Many Christians in North America are convinced that it is right and proper to own guns as not only a form of self-defense but potentially as an effective way to challenge and protect against an overbearing government. Many who hold this opinion quote Jesus when he urged his disciples, if they didn’t have a sword, to “sell your cloak and buy one.” Chuck Baldwin, described as an American politician and founder-pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, has expressed his opinion in no uncertain terms: Jesus plainly and emphatically told Simon Peter and the others to arm themselves. So emphatic was Jesus’ command that He told them if they could not afford to purchase a sword they were instructed to sell their clothes if necessary and buy one…The First Century Roman sword was the most efficient and lethal personal defense weapon in the world at the time. It is no hyperbole or injustice to language to say that the Roman sword was the First Century equivalent to a modern AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. It was designed to kill swiftly and efficiently. And Jesus commanded His disciples to buy and carry one!
Kim Hyun-hui was born in North Korea. Under orders from her country’s then leader, Kim Il-sung, she was one of two young agents who successfully blew up a South Korean passenger jet in 1987, killing all 115 people on board. She was later captured, taken to South Korea, sentenced to death, then granted a pardon by South Korean president Roe Tae-Woo. Today, Kim is a Christian who has received the forgiveness of many of the families of her victims. She regrets her past actions and wonders openly, “Why did I have to be born in North Korea?”
The Christian faith is all about a person: Jesus Christ. Faith is not an academic exercise; it’s a loving relationship with that person. At the very center of space and time, God himself inhabited a human body and walked this earth. It’s how we know what God is like, and he reveals to us what we could never have imagined: from weakness comes strength; from failure comes victory; from rejection comes acceptance; from service comes lordship; from humiliation comes glory; and from death comes life. Everything in this world, in its own way, points to Christ.
In recent weeks, considerable controversy has been sparked by the video trailer for a childish, amateurish production entitled Innocence of Muslims. In this almost spoof-like movie, the prophet Muhammad is pictured as a violent, unprincipled, pedophilic philanderer. Clearly, the intent of the movie was to provoke reaction, and indeed it has led to violent protests in many predominantly Muslim countries. A minister in the government of Pakistan offered a substantial financial reward to anyone who kills the film’s producer. In the words of one religious leader, the minister’s views “represent the true spirit of Islam” – while such a statement might be disputed by millions of more peace-loving Muslims.
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus “questioned His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’ And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’” Mainstream Christian denominations agree on the person of Jesus – that he was “God manifest in the flesh”, “fully human and fully divine, bridging the gap between humanity and God.”
Last night, I happened to watch the boarding process for an international flight bound for Europe. At one point, a group of Muslim men arrived at the gate wearing traditional white caps and robes. All sported thick black beards, and most were obviously Middle Eastern. As they handed their boarding passes to the gate agent, a couple of homeland security guards rushed to the gate and pulled two of the men aside. In full view of other passengers, the men were subjected to many minutes of intense questioning. Eventually, they were released and allowed to board the flight.
As observed by CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, “human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.” Our conscience tells us there is an objective definition of right and wrong. Why should honesty and devotion be viewed as good while disloyalty and treachery are wrong? Why do we admire valor and bravery but despise cowardice? Why do we insist on fair play when trickery and deceit can win the day? Why, above all else, do we admire those who sacrifice their own comfort and ambitions for the sake of those in desperate need?
Yesterday, my niece showed me around her new home. In one room, frosted glass let in the light but prevented me from seeing much outside. While I could make out some basic shapes, such as the rough outline of a house across the street, the details were hidden from me. The view was partial and incomplete.
Trained as a physicist and with a passion for science, I enjoy watching the Star Trek series, and in particular The Next Generation. While scientific principles and ideas are sometimes exaggerated or compromised for the sake of a good storyline, many episodes cause us to think more deeply about the nature of time, space, and our human condition.
The Christian faith is nothing without the resurrection of Jesus. If Christ was not raised, we might as well pack our backs now and, like many renowned atheists, end our lives prematurely: There is no hope, no purpose, no objective morality, and our faith is a monumental waste of time. So many today believe that Jesus’ resurrection was a fabrication, a magician’s trick, wishful thinking, pure fantasy, or irrelevant. As followers of Jesus, instead of bickering among ourselves over trivial concerns or embroiling ourselves in politics, we should be proclaiming the resurrection of Christ at every opportunity – because everything else in this world pales into insignificance. While the body of every other historical figure has rotted away, the body and person of Jesus live on!