January 27, 2019 Self-Defense John 10:7-11
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Life Sunday; /sanctity of human life Sunday; /Lutherans for Life. *Why life Sunday? Because of death. The opposite of life & the enemy of life is death. In 1Cor.15, the chief resurrection chapter in the bible, it says: “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. …for He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
God’s command to protect human life is #5. The Fifth Commandment is “You shall not murder.” When you were in catechism class, you may have memorized: ‘thou shalt not kill’.
It always meant – ‘thou shalt not kill humans.’ Too many, in our day, think of all things as ‘living’, and God was not talking about all things. So, it’s better stated: ‘you shall not murder.’ Now, every student of the Bible knows there are a few exceptions that need to be explained. Because ‘You shall not murder’ is not a total ban against taking human life. It prohibits taking human life unjustly, without God’s specific reasons.
The Bible teaches us in Romans 13, and elsewhere, there are times when God gives certain people the vocation/job of taking certain lives under certain circumstances; most especially when evil people threaten the lives of the innocent. So, + if a State enforces the death penalty against murderers, it is not breaking the 5th C.; and +when a solider kills an enemy combatant in a just war, he’s not breaking the command. +With lethal force, law enforcement officers have authority to defend the lives of the innocent when threatened by an enemy. This preserves human life by keeping godly order & peace.
Likewise, if someone threatens your life, or the lives of those God has given to you to protect, and the only way to stop him is to use deadly force, you haven’t sinned if you kill him in self-defense. But, if someone is not actually threatening your life, you are not justified in taking his. This is the basic distinction between breaking the 5th C. and keeping it.
This follows the Bible examples of the line between murder and killing.
And yet, our sinful nature likes to blur the line. Or, man will seek to redraw the line, thinking that God’s definition of ‘self-defense’ is too narrow & restrictive.
We can see this in the news of world events, where people imagine they are justified in killing their neighbor, not only if he threatens their life, but also if he /threatens their political pride, /or their personal comfort, /or is overtly racist, /or even just disrespects them.
*Isn’t this what happened in the very first murder? Cain imagines that his life & existence is more important than his brother Abel. When God has regard for Abel’s offering and not for Cain’s, Cain imagines he’s under attack = tho its just his pride that’s hurt. When he looks at the face of his brother, he doesn’t see the face of someone created & loved by God.
He sees competition; some jerk who had the audacity to take away the divine favor that belonged to him = as if there’s only so much to go around. In anger & hatred, Cain decides to redraw the lines for self-defense. He was chastised by God, his feelings got hurt, & it’s all his brother’s fault; he decides that he is justified in killing the one who ‘made him look bad.’ So he murders Abel, and thinks its self-defense.
For what reason did King David give direct orders to put a faithful soldier named Uriah up on the frontline with the enemy, and then be abandoned to die == *was it for righteous or unrighteous self-defense? David was in his palace enjoying the idle comfort of much military success; & he imagines that he’s so important that he can seek his own pleasure in someone else’s wife. When she becomes pregnant, he tries to cover it up; but he fails.
So now David’s comfort is threatened; he thinks his sin could certainly result in nation-wide embarrassment, an erosion of Israel’s peace, & turmoil in the palace. And why = because of one Hittite man? = Uriah’s not even a Hebrew. In David’s mind, God’s definition of self-defense must include anyone who threatens the king’s comfort & the nation’s good reputation. So, David murders Uriah, not by his hand but by his command ~ same thing in God’s eyes.
So, this is human history; our history. Whether Cain or David, in every generation,
we sinners have been doing the same thing; making bad-expansions of God’s good-definition of self-defense, and a godless world supports it. The world would convince us that we have the right to take the life of anyone who threatens /our pride, /our comfort, /or anything we value as necessary for our life when we value it more than another human being.
In the Bible, we read of those who prayed to false gods, like Molech & Baal. They were convinced to sacrifice their infants in order to prosper their crops, and to preserve their prosperous life. So today, people don’t pray to Molech or Baal, but to themselves for guidance & meaning. They don’t want anyone to get in the way of their preferred living. Their ‘self-god’ gives them permission for a free immorality. But then pregnancy & children are a direct threat to their way of life. Blinded by this idolatry & by fears, little ones are eliminated in a ‘self-defense’; it’s just the price those lesser beings have to pay for threatening to take away /fun, /freedom, /peace of mind, /or affording other things.
In our world, powerful people have felt justified in putting ‘inferior’ people into chains, into gas chambers & death camps. One human decides another one has no right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness because they’re too young or too old, too dependent or too different; one person looks at another and says: you’re not fully human, or you have no ‘quality of life’; you being around might complicate my life, therefore I can get rid of you = in self-defense.
In 1973, by the word of a few judges on the US Supreme Court, our nation was told to worship a false god who says that a woman’s right to privacy was greater than her unborn child’s right to life. In the years since, that self-defense has expanded with persuasive language like: ‘constitutional right, / pro-choice, / women’s health care, /reproductive rights & emotional wellbeing. So, in our day, ‘self-defense’ means a woman can murder the human that God is still forming in her womb, because that child poses a threat to the /mother’s job, /her ambitions, /her social status, /her fear from the news of a bad economy, climate change, over population. It’s a very wide ‘self-defense,’ & keeps getting wider.
Christians DO understand the real challenges posed by life in this broken world, or the regret & embarrassment of personal immorality. People think: “I can’t face my parents. How am I going to finish my schooling or training? How am I going to afford a child?” These are common questions for scared women & men in response to an unplanned pregnancy.
