Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Lord's Prayer, Community, and Non-Violence

This morning our team gathered for prayer, scripture, and communion. One of the girls on our team, Nettie, prefaced the communion with a short reflection on The Lord's Prayer, which we had just recited. She pointed out that when Jesus taught us to pray he taught us to pray as a community sprinkling the prayer with words like "us", "we", "our" instead of "me", "I", etc. In regards to the communion, this is a relevant reminder of our unity when we gather around the Lord's table and it reminds us that our actions have consequences to the whole and effect the community, not just the self. When we eat, we eat together so that all are provided for (give us this day our daily bread), when we sin, we are forgiven in the same measure we forgive others (forgive us our trespasses), and we ask God to keep us from temptation (not just to protect the self from temptation).

One of the most common arguments/disclaimers I hear made by opponents of Christian pacifism/non-violence is that "Jesus clearly wasn't speaking to nations (communities) when he told us to love and forgive our enemies, he was only speaking of the individual Christian's responsibility." The Lord's Prayer offers us perhaps the best defense against this argument. Contrary to what opponents to Christian pacifism say, Jesus always meant for his teachings to be carried out in the context of community. They were never meant to be understood strictly as personal moral teachings. The Lord's Prayer emphasizes this when it teaches us to ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This section of the prayer compliments the ethic of loving our enemies that is taught in Matthew 5.

In a previous post of quotations I have stumbled across as of late I left something that St. Augustine had said about loving our enemies. Augustine goes as far as to say that "your sins will not be forgiven if you do not offer them with mercy (toward those who have sinned against you)." Next time you gather with your community, remember what the Lord's Prayer calls us to do and ask yourself, "Are we (my community, my church, my nation) forgiving others their trespasses? Are we loving our enemies?"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Also... on capital punishment and the early church

Also of note: This is a section of a piece Athenagoras (133-190) wrote in defense of the Christian faith. The context is that Athenagoras is defending Christianity against the claims the Romans were making that Christians were cannibals (because of the Eucharist). His argument is to show that Christians in fact hold life in extreme regard, even abstaining from capital punishment and abortion.

"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? For we cannot eat human flesh till we have killed some one. The former charge, therefore, being false, if any one should ask them in regard to the second, whether they have seen what they assert, not one of them would be so barefaced as to say that he had. And yet we have slaves, some more and some fewer, by whom we could not help being seen; but even of these, not one has been found to invent even such things against us. For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it."

Athenagoras, A Plea For The Christians, Chapter XXXV

So many quotes....

I have a million things to post in here but no time to comment on them.

From the Holy Scripture:

"I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."

- 2 Corinthians 10:2-6

" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant [7] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

- Matthew 26:50-54

"So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

- John 18:33-36

From early Christianity:

"But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action."

-Tertullian, Concerning Military Service

"You are a debtor to Him who cannot be deceived. You also have a debtor. God says to you: You are my debtor and he is your debtor. I do for you, my debtor, what you do for your debtor. You offer me a gift when you spare your debtor. You ask me for mercy: then do not be slow in showing mercy. Listen to what scripture says: I desire mercy more than sacrifice. Do not offer sacrifice without mercy, for your sins will not be forgiven unless you offer them with mercy."

- Augustine, Sermon 386 on Matthew 5 "Love your enemies"