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Radical Islam's Sword Versus the Sword of Christ

The steadily mounting violence witnessed in radical Islamist groups, such as ISIS, evidences those who believe the use of aggression is a valid means to accomplish their agenda. Videos of those who profess to be Christians, being beheaded, along with the recent attacks in Paris, speak of how such atrocities are used against those deemed "infidels." Some, point to the passage in Quran 9:5, which speaks of killing the idolaters, or polytheists, those who refuse to accept the monotheistic vision of Islam in Allah. Certainly, this is what is seen in radical Islam today.

But what about Christianity? There are those who would point to the Crusades as evidence those who follow the Bible engage in the same tactics. The Crusades, however, were sanctioned by various Catholic Popes in the Middle Ages, separate and apart from the teaching of Scripture. There is no passage in the New Testament that corresponds with the idea of killing those who are not Christians. Others point to those who serve in the military today, who fight against radical Islamist groups. Again, this is not based on a religious decree, but on secular national interests, not a Christian Jihad.

So, what about the sword of the Spirit that is mentioned in the New Testament? It is not a literal sword used for physical violence, but a figurative image for the power of the gospel. Paul offers a definition of the term in Ephesians 6:17; "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." In context, Paul is speaking of how to avoid the temptations of sin and the schemes of Satan against the child of God. "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). It speaks of the power one has spiritually, through Scripture, to live a holy and godly life, to have an abundant life in Christ (John 10:10), and to live for eternal life (Ephesians 6:10).

New Testament Christianity tell us the power for change is through the gospel, the preached word and the free will of each individual, either to accept it as God's word, or to reject it and live as one chooses. The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). If one accepts it as such, and when one obeys it, it can transform one's life (Romans 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). One is free to reject it and live however one pleases, but to do so comes with consequences from God on the day of judgment (John 3:36).

How should a Christian then live? "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:18-21). May we, who proclaim Christ as Lord, live by the precepts of His word, seeking to be reflections of His light and love to the world around us.

Robert Johnson, Longview, TX