And like Satan does, Roe v. Wade tempted them with the idea that they didn’t have to struggle with a difficult & godly answer. Abortion’s false promise is to turn back time & pretend a baby never happened.
Of course, the sanctity of human life applies itself to all stages of life. Today, advocates of ‘right to die’ & ‘mercy killing’ insist that we have a personal right to kill ourselves when our bodies start to breakdown & fail us. People start believing that its better to die than to be humiliated by adult diapers or assisted living. People begin to be convinced that it’s ‘merciful’ to end the suffering of our parents, our friends, or anyone who’s medically reliant on our money or taxes.
But too much is a wrong ‘self-defense’. It’s us telling God that we don’t like to suffer, or to see suffering or be burdened by it; so we claim the right to remove it =not by true care or spiritual comforts= but by us using death to end the life God gave. This is not merciful, godly, or right. The 5th C. declares that all murder is wrong; ‘that we do not seek to hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but to help and support him in every physical need.’
But this we cannot do on our own; we are only able ‘in faith’; as God’s people, listening to & following His Word-of-Life. So that we would listen to & follow, God comes to us -in human flesh- as our Good Shepherd. In John chapter 10, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them = because I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly = because I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
This is the picture of the great difference between Christ & man, between Savior & sinner, between an attitude of life & an attitude of death. Sinners would kill to keep what we have; Jesus would be crucified to give us everything He has. Jesus did not take up a ‘self-defense’ over & above His Father’s holy will; He didn’t need to = the Father is perfect in might & will; He is altogether trustworthy for Jesus, and for you & me.
In being mocked & ridiculed for his trust & holiness, in his suffering & crucifixion, Jesus had no desire for more self-defense than His Father permitted. He could’ve done everything we are tempted to do in defending our opinions, our pride, & comfortable life. But He didn’t; he didn’t need to, because He trusted His Father to guard & encourage him in living as a good witness to what is good, right, & just. And that is true life, for every human being. Jesus came to a world full of selfish & defensive humans, and He perfectly demonstrated the keeping of the 5th C, especially when it meant taking on ridicule, false witnesses, and other suffering.
Of course, his fulfilling of the 5th C. was far beyond what we do; for that is why He was sent to us. The Father had sent us His Shepherd to help & support us in every need of both soul and body. The Father sent us the Shepherd who would defend us from our life-enemy =which is death, and defend us from the thief & the wolf = which is sin & Satan, by laying down his own life in our place. By his own obedience to the Father, and by his substitutionary death, and by the power that raised him from the dead, our Good Shepherd has restored you & me to be his sheep.
Consider how wide is the mercy of this Good Shepherd. From the cross, He forgave our self-defense which caused us to hate some people, to cause them pain, or hold a grudge against them. From the cross, Jesus looked out upon a whole world of those who have pondered getting rid of people who complicate their lives. He saw those who have helped others to find reasons to eliminate the sick & dependent from their lives. He wept for those who have given permission to take away the life of another, because godless or ignorant leaders say it’s okay. Jesus valued our lives more than his own; and by doing so, He demonstrates the real value of all of those God has made.
From heaven, the Father saw all the /abortionists, /slave owners, /ethnic cleansers, /euthanizers, /&lawmakers, and all those who willingly supported or silently followed them in devaluing human life. He looked and his law eternally condemned. But, from the cross, thru his Son, the Father vowed a last chance. All who would look to His Son & turn from their evil, all who would return to the God of Life in humble faith & trust, would be saved. Because of Jesus, those who break the 5th C may receive mercy.
And this is what mercy is. Mercy is not putting someone out of their misery, or trying to cover up sin by making someone else pay with their life. Death is not mercy; and in our hand, death is not a friend, it’s still the enemy. But now death is not the end; and we have a true friend who is more powerful than death. Easter proves that in Jesus Christ, death is a defeated enemy. Resurrection proves that it has no power over Him. And by the promise of God, death has no power over all those who belong to Christ Jesus, who are baptized in His saving Name.
With The Good Shepherd comes life, abundant life for all who once disregarded, disrespected, or callously dismissed human life. He has done enough, more than enough, to cover with forgiveness Cain, & David, & all who sinned against life. And now, with that forgiveness, and the renewing water of baptism, you & I have a new life to live; not following the old & foolish & deadly ways of the world. You are a new creation, remade to walk in newness of life.
So, the Lord’s commands are no longer a burden. Now His Words are ‘the way, the truth, & the life’; / His words have become our chart & compass, our guide and comfort; / His words are our peace & life. In this new life, we have no reason to become self-defensive, as if its only up to us to preserve & protect our own life = for our life now belongs to Him. What a relief that is!
If he sends us some hardship or suffering in this valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for our Good Shepherd is still with us; we will not seek death as a solution, for the Lord is in charge of our coming into this world & our going out. If our country continues its downhill slide into easier abortions, or easier killing of the elderly, we will not give-in and go-along; we will continue to hold out /the Holy Scriptures, /the 5th C, /the gospel message, /& the promise of Christ himself = the Living One.
Life-in-Christ is still the answer to all of mankind’s problems, troubles, suffering & sin. Life in the hands of Christ Jesus was, is, & always will be the answer we give to anyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have, especially the hope we have in our darkest hour and our most difficult days. We confess: The Father has made me, the Son has redeemed me, and the HSp has remade me to be his own, to live in his kingdom, and to serve him each day in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. And if God has done these great things for you, He most certainly has done them for each & every human being, /large or small, /old or young, /sick or healthy, /gifted or simple.
And this gift of Christian faith is not in self-defense mode. This faith is moving you to respect & care for every neighbor as you do yourself; to help & support them in every physical need.