Mark Shea: Jesus vs. lock-and-load

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They believe in Jesus, not as the weakling who died because he failed to lock and load, but as the victorious Son of God who has eternally defeated death.
They believe in Jesus, not as the weakling who died because he failed to lock and load, but as the victorious Son of God who has eternally defeated death.

Recently, I saw one of the purest expressions of MAGA antichrist religion I’ve ever seen in a car window decal.

It read: “If Jesus had had a gun, he would still be alive today.”

As a friend once observed of The Da Vinci Code, this is so far off it’s not even wrong, like demanding to know what inning of the football game it is and how many pucks they have put in the basket to score a royal flush.

It comes from some parallel universe, where the mission of Good Christians is, like Peter and his sword, to kill our enemies and triumph with blood and iron for the Reich of God. Jesus is, for such gun culture religion, just a mascot.

“What sticks out is that Jesus not only refused the offer, but went to war with the entire world system by handing himself over to that world system so it—and we—could pour out upon him all of our sin, dysfunction, craziness, and evil.”

Not that such dreams of bloody power are anything new in the Christian Church. The devil has steadily dangled the carrot of worldly power in front of the human race since forever and everybody from Pharaoh to Sennacharib to Alexander to Caesar to Hitler has made a grab for that brass ring.

Indeed, he even tried it on with Jesus himself, showing him all the kingdoms of the earth and promising “All this will I give you if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).

What sticks out is that Jesus not only refused the offer, but went to war with the entire world system by handing himself over to that world system so it—and we—could pour out upon him all of our sin, dysfunction, craziness, and evil. When he told his disciples to take up their cross and follow him, he made clear that he was not speaking poetically by, in fact, being crucified.

As a first century hymn would put it, “though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Not a word about stocking up on arms to Prepare for the Coming Conflict. Just the counsel to die well as Jesus did and not sin.
Not a word about stocking up on arms to Prepare for the Coming Conflict. Just the counsel to die well as Jesus did and not sin.

This is all a million miles away from the “Stand Your Ground/Do Unto Others Before They Do it Unto You” selfishness and paranoia of the MAGA Gun Cult that so dominates US culture and ensures an annual harvest of 40,000 gun deaths each year.

And all lies to the contrary notwithstanding, it was the lesson Jesus impressed on his disciples as well. His command to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who do evil, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who persecute us was taken deeply to heart by his disciples.

Indeed, decades after watching his Master die after commanding him to put up his sword, we find Peter offering only this counsel to his flock:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)

“The paradox, then, is that Jesus is alive today. And because he is, we do not have to bow down to the prince of this world and play his games of power, violence, and fear.”

Not a word about fighting back. Nor a word about self-defence. Not a word about stocking up on arms to Prepare for the Coming Conflict. Just the counsel to die well as Jesus did and not sin.

What is so striking is the confidence of the early Christians in all this, precisely because they believe in Jesus, not as the weakling who died because he failed to lock and load, but as the victorious Son of God who has eternally defeated death.

The paradox, then, is that Jesus is alive today. And because he is, we do not have to bow down to the prince of this world and play his games of power, violence, and fear.

We can, like Jesus, lay down our lives even for our enemies as he laid down his life for us—even when we were his enemies.

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