Many readers are undoubtedly familiar with the fun "sword drill" practice that many Sunday Schools and youth programs employ to encourage familiarity with God's Word (which is "sharper than any two-edged sword"). It's even fun for adults--would you like to give it a try? But instead of giving you chapter and verse to look up, let's make it a bit more challenging. I'll quote a commonly cited proverb, and then you find the location in Scripture. Are you ready?
Quick! Give me chapter and verse for "Cleanliness is next to godliness!" While some of you look for that passage, the rest of you locate the verse, "God helps those who help themselves!" Oh, wait. I forgot we're dealing with Bereans here (and probably a few homeschoolers) who are already on to my game. Well, let's try one more. Ready? Grab your Bibles and find, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God." Go!
What? It's not there? Please check again.... After all, it's the battle cry of the American Revolution--symbolized by the bright yellow banner, emblazoned with a coiled rattlesnake declaring, "Don't Tread On Me!" The clear implication, of course, is that government oppression will be met with force. Today, this rallying cry is being heard again among many conservatives--including Christian leaders and even pastors--who strongly identify with National Patriotism. In a recent column, one such writer sounded off:
I'm not sure how many of the American people realize that it was the attempted confiscation of the colonialists' cache of arms in Concord, Massachusetts, that started America's War for Independence. Yes, my friends, it was attempted gun confiscation that triggered (pun intended) the "shot heard 'round the world.... And now it would appear that, once again, a central government is on the verge of trying to deny the American people their right to keep and bear arms.... This leads to a very serious question: how many of America's gun owners would allow their government to deny them gun ownership? Further, how many would passively sit back and allow their guns to be confiscated?
From all that I've seen and read, this writer is a commendable, admirable, God-fearing man, and I imagine we would share a majority of non-negotiable Bible doctrines. However, his column proves the point stated in the April 2009 TBC Extra: "Christian Patriot. These two words are inextricably linked in the minds of most [Christians]." This inability to separate Americanism from God's will and His prophetic word is made abundantly clear with this declaration by the same author: "As humbly and meekly as I know how to say it: as for me and my house, gun confiscation is the one act of tyranny that crosses the line; debate, discourse, discussion, and peaceful dissent cease and desist at that point. I say again, it is getting very serious now (emphasis added)." So, the line in the sand has been drawn. Undoubtedly, thousands of Christian Patriots and Second Amendment supporters would agree, on Constitutional grounds. My question remains, however: Is forceful rebellion--to the point of resistance with weapons--against one's government (however tyrannical) biblically defensible?
Now, before anyone else accuses me of being "traitorous," I will restate that my heart is not anti-Patriot. It is not anti-Constitution. It is not anti-Second Amendment. It is not anti-defense. My sole purpose is to encourage believers in Christ, who claim to revere and adhere to the Bible as God's Word (by which our Creator "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Pt 1:3), to distinguish between what is politically or legally motivated and what is biblically or spiritually mandated.
Interestingly enough, it was an earlier column by the same writer that sparked my five-page response (whittled down to a single page for space), which became a bit of a firestarter itself--the April TBC Extra, "Would the Apostle Paul Answer the Call to Christian Patriotism?" The statement to which I initially replied was this: "A real Christian patriot would never allow his country to be taken over by a gaggle of elitist goons bent on stealing his liberties." Although reader response was, overall, humblingly positive, I did receive a few calls and letters by some who were angered, confused, or who even felt betrayed. Let me make this abundantly clear: If someone holds a personal conviction to "resist tyranny" with force based on their Constitutional right to do so, then by all legal means, get ready to "lock and load." However, if anyone uses God's name and His Word to support the cause, he's got an entirely different fight on his hands.
Israel had godly kings and wicked kings. In like manner, America has had good presidents and bad--including some whose public personae have undoubtedly obscured traitorous backroom dealings and personal depravity of which it is genuinely best that we not know (Eph:5:12). But anti-American usurper or not, our current president is God's "chosen instrument" --whom we are not to curse, but pray for (Mt 5:44, 1 Tm 2:1-2).
