In part one, I talked about the part that being free from fear can play in averting danger. When we are delivered from fear, we can start to see from God’s perspective in order to partner with what he is doing. In part two, I shared some personal testimonies of times that I felt danger was averted through prayer and hearing God’s voice. Today we will discuss violence being averted through blessing our enemies.
How Should We Respond To Violence?
I’ve shared in the last few posts about the danger we have faced where we live, including a threat of kidnapping my daughter. I’ll be honest. There have been times when I’ve kept a machete close by in case of someone breaking in our house. When I escorted the 83 year old man (who was repeatedly assaulted) back to his house to get his things, I picked up a heavy metal pipe before going inside. And there have been moments where I felt like I just wanted to grab the guy who was threatening us and attacking people by the throat, and throw him on the ground.
In this country, we could easily hire an assassin to kill the people causing trouble. My father-in-law had the chance to, but we didn’t. It hurts my heart to think of killing someone, but at the same time, I want to protect my family and other innocent people from being killed. What would it accomplish in the long run? It is possible that it could put us in more danger, because everyone has connections.
There have been some times of soul-searching. I struggle with these issues, like Dietrich Bonhoffer did in Nazi Germany. I do love my enemies. The Spirit of Christ in me does. Violence breaks my heart, even violence against evil people. I know that Jesus died for them. I know he can redeem them.
Yet may physical force sometimes be necessary to stop evil? I think it may be. The Bible says in Romans 13:4 that the ruling authority doesn’t bear the sword in vain, but is the servant of God to execute wrath on the evildoer. Might not many lives have been saved if Hitler’s threat was dealt with sooner? I think so. He was allowed to plunder weak nations far too easily, and a quicker intervention of other nations would have saved many.
Please don’t take this as a post about pacifism. Regardless of a theological stance on pacifism, I’m convinced that allowing law-abiding citizens to have firearms is a huge deterrent to crime and actually reduces violence and saves many lives. But I’m not going to argue that here. I’m just being real about where I am and what the Holy Spirit is saying to me as I face real violence. (In a country where law abiding citizens don’t have firearms and can go to jail for defending themselves, but criminals have machine guns and often get of the hook on even serious crimes.)
The Weapons Of Our Warfare
Psalm 20:7 (NRSV) Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 44:6-7 (NRSV) For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes, and have put to confusion those who hate us.
These scriptures have spoken to me a lot as I prayed about these situations and have processed things. I have realized that human weapons do not deserve our trust. The Lord doesn’t want me trusting in human might or a machete by my bed, but in Him! I have weapons that are more powerful than a machine gun.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NRSV) Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.
A lot of times we make light of the weapons that we have been given. Yet many people have been delivered from physical violence as they dealt with the spirit behind it. Use a weapon to stop an evildoer, and someone else could easily retaliate. It could start a war. We who are believers actually do have weapons that are much more effective. The wisdom of God may seem like foolishness and weakness, but it is wiser than human wisdom and stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)
Heap Burning Coals On Their Heads
In part one, we began to look at how Elisha was delivered from the Aramean army that surrounded him. He was not afraid. Because he saw from God’s perspective (Armies of angels), he knew how to partner with God in the situation. The whole army was supernaturally blinded and he led them to another place.
Let’s look at the second part of this story now. The first part of God’s protection in this story was a miracle. The second part is about overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12:21) Elisha blessed them, and the raiding stopped. This wasn’t just a one-time fix for the problem.
2 Kings 6:20-23 (NRSV) As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men so that they may see.” The Lord opened their eyes, and they saw that they were inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.” So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.
Romans 12:20 (NRSV) No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Does It Really Work?
Although blessing your enemies is contrary to human wisdom, it really can be more effective than human force! I feel like this is a truth that is becoming so real in my heart right now. I have heard many testimonies of Christians escaping violence as they showed love to a person who was threatening them, overcoming evil with good. I recently heard a testimony of a woman escaping rape as she ministered to a man who was threatening her. Instead of doing what he was threatening to do, he broke down and began to weep. The Lord gave her words that cut to his heart
I remember reading David Wilkerson’s book “The Cross And The Switchblade“. Nicky Cruz was a very violent and angry young man. He was heard-hearted, a guy who people thought had no hope of ever changing. He threatened to cut David into a thousand pieces. He responded, “You can cut me into a thousand pieces, and every one of them will still say ‘I love you.'” Nicky-and his gang-ended up meeting Christ.
A few years ago, I met an old man named Henry Gruver. He was very different than many other ministers that I had met, but he was full of the Lord’s life and had some very encouraging testimonies.
When Henry was 18 years old, a very angry guy held a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him. Henry began to quietly “remit the man’s sins”-speaking forgiveness in order to “lift off the heavy burden of guilt” that his assailant was carrying. The attacker lost the desire to kill him and dropped the knife. Many times since then, Henry has been delivered from violence as he ministered the love of God to assailants. He has many stories! He wrote some of them in this book.
As I was writing this and remembered Henry, I looked on the internet to see what I could find of him speaking. I found a video of him on youtube here, in which he talked about some of the dangerous places he walked into. I have heard so many stories of people who escaped violence or death as they showed love to possible assailants. As I listen to Henry, the way that he talks reminds me of many other people who have remarkable stories of escaping potentially violent situations.
You Can’t Kill Me!
Henry says things like “You can’t take my life! It’s hidden in Christ!” and “You can’t kill me! I’m already dead!“. It seems that many Christians who have repeatedly escaped very dangerous situations have this attitude. They are not afraid of death, and are willing to die for Christ, if need be. “For to me, living is Christ, and dying is gain.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had the same attitude. They had such an unwavering commitment to the Lord that they were willing to die, if need be. They were delivered from the fiery furnace, but even if they would not be delivered, they were unwavering.
Romans 14:8 (NIV) If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
As I have faced the possibility of danger, the Holy Spirit has reminded me of this verse again and again, and it has helped me. Knowing that whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord, is something that gives me great peace and calms my fears. There is something very freeing about adapting this militant attitude, “I will serve Christ, and whether I live of die, I am his!” It has been this freedom from the fear of death that has enabled many Christians to face very dangerous situations and escape unharmed. In fact, many of the people who have experienced miraculous protection were people who walked right into the face of danger for the sake of the gospel.
Although some may laugh at the idea of escaping danger by blessing and loving our enemies, it has worked with some of the most hardened and violent of criminals. The weakness of God is stronger than human wisdom. But what about when assailants remain hard-hearted?
Just like the armies were supernaturally blinded in the story of Elisha, averting harm by blessing our enemies is also often combined with miracles of protection. The Argentinian evangelist, Carlos Annacondia, has escaped death many times by a combination of miraculous protection and assailants falling on the ground and receiving deliverance ministry. Next week I will write about deliverance from violence through miracles. These may include assailants being blinded, falling to the ground, or scared by angels, as well as things like guns failing to fire and believers being supernaturally transported out of harm’s way.