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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Wanted: Christian Murderers

Should all killing come to an end?
In our enlightened western culture, we have long - and rightly - given up on a philosophy which drove the crusades, namely the right or even duty of Christians to take up weapons and 'fight for the truth'. That was Old Testament thinking, when Israel was a theocracy under the direct rule of God, and when the very survival of God's people as a nation required armies and fighting and war. (I'd like to see how long the Dawkins's of this world  - who criticise the wars of the OT - would survive in that environment without bearing arms: as long as it takes for them to be discovered by an enemy: we're talking minutes).

All that fighting disappeared with the coming of the Prince of Peace - not least because the people of God no longer were located in any single nation, but were now spread throughout every nation of the world. Since the coming of  Jesus we no longer take up the worldly weapons of warfare to fight spiritual battles and swords and armour, blood and guts are a thing of the past.....

....or are they? Is there no place at all for killing?

Quite to the contrary, the New Testament insists that Christians assume the work of murderers. Not of people, we hastily add, but of sinful desires which wage war against the soul.

A Missing Truth
According to the Scriptures, we are called "by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body." (Romans 8:13). A Christian is someone who has "crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24). We may have done away with outward bloody battles, but we new covenant believers are still called to bloody messy warfare, just as intense, just as brutal as anything we might see in Lord of the Rings.

Perhaps our easy going age filters out truth that doesn't resonate with its spirit. And so we don't  preach on battles, outside - or inside.

The result of this failure to murder, says Paul, is death. If we do not put to death our sinful desires we will 'die'; it's either them alive or us alive. Death in NT-speak is much more than r.i.p. type of death. Death is sadness, death is joylessness, death is quench-the-spirit ness and death leads to Doubting Castle and Giant Despair.  If we don't put the misdeeds of the body to death we will die in all these ways, and  more.

So many Christians who talk about the Spirit, never mention this aspect of his work; his sanctifying work, his enabling us to put to death the misdeeds of the body. It's why I take so much Spirit-talk in the western church with a big pinch of salt. Unless the first part of his title and personhood "Holy", is acknowledged, you at best distort him, at worst blaspheme him.

How does it work?
Putting sinful desires to death is no different from putting any living thing to death; I mean when does a living entity like being put to death? It will struggle like mad to stay alive. So will sin. John Stott in his commentary on Galatians chapter 5, helpfully develops the metaphor of crucifying sin like this.

We must be pitiless with our sins.  Crucifixion was reserved for nasty people, and we must regard our sin - even our pet sins - as wicked entities to be put mercilessly to death. Do we regard greed and lust and dissension as evil wicked things? We ought to if we don't. And in spite of all the protests and struggles we must pitilessly put sin to death.

We must expect pain. The old man will yelp and scream with the pain as we murder him. So connected to the old man are we in this present age that killing the old man will sometimes feel like killing ourselves, or at least like killing someone dear to us and we will feel pain. We must not give up just because we feel pain!

We need to be decisive. You didn't hang about with a murderer hooing and haaing over whether or not to crucify him. You followed one instruction and as brutal or as nasty as the event would turn out, you went ahead with it until he breathed his last. So too with sin, we must make the decision "greed is going to be killed", "lust will die", "divisiveness must go", "jealousy and envy are history", and then proceed with the bloody business of murder.

Rewards for genteel folk
You say, all this is too much for we poor sanitised westerners. Well you can't do it on your own, that's for sure. You need to pray for the Spirit's powerful coming-along-side you. But the rewards are nothing less than life, which means light and joy and happiness and clarity and usefulness.

So decide today to become a Murderer for Christ.

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