As I read question/answer 0056 about enemies, the curly question for me seems to be not so much attacking one's enemies, but using force in defense of the oppressed or vulnerable. For example, in East Timor last year, the Indonesian army was sanctioning mass genocide, and clearly the only way to prevent that was through sending in the UN military. Similarly, what do you do if your wife and family are being attacked? In such a situation you couldn't be expected just to stand by! Passively allowing yourself to get maimed or killed isn't going to help them either. Where does the line get drawn? Is it just in the immediate defense of people, or is the defense of principles OK? Also, although Jesus clearly preaches to turn the other cheek, he is not totally anti-violence. In Luke 22:36-51 Jesus tells his followers to sell their cloaks and buy swords, then when one of them uses his sword (possibly Peter according to John 18) Jesus tells them to stop - but obviously did not prevent it from happening. -- Duncan Wilson (New Zealand)

In regard to your first question, the highest principle, which can override other principles, is love. While we never wish to hurt our enemies, we love our family (for example) more, and must do what our consciences impel us to do to protect them. I have no comment on the United Nations action in East Timor, because the New Testament does not comment on secular military action.

As for Luke 22, this passage has been the source of much lively discussion the past two millennia! (Have you read the commentaries on the passage?) Some commentators think Jesus advocated carrying arms, yet most think he was misunderstood. (As in, "From now on, things are going to get hot. The thing you'd benefit from is not extra clothing, but protection.") As William Barclay puts it in the Daily Study Bible series (The Gospel of Luke, Revised Ed., 269-270),

''Jesus was saying, 'All the time so far you have had me with you. In a very short time you are going to be cast upon your own resources. What are you going to do about it? The danger in a very short time is not that you will possess nothing -- but that you will have to fight for your very existence.' This was not an incitement to armed force. It was simply a vivid eastern way of telling the disciples that their very lives were at stake."

As so often happened, the disciples took their Lord literally, completely misunderstanding his words. He chides them, "Enough" - as in, "enough of this"; moreover, he heals the man whose ear Peter lopped off. No, violence was not the way of the Master.

And as for Jesus' preventing violence from taking place -- well, God does not prevent violence. Rather, he brings good out of bad situations. He helps us to pick up the broken pieces.

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only.