We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.

Non-Violence and Police Protection

badge-closeup

 Scott Davidson via Compfight

Question:  I am a President of a State University. As a frequent podcaster of your sermons and reader of your books, I’m seeking your advice on a matter. Because our campus is some distance from the police headquarters in our city, many within the State University are arguing that we should hired armed officers for protection. The call, ultimately, is mine to make. I share your views on the call of Jesus followers to love enemies and swear off all violence. So I’m wondering if you think it would be inconsistent for me to grant this request?

Answer. The question you raise is one of the most difficult ones a kingdom pacifist such as myself has to confront. So far as I can see, there is nothing ambiguous about what Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on loving enemies and setting aside violence entails for a follower of Christ. I don’t believe there are any circumstances where it would be okay for me to kill another person. So too, as a pastor over a Christian congregation, I don’t see any ambiguity in what these teachings imply for a congregation of Jesus followers.  There is no circumstance where it would be okay for us to use lethal force.

The ambiguity only arises in contexts such as yours. You are serving people in a context where the rules are completely different than they are within the kingdom. Followers of Jesus love enemies and refrain from violence out of faithfulness to Christ and because we are empowered by the Spirit to do so. But this is precisely what can’t be presumed in your context. Outside the kingdom, people operate on the basis of what seems ethical and on the basis of what makes sense (and/or, perhaps, on the basis of some other religious authority, such as the Koran or the Old Testament). And in this context, most people don’t believe it makes sense to refuse to kill a public assailant if doing so would save the lives of others.

So, it seems to me the question you have to wrestle with is this: Is it right for you to impose your kingdom ethic on a community of people who don’t share your kingdom motivation for embracing that ethic? Could one argue that this would be dictatorial?  And if an assailant tragically killed a student, might this not invite people to blame you for the death (whether an officer with a gun could or could not have prevented it)? A related question is this: is it the case that you are personally endorsing the use of deadly force by granting your community’s wish to allow officers to use deadly force if necessary on campus?  Personally, I’m inclined to think not.

In fact, while I believe I am called to swear off all violence, I don’t believe it would be hypocritical for me to call the police if someone were to break into my house, even though I know that these police carry guns and may perhaps use them against the thief.  Consider that immediately after Paul told Christians to love enemies, to never retaliate, and to leave all “vengeance” to God  (Rom.12:17-21), he went on to teach them that one of the ways God “exacts vengeance” is by using the sword of government, which is why Christians are to “submit” to it  (Rom.13:1-7).

I hope this helps you as your process how to lead the university forward while you at the same time wrestle with the call to imitate Christ.

Related Reading

What is the significance of 2 Peter 3:9–12?

Peter says that the Lord has delayed his coming because “he is patient with you, not wanting any to perish” (vs. 9). We are encouraged to be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” [NIV: “speed its coming”] (vs. 12). If the future is an eternally fixed reality, of course God…

Topics:

What is the significance of Numbers 14:11?

In the light of the Israelites’ relentless complaining the Lord says to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” The fact that the Lord continued, for centuries, to try to get the…

Topics:

Where are the Blessed Peacemakers?

Religion Dispatches Magazine posted an article recently on embracing non-violence in the Christian tradition. In it, Elizabeth Drescher argues that the violent imagery in Paul’s writing accounts for a great deal of the violent posturing going on in churches today, but she also argues that these images have been misapplied and misunderstood. She challenges us…

Take America (& the World) Back for God?

Kai Schreiber via Compfight Recently Missio Alliance has hosted a series of posts entitled “Christianity and Violence.” Since Greg has written quite a lot on this topic from the point of view of pacifism, we thought it timely to weigh in on this topic. The following excerpt is quoted from his chapter, “Taking America Back…

Why do you claim that everybody, whether they know it or not, believes that the future is partly open?

Whatever a person may theoretically believe, they act like the future is partly open. For, as a matter of fact, there’s no other way to act. Think about it. Every time we deliberate between options on the way toward making a decision, we assume (and we have to assume) that a) the future consists of…

A Revolutionary Kiss

Amidst the violent protests calling for a revolution in Egypt we find a reminder of the utterly unique kind of revolution Jesus calls us to. Love, bless, pray for, do good to — and yes, even KISS — our enemies (Lk 6:27-38). (An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo,…