Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Answering Ben

In the midst of a hot and heavy discussion on my sister and brother-in-law's website in which we are discussing a pretty wide range of topics relating to military and police service, public defense and generally a man's (or woman's, I guess) role in society, Ben asked this question:

But since my job directly relates to the physical aspects of (a man's responsibility to) "defend his family and community", and I am nothing if not a teacher to my soldiers, I ask the readers of this post what they intend to do, if anything, to physically fulfill that physical responsibility?

I was having trouble articulating my reaction to this question as we Skyped about it this afternoon, so I wanted to give it another go here.

My main problem in answering this question is that I think it's the wrong question to be asking. I think the more important question is "how does a man's responsibility to protect his family fit into his (primary, over-reaching and more important) role as a servant of Christ?" I think you have to have an answer to that question before you can talk about how to fulfill that role.

So if we're debating owning a handgun, whether to carry concealed, what's a police officer's role in society and how to protect liberty while providing for the public safety, I think we've already whizzed past the more important issue. That is, how would Christ have us view potential enemies/threats/dangers? How do we approach the Reader's Digest scenarios as suffering servants? This is why I was bringing up the example of the man who takes his family into war-torn third world countries with a holy disregard for the danger, in order to spread the Gospel. Your response was to (I felt) somewhat dismiss that as a separate case of a "special calling". I disagree. What the Scripture says about our attitudes towards these kinds of things doesn't just apply to missionaries. Of course, I don't for a minute pretend to understand exactly what the Scripture says about it. I'm just saying that I think it's the bigger, and more important question.

So here's the conflict I see between the guy with the concealed weapon in his pocket (well-trained and legal as he may be) and the picture of the suffering servant. It's a question of emphasis, I think. How much time and energy are you putting into scoping out the park-- that homeless guy on the bench, is he armed? what's that woman doing with such a large bag, is she packin'? how about that dude over there-- he's movin' fast and headed right this way! Versus noticing that the homeless guy is practically dead on his feet from exhaustion and could really use a lift to a shelter, the woman with the bag is elderly and the bag is heavy, the big dude is chasing down his two-year-old who is heading toward the pond. Ought one's focus be on protecting one's own? Or on reaching out to those around you, regardless of personal safety? What is this idea of a man's role as protector? Is it Biblical? And what's the difference between 'protect" and "defend" and how does that apply here? And are there other "roles" or responsibilities as a Christian Man that supersede this idea of protection or defense?

Think about the great men in the history of the church and all of them (at least that I can think of atm) had an emphasis on self-sacrifice. Isn't our calling to be about the business of the Gospel and leave the protecting to the Lord? Won't we be more effective for Christ as Servants, rather than Warriors?

That said, I recognize that the role of Warrior is vitally represented in the Bible. King David springs to mind. And he was a man after God's own heart. So I don't know exactly how that fits into the issue. And I'm no Bible Scholar. This is simply my gut reaction to the question. It bothers me. And I realize, that you and Jeremiah, as Men, have a greater personal stake in this discussion. I, as a woman, am somewhat removed from the discussion by the simple fact that I have a big, strong man around to worry about my safety for me. So it's easy for me to say "leave the protecting to the Lord" as long as my husband is around as God's personal bodyguard for me. :)

I'd be very interested to hear your response to all this!


Further Up & Further In said...

No, obviously Jesus would not carry a concealed weapon. He can just "walk out from the midst of them" (Luke 4:30)

I think you should ask Jeremiah how he feels about this question regarding HIS role as protector. Men definitely feel stronger about it than women. Moreover I think that fulfilling that role of protector is, in fact, a huge part of their laying down of their lives.

So here's a Question: How do YOU lay your life down for your child? Carrying a diaper bag? Spanking his bum? Controlling your temper? Laying your life down doesn't always look like a meek, hand and knees act, or one that excites and promises adventure and miracles and near-death experiences. Also, it doesn't always mean only one thing. It might mean carrying a concealed weapon "just in case" while visiting nursing homes and rehab houses. Whatever! Pick ten more! Carrying a concealed weapon does not define who you are and exclude you from any humanitarian activities.

There is no doubt in my mind that my husband, while carrying a weapon, would still offer bread to a hungry man, or a blanket to a cold homeless woman. (been there done that---many opportunities in this state.)

Simply asking another question (your question) does not render the Original One (Ben's question) invalid. Your question is a question just as Ben's is. I don't believe one overshadows the other in importance, and certainly *no* question is the *wrong* question. You can ask whatever you like.

Ben never said that this was the One Question one must ask and answer in order to fulfill one's Life. It's just a Question. An important one, yes....but just One of Many.

I do feel that you have pigeonholed the gun-carrier. I think you should reconsider what you wrote in light of Jesus' command for us to sell our garments and buy a sword. (Luke 22:36). This did not come coupled with a hint that the disciples were now to cease giving humanitarian aid and focus on merely protecting themselves with their new swords. I believe it was a commentary on the condition of the World in these End Times, and for them to expect the World, which hated them, to attempt violence upon them and their families.

