Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., created controversy among Christians when he said, referring to terrorists: “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
I, too, was concerned about the tone of Falwell’s statement and how it reflected upon the teachings of Christ. Should he have more carefully chosen his words? In fairness, here is the context of Falwell’s remarks:
“It just blows my mind that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control”, to applause.
“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now … Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, laughing.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course…”
“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
It would be strange for a Christian not react to this statement. However, we must not knee-jerk react. Instead, let’s reason together, as the Lord instructs.1
Falwell Jr strongly addressed and advocated for safety on Liberty University Campus. And for that, I commend him. Yes, many Christians would believe we are not even to use force to defend an attacker on a campus. I respect their desire to obey Christ as they understand His teachings, even if misguided.
However, for those of us who understand that Christ would have us stand in the gap for others, I’m disturbed by the language and willingness to kill so that we can “teach them a lesson.” Is that what Christ taught? Is that the spirit of the Law?
Even if we take Jesus’ teachings literally, there is no way we could fulfill them literally. We are to resist Satan, and he is the epitome of evil. Rather Jesus’ teachings are designed to soften our hearts, to do whatever we could in this dark world to save and love even those who are evil. Obviously this is not always possible and even unlikely, but we should keep our hearts thusly inclined.
We are here to teach others the love of Christ not “vengeance is ours”. Now, Falwell Jr. might not have intended for his remarks to come across as they did. And to the end, he clarified with this:
“As the president of this university community of nearly 15,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, I take very seriously my responsibility to keep you safe in an increasingly dangerous world. That’s why in 2011 I asked our Board of Trustees to consider a concealed carry policy. It wasn’t because of Islamic terrorism, it was because what happened (just) up the road at Virginia Tech. More than 30 innocent students and faculty were murdered viciously and none of them had the ability to protect themselves. The day that happened, I thought we needed to do something different here at Liberty. We needed to have a way to protect our students, our faculty, so we instituted this free course in 2011.”
A few Christian leaders have weighed in on Falwell’s remarks, most notably, John Piper. Unfortunately, Piper’s remarks included sweeping assumptions about intent on the part of those who would conceal carry. But worse was Piper’s faulty hermeneutic of certain verses and sweeping unrighteous judgment of other Christians who have thoughtfully decided to carry and have done so from a solid Biblical exegesis.
And, of course, those from the pacifist Christian camp will continue to object, not fully understanding the context in which Jesus spoke. Many of brothers and sisters object because of a sincere, albeit misguided, conviction. Let’s continue to exercise patience and love while speaking the truth in love with gentleness and respect.
So while we should not refrain from protecting ourselves and others, we must be careful not to use our defensive rights as an excuse to walk in the flesh.
We are commanded to walk in love. Let’s truly love our enemies, including islamic terrorists by showing them our love, Christ’s love, first — stopping them with deadly force reluctantly, and only if they make it necessary.
- Isaiah 1:19 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord…