Thursday, 23 December 2010

Licence to kill?

I heard a very strange criticism of Christianity today.  A Muslim was responding to claims about Islam being a religion of violence, and he said in response that Christianity teaches violence because in one of the Lord's parables there is a nobleman who commands that his enemies be brought out and slain before him.  This, said the Muslim, shows that Christ taught His people to slaughter unbelievers!  If that is the case then for the past 2000 years Christians have been very remiss in fulfilling their obligations to their Lord.  However, the Muslim got it wrong!

The first thing to say on this issue is that it would be foolish to base a doctrine on a parable if you had no other supporting text, and of course there is no other text in the Bible that would encourage Christians to slay unbelievers, the very opposite is the case (e.g. Matthew 5 v 1-12, 21-22, 38-48; Romans 12 v 14-21; 1Peter 2 v 21-23).

The second thing to say is, only a surface, shallow, biased reading of the parable in question would lead anyone to such an interpretation.  The parable is found in Luke 19 v 11-27, and involves a nobleman going to a far country to receive a kingdom and return.  When he left, his citizens sent a delegation after him saying "We will not have this man to reign over us."  It was upon the return of the nobleman that the rebellious citizens were slain. 

Now let's be honest - do we think this is the Lord telling His disciples to kill unbelievers while He's away, or is it not more reasonable to say that this is a parable telling us that when the Lord Jesus returns He is going to judge unbelievers?  Remember the Lord's commission to His disciples before going back to heaven, recorded by the very same author?  It wasn't to kill people, but rather to preach the Gospel, and to be His witnesses (Luke 24 v 47-49; Acts 1 v 8).

I think anyone but the most unfair reader of Scripture would agree that this parable teaches something that the rest of the Bible confirms, i.e. the Lord Jesus is going to return in judgment.  Let Paul expand on this,
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2Thessalonians 1 v 7-9)
The Bible teaches that, by nature, we are all the enemies of God, but we can be reconciled to God on the basis of the death of Christ (Romans 5 v 10), and we will be reconciled to God if we bow the knee to Jesus Christ in repentance, trusting Him to save us.

Those that refuse to obey the Gospel's call to repentance are those who will be punished with everlasting destruction.  In light of that, Paul's words are relevant and urgent, God "now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17 v 30-31).

Judgment is withheld in this period of Christ's absence, but it is not withdrawn.  It is coming.