Speaking of violence, by the way, next to an anti-Christ spirit and outright rebellion against God, I suggest that the "spirit of religiosity" . . . is perhaps the most violent and antagonistic against the work and person of the Holy Spirit.
As often happens, with uncanny consistency and specificity . . . one of the radio ministries I listened to yesterday was talking about the very same subject as addressed in present writings . . . .
Pastor Dr. Michael Brown reiterated some distinctions between legalism vs. holiness and the sad fact of how many new believers are chased out of the church and their conversion experience diminished when they are assailed by legalists in the church who seek to put them back under "the law."
Some of Brown's comments and my notes while listening:
Legalism is law without love . . . standards without a Savior . . . rules without relationship . . . .
It (legalism) is change from the OUTWARD-in . . . instead of Holy Spirit's transforming work of INSIDE-out . . . .
Outward religion being imposed on people has driven many people from God, from Christianity, because of the spiritless legalistic burden they feel threatened to bear.
Deadness of the Spirit comes when you preach externals more than Jesus; rules more than relationship.
Two farmers were talking over the fence one day. One said to the other, "I hear you are a Christian." The other one replied, "Yep, I don't smoke, don't drink and I don't chase women." The first one said, "Hmm, my donkey must be a Christian too. He also does none of those things."
Holiness makes us like Him . . . in thought, word and deed . . . . Legalism pushes us away from Him and creates superficiality.
The question of whether a Christian can be in the military is different than what I think is the more important issue (that of the legalism involved.)
The assertion that a Christian CANNOT be in the military (should NEVER physically defend oneself or others) is certainly not a clear cut conclusion to me. Some of the greatest minds in history (Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Franscisco Suarez, ) have found scriptural justification for "just war" and the acceptability (though, not necessarily desirability) of a Christian being able to take the vocation of soldier. Positions like police and security officer also would have to be considered whether "allowable" or prohibited to the Christian.
I can respect, however, opinions on either side of the question.
But what is troubling is when legalism (that enemy and killer of Spirit) enters the debate; when "MY OPINION BECOMES YOUR OBLIGATION!"
Legalism is a form of idolatry. In place of the living relationship with God, a RULE is interposed and referred to, which brings in the law . . . which is anathema to love and puts the believer back in bondage.
Too many times, someone or some group of people . . . have become fixated on one or another biblical issue, and then build a whole new sect on it. The Amish demand obedience to rules prohibiting the use of technology . . . and also "nonresistance/pacifism" . . . Mormons insist you musn't drink coffee or alcohol and must tithe . . . 7th Day Adventists demand that Saturday is the Sabbath . . . Jehovah's Witnesses prohibit the celebration of holidays . . . and so on and so on . . . .
. . . . All death dealing legalisms which crush the Spirit and shut out God, where laws and regulations become the idol--what is foremost.
I see Jesus at His angriest when confronting the scribes and Pharisees in their wielding of the law, using it make others conform, where they "make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within are full of extortion and excess!"
How dare those who seek to reimpose the law on the liberated in Christ! Jesus came to set the captives free! He fulfilled the law. Now, He lives in us, and because of our deep love and gratitude and recognition of unworthiness . . . it follows . . . that we will seek to please Him, obey Him, OUT OF LOVE--NOT because of blind obedience to rules, laws and ordinances.
But here come the Pharisees, with their tradition, their interpretations, their authority, eager to re-enslave the liberated Believer, saying, "MY OPINION BECOMES YOUR OBLIGATION!"
Revenge is wrong . . . and a person led by love--by the Holy Spirit--in relationship with God . . . will not be led to seek it.
Someone acting from a rule of "nonresistance" is not led by love, but led by the law, and so, is under the law, and thus is condemned by the law because we know that we sin (break some law) every day . . . and will continue to . . . until we reach glory.
Obedience comes not from externally prescribed obligations, but from the power produced from grace in relationship with and by the Holy Spirit's transformative power.
"The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort. The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience. The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.
I preach to you, at this time, obedience—absolute obedience to the Lord God; but I preach the obedience of a child, not the obedience of a slave; the obedience of love, not of terror; the obedience of faith, not of dread." Spurgeon