They also allowed that the (most likely pagan) civil f authorities would need to use force to keep the peace and this role should be respected (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). This was an extension of the earlier Jewish position that Jews should submit to the rule of law in which ever country they find themselves, even if the king was a pagan (Jer. 29:4-7).
The New Testament supports the just use of force as a proper function of the state, whatever its religious identity. Thus it is not a specifically religious or sacred act, to go to war or to use force to implement justice. It is just a matter of public duty, one aspect of the ordering of society which God has established for the common good, Fighting may be considered just, not because it is advancing any one faith over another, but because it is warranted and conducted according to principles of justice applicable to all people.
If the Christians had maintained this New Testament position down the Centuries, the world would have been a better place. The invention of Christendom” in the fourth Christian Century, and the later influence of a centuries long struggle against Islamic Jihad, ultimately led Christians to develop an usual, not socially accepted theologies that, regarded warfare against non-Christians as “holy”. Soldiers who died fighting in such wars were regarded as “Martyrs”. Thankfully, this view of warfare has been universally denounced in the modern era as incompatible with the Gospel of Christ.