In the light of events in Paris' coordinated terror attacks I have made some up-to-date adjustments to this article I had sent in earlier for publishing today. First, Poland has reassessed its part in the European Middle East refugee intake with the news of one of the terrorists came to Europe disguised as a refugee.
Another is the French President announcing to the nation a state of emergency, national borders closed, an all out military war on ISIS. The indignant national leaders including our own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a fresh steely response.
With all this, when I saw a very challenging article come across my desk, I took a little more notice, "a pro self-defence advocate" and his comment: "I'd suggest you do not love your neighbours as much as you ought."
A biblical defense for Self Defense by J D Hall has a prior provocative heading: "Why some people need a good killing". He challenges his readers to stomach what he's about to reveal from the Bible and it's not a God like a Santa Clause with a bottomless pit of goodies.
Rather, J D Hall presents, as he says: "a Bible-long systematic theology of martyrology and self-defense." Amongst other things J D Hall presents a case -
"A thorough analysis of God's divine hand guiding the body-politic of ancient Israel reveals an understood right of self-defense. We are to deliver the innocent from those that seek them harm (Proverbs 82:4).
"While murder is clearly prohibited (Leviticus 24:16-17), the taking of a murderer's life is not prohibited and neither is it murder (Genesis 9:6). The qualifying distinctions between killing and murder are found in places like Exodus 21, Numbers 35, and Deuteronomy 19.
"In the commonwealth laws of Israel, delivered by God, one had the right to take the life of one breaking into their home in the night (Exodus 22:2). The general equity of this Old Testament law (to use words from the London Baptist and Westminister Confession) – that is, what is moral, universal and perpetual in nature – is that it is morally acceptable to take the life of one who will harm the innocent.
And from the New Testament he has much to declare:
"To die a victim in the name of martyrdom, when the perpetrator will likely go on to kill more innocent people, is not martyrdom – it is cowardice. A man that does not care for his own family, in particular, is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8) – and calling the police while your family is being assaulted falls short of the biblical responsibilities of manhood."
"Furthermore, we must understand that Christ's martyrdom is wholly unlike our own. Christ's death was a sacrifice, and offering it up bought the souls of men. Our life cannot be given in the same manner of Christ (for we neither lay it down nor pick it up of our own accord), and neither does it propitiate for any sins. Although we are, indeed, sheep sent out to wolves, the Good Shepherd never intended and neither does he ask us to provide a pacifistic buffet of mutton for any wolf that would seek to devour us."
In conclusion J D Hall says: "Christ has called us to love our neighbour (Mark 12:31), and if you are unprepared to defend your neighbour due to dainty sensibilities or the irrational fear of using a firearm, I'd suggest you do not love your neighbours as much as you ought."
What are to make of this
The liberal wing of the church flay their hands up in horror claiming that the Christ of the New Testament is one of love and compassion, and rather than defending anything with muscle, they would lay down their lives (as long as it wasn't their life or their loved ones).
On the other hand, we in Australia would be strongly opposed to having people carrying fire arms – whereas it is cultural in America and glued to the 2nd Amendment. I heard a well known actor and comedian say he wouldn't dream of caring a gun in Australia but in America he wouldn't leave the house without one.
We hear everyday on the newscasts how ISIS captures Christian men and on the most part, those who refuse to convert to their form of Islam are butchered in various forms and the women and girls and carried off as their property of sexual pleasure. Such communities neither have the weaponry or the military genius to fight.
We have, in my view, two very different kinds of defence. First there is what might loosely be referred to as Common-wealth defence. That is a common goal to defeat an evil. WWII Nazism personified how a united world action came together to defeat it. We could well toy this idea against ISIS and Pol Pot and other such situations. This is where the human spirit raises up in a united voice for righteousness. This is what we're witnessing first hand as a response to Paris.
But what of closer to home situations. Even without guns Australia has a horrific domestic violence record where 65 women across Australia died last month. What of neighbourly or work disputes.
There is a great source of evil in the heart of man than we realise - and it is for this that the Gospel message is attuned. This is personal. This affects you and your family. This is instrumental in how you treat your neighbours and friends and work colleagues.
If anything in all of this, the Scriptures have whole communities with weapons such as Nehemiah to defend the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. So there are times where defence is permitted and necessary.
May we all be wise enough to determine which is when. There is no greater time now to be praying for our world leaders with 'measure' and 'clarity'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html