Saturday, February 24, 2018

Living by the Sword

I have been considering the phrase "he who lives by the sword will die by the sword." I was sure it was in the bible in the story of Jesus' arrest, but that passage actually says "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52, NRSV) That seems even more encompassing than "living by the sword". I have always thought of it somewhat literally - actually being killed by a sword, or a gun. Lately, however, in watching my nation's reactions to yet another mass shooting, I have begun to understand that dying as a spiritual death, in much the same way that Paul writes of sin as death.

Taking up the sword, especially in a way in which one no longer has regard for the life of one's neighbor, is a kind of spiritual death, and a separation from God. When you say "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands", you're dead already, because that is what you cling to until death. Jesus said "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell". The sword and the gun are symbols and manifestations of that fear.

Given the circles I travel in, perhaps most people reading this just not in approval. But, what are other things that we might hold in a fearful death grip that are spiritually killing us? Are there people, institutions, ideas, physical objects that we must have? Are there things that interrupt our love of God or of our neighbors? Money, for example, is one I struggle with. Perhaps I also have too much faith in institutions.

One aspect of the Exodus story is the Israelites learning (and failing to learn) a daily dependence on God. I recognize in myself that I need that same lesson - that checking the news or Facebook has more importance in my daily routine than it should, and that what I read in the news stirs up fear of those who kill the body. Maybe I'm not in danger or taking up the sword, or gun, but there are other things I have taken up that are not life-giving.

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