Herb of Grace said...

You're misunderstanding the reason for my post. It's not to criticize Ben for his wanting to carry a concealed weapon. I don't have any opinion on it at all. I am simply trying to explain why I was stumbling so much in my attempt to answer his question yesterday. It's because it opened up in my mind this whole difficulty of reconciling "defense and protection" with the image of the suffering servant. It seemed to me that I couldn't answer his question about How to fulfill a particular role until I had figured out exactly What the scripturally defined role was. See what I mean?

j said...

Our discussion on Skype was a fertile one, and Lis's post comes after another 30 minutes of the two of us talking about it while we walked into town for some pizza.

I don't think she meant to suggest that Ben's question about how we prepare to protect our families and communities was an invalid question, but rather that it is a question that must be asked after we have decided whether Christians are called to a radical selflessness that eschews protection altogether. After all, Christ very directly says "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matt. 5:38-39) He makes a number of other starkly pacifist statements:

* Love your enemies and pray for those whose persecute you.
* Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
* Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
* If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this world.

I think you've got a tough case to make if you're going to argue that Christ commands his disciples to prepare for their self-defense. I'm not entirely sure what Jesus means by "sell your cloak and buy a sword," but I do know that when the disciples went and found two swords, Jesus responded "it is enough." Two swords for thirteen men? This leads me to think he meant something other than "load up, boys."

So we were discussing (on Skype) "what is a man's duty." Lis's question is "what is a Christian's duty." I am interested in how the apparent disparity is reconciled. I believe it can be (and I certainly agree that being a wary gun owner doesn't make you an uncaring person), and I think it a question worth bearing in mind as we consider these issues. (And one that I was not even considering during our Skype discussion.)

Sandra said...

Hi, guys. It's me again. This is a very interesting question. I have wrestled with this one, too. My conclusion may seem whimpy to you, but it is what the Lord has given to me.
"There is a time for everything under the sun." and "If at all possible, live at peace with all men." I think all the scriptures that Jeremiah shared were given to us for relationship purposes. The Lord wants people to know us for our love. First for Him, then for the brotherhood - and none of us knows who the Lord is going to save and who He is not. So potentially, everyone is a brother or a sister. We could all be "kin" to Dr. Bennett! or Hilary Clinton! (Pick a name)
There have been times, as a single mother, I believe that my urge to protect was no less than that of a man's because I was a woman. There were also times I felt like that when I was a married mother. I feel quite sure that if you Lisi, or you, Susi, were alone with your kids and something threatened them, you would place yourself in harm's way and try to save all of you.
I am of the opinion that the Lord will not hold it against me if I protect myself, but who knows! I might find out differently.
Good night, guys.

Herb of Grace said...

Aha, Sandy. Very good point about Jesus' remarks referring to our personal relationships. Hmm, I will have to cogitate on this one and comment again later...

Sandra said...

We are called to live in this world and be a part of the system we are associated with (Be in this world, but not of it) but not the evil that is sure to be there without Christ. This is so people can see our good deeds (of not retaliating and blessing others who have persecuted us), and glorify our Father in Heaven.
We are to love and pray for our enemies -Mt. 5:44, but there is also a time to kill and a time to refrain from killing - Ecc. 3:3.
Mt. 10:28, says not to be afraid of those who can only kill the body. (Don't be bashful about proclaiming Jesus if all that is going to happen is that you are going to be killed) It goes on to talk about the sparrows falling. But before the sparrows were caught, didn't they try to find food and make nests, and escape danger and getting caught?
Mt. 16:25 talks about gaining all kinds of earthly treasures, but losing the one treasure that is everlasting. I do not think that verse is talking about protection, either. I think it is talking about losing your first Love.
As for our Lord's kingdom not being of this world, that is true. At the time He made that statement it was not. But, when His kingdom becomes of this world, there WILL be fighting!
Q - What is a man's duty?
A - Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thy self.
Q - What is a Christian's duty?
A - Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thy self.
I think this answer is different in different people. I don't think that it is like a case of stealing, or adultery - a definite black or white. At Pentecost, an undefiled Jew was told to do something that in his world's eyes was a sin.
Looking forward to more "conversation" on the subject.

Ben said...

Hey guys! I comment on my new blog, since too much text in a comment can be really hard to read.


Denise said...

I would just like to make one clarification. The Scirptures are great that you guys (Lisi, Jeremiah) bring up. The Scriptures especially in the Sermon on the Mount regarding out attitudes toward offenders/evil men/persecution.
The only thing I'd like to point out is, those Scirptures are pretty specific about it being a PERSONAL insult/injury. I actually think there is no application in regard to not being able to defned others. I think as Christians we have to be very careful about when we employ self-defence, and turn the other cheek more often. But when it comes to seeing someone else being wronged? I see no Biblical argument for silence/non agression and turning your cheek so someone else's can be slapped, loving someone else's enemies, or letting someone else lose their life.
My take on it.