The Scriptures command us to "earnestly contend for the faith...once delivered to the saints." However, the saints did not rise up with armaments to "contend," because Christ's kingdom "is not of this world," and we "wrestle not against flesh and blood." In fact, to our shame and to their credit, many of these saints died without any malice toward those who martyred them. Contrast their praiseworthy humility and meekness with the prevailing tone of anger and hatred that many believers are now exhibiting (understandably so, in the flesh) toward what is unquestionably an anti-Christian, anti-Israel, pro-Muslim, pro-Marxist Novus Ordo Seclorum.
Such a prevailing attitude illustrates my point: many Christian Patriots are tragically misusing Scripture to support their cause. In the case of the columnist I've mentioned, this is evident in his unbiblical melding of Scripture with his personal conviction: "As for me and my house, gun confiscation is the one act of tyranny that crosses the line...." By quoting Joshua:24:15, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," the writer makes a grave mistake by equating "gun ownership" with "serving God."
Tragically, such a statement elevates Second Amendment rights above the right to pray, the right to worship, the right to preach, teach, or even to read God's Word. He considers "gun confiscation the one act of tyranny that crosses the line." Surely, the other "rights" I've just mentioned are far more precious to a minister of the gospel! But does that writer (and all those who have similarly pledged to "kill or be killed" over what they believe is their "sacred" right to keep and bear arms) wish to stand before Christ and explain how they "pulled the trigger" to protect the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution? Perhaps some believers would rather wind up in prison instead--and, perhaps God would use this opportunity, as He did through the Apostle Paul, for the furtherance of the gospel. As I stated in my original "Extra:"
We are in a spiritual battle, but we must choose on which hill we are willing to die. Dying for Nationalistic Pride or even for our "Rights" is not the same as dying for the cause of Christ. Far better for godly men to survive in a pagan nation and submit to rule of law (which God ordains) and to subsist by His Word--unless (or until) we are asked to bow down and worship a false god. [But] such an affront would still not be cause to take up arms...Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not go into the flames as "National Patriots," willing to die for their "Bill of Rights," nor did they offer any physical resistance to their captors.
Nor did they organize the Hebrew captives to rebel against the Babylonian government (that had just destroyed Jerusalem!) and appoint Daniel as their "Spartacus" to lead this insurrection. Some rightly point out that the Second Amendment protects the First. However, while the encroaching world government can (and at some point, will) take whatever material goods and property it wants from its "global citizens," and while it can (and will) censor free speech in the press and in the public square, it cannot silence our hearts and minds and conscience before God, nor can it silence our lips in whatever "diverse trials" we may face.
I fully and gratefully acknowledge our "Christian Heritage." I daily lament the sale of our freedoms, which spiral like punched-out ticker tape to the floor. I am angered that our way of life and quality of life is literally being "changed" forever before our very eyes. But then I remember: time is short, the earth is not my home, and our eternal hope is not in the flag of the United States. There is only one Banner to which I pledge allegiance--not to "Stars and Stripes Forever," nor to a coiled serpent on a field of gold, but to the Cross of Jesus Christ.
There are those who've asked me sarcastically, "Well, what then, do we just roll over and die?" After much prayer and reflection, my answer is "Yes." The Bride of Christ does need to die--to its dreams of "kingdom now" restoration. American Christians, in particular, need to die to their idolatry of nationalism, materialism, and the "pursuit of happiness."
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mt 16:24). We read these words; we hear these words, but how many of us actually do these words? (Mt 1:23-25). Truly, the church in America seems accurately depicted in Christ's rebuke to the Laodicean church: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rv 3:17).
Yes, Christian Patriots, we need to die.... Not for this nation, but to it. (See Mk 10:21). As the faithful hymn exhorts, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace" (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922).