Scripture: Matthew 26:47-56
Key verse: (52) The Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Reflection: The early church took these words from Jesus to heart and believers were steadfastly committed to passivism. That changed in the fourth century when the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Constantine claimed to have a vision of a cross in the sky, perhaps shaped like the Greek letters chi and ro. He then had this Christian symbol put on the battle flags of the empire as they went into military conflicts. What a long way Christianity had come from the garden of Gethsemane!!
Disciples have struggled to discern what it means to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. He taught “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matthew 5:39) and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Sometimes disciples have ignored those commands and have “carried the cross” into battle like the Roman army. Other times faithful people have concluded that war might be “just’ when it defends the weak and the powerless, when it protects humans from tyranny and violence.
I wonder what it would have been like to be in the garden of Gethsemane and to watch Jesus as he was betrayed by Judas and arrested by soldiers who came with swords and clubs (Matthew 26:55). When I consider what it means to be a disciple, I am challenged to think about defending Jesus and my faith in him. Perhaps defending Jesus isn’t about violence, by sword or angry words, but about living his way in the midst of whatever circumstance. Rather than arguing with those who challenge my faith, how might I love them? Rather than claiming persecution about minor offenses, how might I turn the other cheek? Rather than labeling those who disagree with me as my enemies, how might I pray for them? Rather than fighting with weapons or words, what would it mean to “fight” with my choices to love and pray and care? In a tumultuous time, our world needs disciples who put down their swords in order to join God in transformation.
Prayer: I confess that my first instinct is to fight back, O God. I confess that when I am afraid, I want to protect myself, my opinions and my lifestyle. Sometimes I claim this is about defending you. Give me the courage I will need to follow Jesus today so that I can love even my enemies. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].