Christians should not return evil for evil, because they can rely on the “violence of God” to exact justice on Judgment Day, a Southern Baptist seminary professor and administrator said in a recent chapel service.
Russell Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology, preached an Oct. 11 sermon during Heritage Week titled, “Why Jesus is More-and-Less Violent than Allah, Planned Parenthood, and Me: Mercy, Ministry, and the Kingdom of Christ.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The text was from Matthew 26:40-56, where Jesus rebukes Peter for striking the slave of the high priest with a sword and cutting off his ear while resisting Jesus’ arrest in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Garden of Gethsemane.
“This is one of the passages that the inner liberal in me does not like,” Moore said. “I want to edit it. I want to reconstruct it. And if I were writing this narrative, I would have Jesus look at the severed ear on the ground, then look at Peter, then look at the severed ear on the ground, and look at Peter, look at the severed ear a third time, look at Peter, and reply ‘You sissy, don’t you know how to use a sword? Not there. Here. Right across the neck.’ At which point he would turn around say, ‘And who’s the big boy that wants it next?’
“But Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus does something incredibly different. He turns around and rebukes Peter and says ‘You should not do this,’ and then Jesus tells him why.”
Moore said Jesus rebuked Peter for failing to trust in the justice of God. Peter rather behaved like a “Darwinist,” believing “that the strongest and scrappiest are the ones that survive.”
Noting that Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels–“all the shock and awe of God’s power”–to his aid, Moore said Peter’s second problem was that he wanted justice but didn’t trust God.
He also said Peter was a “Satanist,” because he used the same temptation as the devil, questioning if Jesus’ crucifixion was necessary to fulfill Scripture.
Rather than trusting in God’s justice, he said, Peter attempted to fight back against the enemies of God on his own.
“It’s not just that Peter is a Darwinist. It’s not just that Peter is acting like a Satanist. Peter is acting like a Muslim,” Moore said. “Peter is acting like a jihadist at a strip club the night before he hijacks a plane. He’s acting as though by drawing blood he can establish his righteousness toward God, as though by fighting the enemies of Jesus he can then enter into the kingdom.”
Moore said Jesus made it is possible for Christians to live lives characterized by mercy by his violent death on the Cross.
“Jesus is not standing here in tie dye saying ‘All I am saying is give peace a chance,'” he said. “Jesus is standing here saying, ‘I am able to be less violent than Allah, I am able to be less violent than the Darwinist power structure of this age, I am able to refuse to seek my own personal judgment precisely because I believe in the violence of God, a violence that touches down at Golgotha.'”
Moore said injustice will end at Christ’s Second Coming.
“We live our lives, pouring ourselves out, specifically because we know that one day that eastern skyline–that’s illuminated right now with billboards for personal injury lawyers, that’s illuminated right now with billboards with television programs saying you that this is the way you can lash out at your enemies–all of these billboards standing there will one day be will be overshadowed in an explosion of light,” he said.
“All of these mosques that are filled now with those who say the only way you achieve peace with God is through the shedding of the blood of the infidels, they will be overshadowed,” he said.
“One day this being that dares to call himself Allah will cower in the presence of an exploding eastern sky, with a triumphant, crucified man.
“And I hope that as he stands there, in mercy, in grace and in justice, I hope that he will turn around and say, to violent men, like Peter and me, ‘No need for swords boys. I can handle it from here.'”
Robert Parham of the BaptistCenter for Ethics called Moore’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching “warped” and “more twisted than a pretzel.”
Parham said Christians should return good for evil because that is what Jesus taught and practiced, not in order to let God seek vengeance against evil doers. “In Moore’s crippled worldview, Christians are negative rather than positive and motivated by revenge, albeit, in the end times in the hand of God,” Parham said.
“Jesus taught a proactive way, rejecting the world’s way of violence,” Parham said. “Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (Mt 5:44-45). He so rejected violence at his arrest that he rebuked Peter for his action, warning he and others that ‘all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’ When he restored the severed ear, he surely did so as an act of making peace through physical renewal.
“Rather than major on what Jesus majored on, Moore plays a minor note at the outer boundaries of apocalyptic Christianity and misguides seminaries away from biblical truth.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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