This controversy did not start here and will no doubt end only at the coming of the Lord. Having said that, there are some points that need to be considered. The first major error is to use the O.T. to interpret the N.T. and the second mistake is to follow conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom will always win approval due to its popularity and powerful influence over those who tend to follow rather than lead. Conventional wisdom is bred into an individual from birth and can be easily observed in families who all believe the same thing with only slight variations. Ninety percent of what we believe has been programmed into our database through associations in family, culture, and national presuppositions from birth. We believe certain things to be true because of our families, Church, ethnicity, social status, and nationality; this is not conjecture, it is a fact and can be proven easily. These characteristics and circumstances are our world and they dictate strongly what we are to believe and how we are to respond to any given set of external circumstances. When the Bible instructs us to not “Judge” it is primarily concerned with acts of pre-judging those who do not align with our particular set of things which we suppose to be true about life. The Bible instructs us to “judge” correctly and this word is more properly translated to “discern” correctly. These two words have to do with understanding, comprehending, and correct decision making based on “truth.” Conventional wisdom will surmise that “The Old Testament is full of cases of war and killing, and self-defense seems so normal and even good, and since God hasn’t changed then non-resistance is obviously wrong.” This argument makes sense to the majority of Christians who live under the umbrella of conventional wisdom. But . . . . . . . ?
When doing proper Biblical exegesis the first thing necessary is to throw presupposition and conventional wisdom out the window and let the Bible speak for itself; presupposed conclusions are not allowed. We must understand the O.T through the N.T. and not visa-versa.
Here are some N.T. Scriptures that show us how to view the Old Testament.
“In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word . . . .” Hebrews 1:1-3.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.’” Hebrews 8:7-9
“Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Where a will (i.e. last will and testament) exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.” Hebrews 9:15-17.
Jesus says five times, “You have heard that it was said . . . .” “But I tell you . . . .” Matthew 5:27,28a; 31,32a; 33,34a; 38, 39a; 43, 44a. Where were these things “heard . . . said”? Of course, the answer is in the Old Testament Law of Moses, but with an authoritative move Jesus re-writes His will and closes the door on anyone wanting to use the old document to prove a point. With the declaration of “But I tell you . . .” He established Himself as the sole authority, maker of the will, and interpreter of everything that has come before Him. No other person has any right to overrule anything that has been spoken by Jesus or to build any other structure on the foundation of His sure words. When the Father’s Son speaks He leaves no room for presumption or creative thinking; His plain and simple words carry the weight of God the Father Himself; and the Father says, “Listen to Him.”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21.
Charles Spurgeon a non-resistant Christian says,
“The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies.”
“For this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it.”
“All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. Mahommedans’ religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians’ religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. ‘Not by might.’”
“Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” The Christian soldier hath no gun and no sword, for he fighteth not with men. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that he fights, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold sceptres in their hands. I have marked, however, that some Christian men – and it is a feeling to which all of us are prone – are very apt to make Christ’s war a war of flesh and blood, instead of a war with wrong and spiritual wickedness.”
“Woe, woe, to the Christian who forgets this sacred canon of warfare. Touch not the persons of men, but smite their sin with a stout heart and with strong arm. Slay both the little ones and the great; let nothing be spared that is against God and his truth; but we have no war with the persons of poor mistaken men.”
No argument from the O.T. is allowed in the formulation of a person’s quest to justify war or violence. What I find mostly is that those who have never experienced war see it through the eyes of Hollywood make-believe. The VA Hospital can attest to the fact that killing is a very dirty business and that PTSD is the demon of those who have lived through it. For Christians to link arms with the Devil to extinguish the life of their brother when Jesus showed them by word and example that killing is not a Heavenly profession, and to ignore the examples of His Apostles and likeminded saints for nearly 300 years is to snub their noses at the truth of God and the truth of history. Not a single one can show by the life of those who gave their testimony, signed with their own blood, acts of non-resistance performed and recorded for our instruction in righteousness. All who endorse killing build their testimony on assumptions of confused text or examples gleaned from the O.T., but never from Christ, His Apostles, or the primitive Church. Christ came as a non-violent, non-resistant, and peaceful sacrificial Lamb and said follow Me. In what duplicity are we to presuppose that underlying the tame and harmless nature of the Lamb exist a nature of selfish spitefulness and revenge? And, in what disloyalty are we to suggest that we should follow a different path than the one in which that Lamb walked?
There is no question that one side or the other of this argument is wrong, we cannot have it both ways. We can follow the broad way of conformity, but the “way is narrow.” We can take the easy way with no controversy or conflict, but the “gate is difficult and strait.” We can place our bets with the fast and the strong, but the “meek will inherit the earth.” All the advantage is with the majority, but “very few will enter in.” We can appeal to the celebrities of the Reformation: Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin or we can search-out those who refused to defend themselves who held on tight to that scarlet thread weaving its way through blood, suffering, persecution, and loneliness, from Calvary to our doorstep and bids us come and die. Yes, one of us is wrong. If non-resistant Christians are wrong they have lost nothing by living a sacrificial life, if popular Christianity is wrong??????????. The first coming of our Lord was like a defenseless Lamb and it is that Lamb that we are to imitate while fulfilling His mission and not the Lion of His second coming.