Ask Your Preacher
Is using deadly force ever justifiable in defense of self or family? If there were ever a situation where there was complete societal breakdown (no government or police), food and water became scarce, and armed looters and gangs searching for food became a real threat to your family, would you be morally responsible to defend your family by any means necessary? Would God expect you to turn the other cheek or fight for survival?
Dear Getting Prepared,
When the Bible commands us to not kill, the word used for ‘kill’ is the word that we would use for ‘murder. Some of the most faithful men in the Bible were soldiers and had to kill people in the defense of their country. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), and yet David killed many people as a soldier. Jesus marveled at the faith of a centurion soldier (Matt 8:8-10). The first Gentile convert was Cornelius, a well-known Roman soldier (Acts 10:22). When a group of soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do to live a faithful life, he told them to be honest and faithful… but he never told them to stop serving in the military (Lk 3:14). These are all examples of the difference between murder and self-defense (or war-time killing).
In the Old Testament, God made specific rules that allowed an individual to kill if they were defending their home or family (Ex 22:2). In Lk 22:35-39, Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will begin after He leaves and that they ought to “buy a sword” – this is certainly an endorsement of self-defense. All of these point to the fact that God distinguishes between defensive force and vigilante murder.
How do you forgive someone if they have not asked for forgiveness and/or if they act as though they are not in error? I've heard some say you should simply be ready to forgive. I know I should not have ill will or resentful feelings, but how can I forgive if forgiveness has not been requested? We are only forgiven by God when we request it....
Dear Apology Acceptor,
Depending on the situation, you may or may not forgive the person (more on this further down), but no matter what: you can’t, absolutely CAN’T, treat the person poorly or allow bitterness to engulf you. Whether you forgive someone or not, we are all to love even our enemies (Lk 6:27) and treat them with kindness and love. Furthermore, bitterness of heart is a disease that is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to suffer (Heb 12:15).
With that said, here are some things to consider with forgiveness. You have to forgive all christians (Matt 18:35). If they are good enough for God to forgive, they are good enough for you to forgive. If the person is not a christian, you may find that they are purposefully continuing to harm you and abuse you. If this is the case, it is fair to say that you do not need to forgive them, but you do still need to love them. God is willing to forgive when we repent, but ready to forgive is different than actually forgiving (Ps 86:5). Another factor to consider is that Jesus asked God to forgive people who were crucifying Him. “Forgive them for they know not what they do”(Lk 23:34) is a very powerful statement. Jesus made it clear that oftentimes people do the wrong thing out of ignorance. If they had only known, they would have acted differently. It is always a good idea to give people the benefit of the doubt. If in doubt, forgiveness is always a better option.
How do you feel about letting the Pastor know that some people he has in leadership - worship leading and youth group - are drinking alcohol on the side while posting their publicly drunken pictures on the internet? Would it be wrong to bring this to his attention? I might add that this couple is in the "Pastor’s clique." This has been something breaking my soul, knowing that these people have been on stage lifting their hands, praising God on Sunday, and teaching impressionable teens who have access to these pictures -- then they are in bars and at parties on Saturday night. Am I sinning knowing it's happening and saying nothing? Pastors shouldn't even have "circles or cliques", right? Please pray and help. I am broken.
Sincerely, Caught In The Middle
Dear Caught In The Middle,
Yes, you must say something about it. For the sake of addressing the main purpose of your question and not getting distracted, we aren’t going to deal with the issue that your congregation is led by a single pastor, but we recommend you read “Elders” to better understand the problem of a congregation being led by one man. After that, ask your pastor where in the Bible he can find an example of a congregation being led by a single pastor.
Back to the topic, though. Your specific question dealt with whether or not to say something when you know someone else is sinning. If you know there is sin in your congregation, you must address it. Paul condemned the Corinthians because they allowed someone to flagrantly live a life of sin and remain amongst them (1 Cor 5:1-2). God tells us that if our brother sins, we must confront him privately (Matt 18:15). If that doesn’t work, bring one or two others with you and confront him again (Matt 18:16). If that still doesn’t work – bring it to the leadership of the congregation, and if he still won’t repent, then the congregation is to withdraw from him (Matt 18:17). You have a responsibility to make the sin known for the sake of the person’s soul and for the sake of the spiritual health of the others that they influence.
Some sins we commit when we act the wrong way, and sometimes we sin because we failed to act. If you know someone is openly sinning (and especially if you have evidence, like in your case), you must act. God requires it of you, and if the congregation won’t act as God intends… I recommend reading “Finding A Church”.
A while back, we had been talking about forgiveness and how you should keep forgiving people. What if they keep doing the same things to you and really aren’t sorry. How are you supposed to forgive then?
Sincerely, Hard To Forget
Dear Hard To Forget,
It is true that christians must forgive all other christians, but there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. David forgave Saul for trying to kill him, but David didn’t trust Saul after multiple attempts on his life (1 Sam 26:21-25). When we forgive someone, we no longer hold the debt of their sin against them (Matt 6:12); this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use wisdom in our dealings with them (Matt 10:16).
Christians often forgive people for things they haven’t repented of yet. Stephen asked that God forgive the people that were stoning him (Acts 7:60). Jesus, our Lord, did the same thing as He hung on the cross (Lk 23:34). But in both cases, it is safe to say that the people they forgave weren’t trustworthy. Their forgiveness opened the way to the possibility of a healthy relationship over time. We must follow their example. You don’t know whether the person is truly sorry, whether they are trying to grow, or what problems or trials they are going through. God is the final judge of their character and faithfulness. You can and should always treat people with kindness and generosity no matter how they have treated you.
Continue to forgive and keep yourself from bitterness (Heb 12:15), but feel free to protect yourself from harmful relationships.
I know that forgiving those who have hurt us is absolutely critical to be a follower of Jesus, but how can we know for sure if we have truly forgiven someone?
The only way to know for sure is to examine yourself – something God says we should regularly do (1 Cor 11:28). Forgiveness can often take time because we aren’t as good at it as God is, but there are a few signs that you are truly forgiving someone.
- You aren’t embittered against them (Heb 12:15). Bitterness is the product of holding grudges against someone and not letting go of your pain. If you find yourself becoming an angry and embittered person – you probably need to work on forgiveness.
- Are you trying to forget about the injury they caused? God says that forgiveness means that you no longer remember the transgression (Heb 8:12). This doesn’t mean that you have amnesia, but it means that you aren’t dwelling upon it and keeping records of injuries against you.
As we said, forgiveness can be very difficult, especially if the person has hurt you very deeply, but it is possible to grow and become a truly forgiving person.