Matthew 26:52 “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
To begin with a question, where does it say in this verse of scripture that it is morally wrong to draw the sword? Where do we get this determination or line of thought from? From a literal, legalistic reading of this verse we get nothing to support the traditionally claimed use in the practice of pacifism. For if one fights, indeed he is more likely to die, but shouldn’t we scorn death if we are truly followers of Christ? If we fear not the earthly authorities then what is our purpose in fearing defense with the symbol given of the sword. For a man who takes up a sword in the modern sense does so not in the form of conquest but of self defense.
We see in Luke 22:36 “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” This is clearly stating in our literalistic reading of the verse that there is a use in owning a sword and that it is needed above an extra pair of clothes. The modern application of this is in the argument for moral self defense. Quite obviously we can defend moral, righteous personal and societal self defense from a philosophical and humanistic viewpoint but as Christians we turn to the Bible for our final authority.
So returning to the original verse from Matthew, I believe it has been greatly taken out of context. This verse has been used for centuries by many in the sense that it represents pacifism but in our true understanding, paired with context and other situational verses from scripture one can see the true doctrine shine through. If one goes into a battle in defense of his homeland against an unjust invader in search of conquest, we may safely say on concrete grounds that the Bible is on his side.
While advocating peace the Bible does not condemn self defense or righteous liberation on the personal, family, or state level. In fact we see the opposite when we think of the Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” How then can he bear the sword given to him by God if the sword is inherently evil? Did the Israelites not wage countless wars ordained by God in either liberation or conquest?
To conclude this commentary on this verse from Matthew, I would like to remind all true followers of Christ that with proper scriptural translation, contextual and historical interpretation, and faith that all Biblical verses work together in harmony. Though in modern times we read the Bible in verses, we must not forget that each Gospel is a coherent book to be read in unison and not divided for the sake of organization or quoting.
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