Disarmament Of The Heart -- By: David T. Porter

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 04:1 (Fall 1986)
Article: Disarmament Of The Heart
Author: David T. Porter

Disarmament Of The Heart

David T. Porter

Professor of Church History
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Peacemakers frequently miss the point of the oft-quoted peace promise in Isaiah 2:2–5. So eager are we to hear “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks” and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore,” we overlook the precondition of peace: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he shall teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” There will be no peace unless we learn God’s ways and walk in his paths. God’s righteousness and peace go hand in hand. Yet we will know neither unless we first “go up to the mountain of the Lord.”

Jesus made the same point. For some time now I’ve wondered why he demanded the impossible when he spoke of peace. “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t kill!’ I say, “Don’t get angry or call your brother (or sister) a fool. If you are going to the Temple to offer a gift as a token of reconciliation and remember that your brother (or sister) has something against you, go and be reconciled and then offer it. Be quick to be reconciled to an opponent before you get to court’ “ (Mt 5:21–26). “You’ve heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say, ‘Don’t retaliate at all! Turn the other cheek. Walk the second mile. Give to anyone who asks’ “ (5:38–42). If these were not impossible enough, he continued, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors so you may be children of your heavenly Father who causes his sun to rise on both evil and good and rain to fall on both righteous and unrighteous... Be perfect (in love) as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:43–48).

Opposition to retaliation seems to me too deeply woven into early Christian teaching for us to ascribe it to a source other than Jesus. The Apostle Paul repeated the perspective if not the exact words in Romans 12:14–20: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Don’t repay evil for evil. Rather, have noble thoughts about all persons. If you possibly can, be at peace with all. Never avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave it to God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repa...

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