By Jim O’Brien
Today is the 4th of July, the day that America celebrates Independence.
Frank Buckles is 107 years old and still going strong. A farmer from Charleston, West Virginia, he is the last surviving doughboy of WWI. He was just 15 years old when he entered the army and was dispatched to England on the Carpathia. By the time WWII came along he was employed by a shipping company. He was on a business trip to the Philippines when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was taken captive as a prisoner of war and lived a tortured life for 39 months.
His mind is still sharp. An affable man, fighting has not only been a part of his life but the rest of his family as well. He remembers his great great grandfather talking about serving in the Revolutionary war.
America began with a fight. I guess some could call it an avoidable war but freedom would not have occurred without it, not only for us but other countries as well. When the French Revolution occurred, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud from the street corners throughout France. It has been used as a model of inspiration for people everywhere ever since.
It was a fight to defend basic rights; the right of self-determination, the right of private ownership, the right to hold leaders accountable, and the right to justice to name a few. Freedom is not a universal value and it does not come without a fight.
Some people believe that man has no right to self-defense whatever the circumstances. The Bible is often used to support that concept in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary.
The Bible has a lot to say about fighting. And generally it isn’t what the timid or faint of heart expect.
When God gave His law to Moses, He commanded that a near relative should avenge murder (Num 35:19). The accused was allowed to flee to a city of refuge for trial. But the relative could take vengeance if the accused did not go directly to the city or if he left before the death of the High Priest. If he did the near kinsman of the victim was allowed to take the life of the offender. The reason the near kinsman was required to take revenge was that he was the inheritor of the victim‚s property. He had a vested interest to protect his family.
God seems to understand man’s timidity in the face of a fight. In fact, when Israel was fleeing Egypt God intentionally took them a circuitous route to avoid facing the Philistines. He knew the fear of war would cause them to turn and run (Exodus 13:17).
Jesus expected that truth would stir up trouble. He said he did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). If a man thinks that becoming Christian means a life without fighting, he is mistaken.
And He expects us to prepare for opposition. In fact, when Jesus gave instructions to his disciples at the last Passover service he would observe with them he gave instructions for them to sell, if necessary, a second garment and buy a sword (Luke 22:36). His disciples responded that among the assembled group there were two swords at the time.
Later when He was take prisoner by a servant of the high priest, one of the disciples took out a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear. It is doubtful the disciple was aiming for the ear.
It is fascinating that people who read the Bible overlook these many references. It is filled with military references. The Patriarchs were often military leaders. Even the prophet Gideon, when God’s Spirit came upon him, went to war. Paul talked of fighting the good fight. It is a common theme throughout scripture.
But why does God focus so many scriptures on this subject?
One may as well ask, Why do men enslave others? Why do they build walls around countries guarded by sentries? Why do they cross an ocean to destroy the financial center of free people who seek peace? The answer is as clear as it is simple. There is something that hates freedom. It is a spirit that desires worship under threat of force.
Men who worship God do so from choice. Only men with a heart of freedom can make such a choice.
It has ever been and shall always be.
When our country was founded one of the books that turned the hearts of the patriots to resist the tyranny of oppressive government was “Common Sense” written by Thomas Paine. He reasoned that freedom could only exist without the burden of kings or powerful churches.
It is amazing that Paine referenced churches with oppressive government. What is important for a nation is equally important for a congregation. One of the founding tenets of this nation was freedom of religion. That meant freedom from another man’s religion.
It is an incredible thought that men had to die so that [y]our congregation can exist. We are free to worship God as we understand Him because someone was willing to fight.
Congregations, like nations, have the right as well as the responsibility to defend against oppressive church governments, heresy, disrespect by unruly attendees and abusive leaders. The willingness to stand against such threats is part of the heritage received and the legacy to pass on.