At Talking Point earlier this week we ended with a Q/A time with the three speakers. Many of the audience members had really difficult questions, and many times the speakers were forced to stretch themselves to take great care with their answers. Of all the questions I had, one stuck out in my mind as each other the speakers had said things that seemed to hover around it. My question is, How can we as Christians reconcile the role of the cruciform life, by which we are defined, with the role of authority God has given governments to ‘bear the sword’? In the Q/A time at Talking Points, we ran out of time very quickly for asking questions, so I want to approach this question here.
What I mean by a few things:
‘Cruciform life’: Living to serve, living to give of oneself for others, living to sacrifice, living to be humbled, living for peace. This is the life formed in Christ, by Christ, and embodies the command to love God and neighbor.
‘Bear the sword’: Referring to Romans 13.4, the right of the State to use violence to create justice, to seek power over others, to rule with authority.
I still really wonder what the speakers would have answered. I see a blaring problem between the two roles, since one operates in a mode of nonviolence and the other is entirely founded upon violence, or at least the right to it.
There is a certain amount of mutual exclusivity between the them, especially when it comes to military vocations. In one light, the soldier is a servant of his country- a cruciform role. However, the military vocation demands the soldier must put the good of his own country over that of any other- ‘bearing the sword’ and using violence in ways that are in no way cruciform.
Another thing to consider is there are many vocations within any government and they are all in some way a ‘public servant.’ However, not all of these ‘bear the sword’ or have any connection to those that do. So, while I question some of them, many vocations or roles within the State are clearly compatible with that of the cruciform life.
That said, I cannot reconcile the vocation of soldier with the cruciform life. As necessary as their servant role is, and regardless of all the good that can come from it, the position is defined by it use of violence and this is directly juxtaposed to a global understanding of the cruciform life– which Christians are defined by above all other roles.