In the wake of the Aurora massacre, some have speculated that things would have turned our much differently had someone in the crowd been “packing heat.” I suspect this is true–just not quite how these well-meaning souls surmised.
In the chaos and confusion of a darkened theater, and against an adversary bedecked in body armor, I suspect more innocents would have died had someone else started shooting. That said, I do not oppose the right to bear arms, nor am I a pacifist. I believe there is a time to resist evil, to defend the innocent, to take a life if need be.
I do not come to the position lightly. And some would contend that as Jesus did during His passion, we must always passively resist evil. But I do not believe that dying daily necessarily entails actually dying could it be avoided. Christ Himself left regions where His life was threatened before His time.
He is also the same Jesus who cleansed the temple with a whip of cords.
He is the same Jesus who appeared to Joshua outside Jericho (in a Christophany) as the “commander of the Lord’s armies.” Furthermore, the Bible tells us that “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Thus presumably, He was the same second Person of the Trinity when the Children of Israel began their conquest of the promised land at God’s behest.
Because Jesus came as a “suffering servant” during His earthly ministry, His mission was one of redemption; however, when He returns, He is coming as a conquering King. In the clouds, on a steed, with a sword. Bringing judgment.
In the meantime, while we await His return, what do you suppose He requires of us? We must resist evil. Sometimes, as with the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, a passive resistance is indeed the best course of action. Compare and contrast, for instance, the methods of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with those of the Black Panthers. Which was more effective? Dr. King’s–because he knew that passive resistance would shame his adversaries.
And he was right. The rest of the country beheld the shameful acts being perpetrated on the peaceful protesters, and they were up in arms.
Non-violence was indeed the appropriate course of action then. But suppose the situation is more personal? Suppose it is your wife and children who are directly threatened? What do you do? Do you turn the other cheek?
Do you say to the assailant “When you’re finished hitting my wife, here are my cheeks for you to strike? Sure, go ahead, assault my kids. I’m waiting.”
That is not the time for a non-violent response, for evil to be passively resisted. You would be in there, no matter your convictions, fighting tooth and nail. To the death if need be. Because what do you suppose God would think of you if you stood by, allowed your spouse to beaten, assaulted, raped?
There’s a word for being passive in such a scenario: cowardice.
Why do suppose that the story of Peter Parker, as told in the Spider-Man comics and movies, resonates so strongly with us? Because, though he had the ability, though his inaction Peter’s Uncle Ben died. He could have prevented it, but didn’t. “With great power, comes great responsibility,” he is told.
What does the Bible tell us? “To whom much is given, much is required.”
And this may one day mean, for some of us, giving up our lives to protect the innocent, as we actively resist evil.
What did Cain ask God? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer then, as now, is yes. We must watch out for one another.
What do you think? Have you ever been called upon to act in a life-threatening situation?