(Originally posted on my Tumblr blog, RationalExuberance.me )
Who raged when Christ was hauled away to be crucified, a monstrous death for an innocent man? Who fought back against it, against the injustice?
It was Peter with his sword, and it was Christ who disarmed him. Not only did Christ disarm Peter, but he went further and healed the man Peter attacked. Uncomprehending, the apostles scattered, and Jesus was led away in chains.
As long as Christians think with the logic of the world and not the theo-logic of God, we too will be uncomprehending. We too will raise the sword in defense of our rights. And we too will miss the point the Crucified One died showing us.
A Muslim theologian wrote that Christianity is the way it is because their founder died at the hands of political powers. Islam, he said, is different because it was a political power. There was no separation between throne and altar, between sword and cross. Christianity, then, was a religion of victims, while Islam, on the other hand, are holy warriors.
We see this is the way the two defined their martyrs. In Islam, a martyr is one who dies in battle for the spread of God’s peace, and in Christianity, a martyr is one who is murdered for the name of Jesus. Not in war, but by oppression.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
The irony is that when the Crusaders went off to march against the Muslim infidel, they couldn’t have been more like the Muslims and less like Christ than they were at that moment. The heights of political power and religious motivation so intertwined that knights called themselves “Cross Bearers” (which is what ‘crusaders’ means) when all they were bearing were swords for the enemies. They styled themselves holy warriors, and won indulgences.
I’m reminded of the poem Lepanto by Chesterton, where he laments that, due to the Protestant Reformation and the rise of the Elizabeth’s England, there were so few to raise up “swords about the Cross” and fight with Don John of Austria.
But when we look back to that Holy Thursday night when cross and sword were indeed intertwined, it was the defenselessness of love that Christ alone wielded. Peter was rebuked, disarmed, even shamed for thinking as men do, living by the sword. And when you look to Good Friday it would seem that the only “swords about the Cross” were those belonging to the Romans, the persecutors, those who make men victims.
The contrast is there for us to see, if we have eyes to see it. I fear the church in America refuses to see it because it has been clouded by militarism and nationalism.
Why do we rage when the world persecutes us? They murdered the Master, why should we servants be treated any less? Why should we lay claim to our rights, why should we protest too much, when our Lord faced the world’s greatest superpower and “Opened not his mouth”?
But we don’t have that kind of humility, do we? We pray to the martyrs and bless their names with words, but in the secret places deep down in our hearts we are too afraid to be persecuted, stripped naked, given a cross and told to march. So we rage. We scream. We assert our rights. We bring swords about the cross. Like Peter. Like the Romans.
And alone hangs the Savior of the world, wondering when His Christians will lay down their swords and take up their crosses and follow after Him.