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Nathan Spearing on deployment.

A Theology of Violence: Meekness, Protection, and Self-defense in the Christian Life

What is the role of violence in a Christian’s life? Aren’t Christian’s supposed to always turn the other cheek? In this episode, Nathan argues that a pacifist view overlooks a true definition of meekness: the ability to do violence tempered with wisdom and restraint. By drawing on his experience as a special operations soldier as well as a many key Scriptures he offers a practical framework for understanding and navigating this critical topic.

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Show Notes

Welcome back to the Life on Target podcast. I’m your host, Nathan Spearing. I hope this podcast is coming to your ears as you are on mission in life—taking aim at the proper targets, identifying it, and hitting the mark—and that this conversation today will enable you to do that better. I’m a little bit more excited about this particular podcast than maybe some other ones, because the subject matter, a theology of violence, has been something that I have been formally working on in the form of curriculum and writing for a while, and is something that I think is particularly niche for me in the market of what’s going on out there. And [it’s] also not something that I really wanted to bring to you as our first episode,

I felt it was important to lay some personal agency, general competency, foundations to make it a little bit broader as far as application and what you should be doing as someone who is living life boldly, living life on target. But also, this aspect of a proper theology of violence and understanding violence and the capacity to do violence as essential for someone who wants to have personal agency, who wants to be able to effect an end state with their particular skill sets.

Now, this is not to be confused with some of the movements today that are misplaced angst or unguided frustration. This is supposed to be a subject matter that is focusing you more on how cultivating and having a proper theology of violence is something that all of us should have.

My History with Personal Agency

So quick history: I grew up—most of y’all know this at this point, but let’s go ahead and cover the bases here. I grew up a homeschooled; oldest of seven children. I got my components of agency, learning the languages of agency (from previous episodes that we’ve talked about) from my dad. I learned my mechanical skills adding on to our family home. I learned some people skills from him as he ran his own businesses. He was extremely organized, my father was, as far as his time, as far as what he got done, he was a perfectionist and had skills in the organizational area.

And in some ways, I am a lot more like my mom in the areas that she is able to cultivate beauty and is a little bit more of a free spirit than my father in the organizational category. Also my aesthetics education, I kind of don’t know that I’ve given credit to this on the podcast or on the air, but a lot of this is credited to my grandmother who took me to theater type stuff and plays and games for sports and understanding kind of the arts and literature in ways that she took me along with her to these activities at a young age and made me open to some of these forms of art that a special operations guy may kind of bristle against if he wasn’t educated by family growing up. After high school, I worked a congressional campaign, and I moved into army special operations and continued to develop people skills, organizational skills, and mechanical competency and my aesthetic education was continued to develop by marrying my wife, a classical musician and someone who reads a lot of great literature.

You understand a little bit more about that because we just got done with the Rethinking Education episode. So, I felt called to leave the military, but for me, it was always painful to have come so far, have made it by such a narrow way, to be leaving it all. But I felt like God was calling me to be a husband and father. So I did it. Then COVID happened. And I watched as churches and businesses and families didn’t have a foundation to understand authority, to understand government, to understand personal agency where: What areas of their life that they actually are supposed to have dominion over, what areas the state has authority, the church has authority, and let our church kind of, as we navigated the local governments and talked to them about how we may continue to meet and worship.

Building Masculine Fellowship: Warriors Tending Gardens

Then in May 2021, I held the first ever Warriors Tending Gardens in South Dakota. You guys have seen some of that on social media. You’ll see that on the Warriors Tending Gardens Instagram that’s in my bio on Instagram, which consisted of some content that I put out specifically focusing on building defending and repeating as an individual and as family locally. And it was well received by the 15 men that, that signed up. We sold all 15 slots in, I think, 18 hours from initially announcing it on our friends’ podcast. And it was a tremendous time of fellowship with men. And I’m trying to figure out how to do that more and to offer that type of training to men and fellowship in the after-hours and things like that between training more. And if you stay up to date, you’ll be made aware of those things if you’ve signed up with our email list, et cetera.

But some of the things that I’m trying to do is, is enable men and enable churches and enable groups of people to do this locally in person versus on the podcast or via Zoom or on a weekly email list, to provide material to you to start a men’s group where you are in your church with people and start going through some of these masculine topics. A lot of the ways that the church now is a little bit effeminate that is, designed for female audience, primarily, the majority of church attendees being female, and the majority of people running the evangelical movement in America being female. Now, we’ve talked about this in the previous episode how women are capable of doing things that are better and, and are required, that men can’t do. But when it’s skewed and there’s an improper tension, that doesn’t work out well.

So, looking for ways with Warriors Tending Gardens, with Spearing.co to enable men to embrace their role and to not be overly patriarchal or hyper-patriarchal, oppressive to their wives, but to identify their particular roles, to do it well, to lead in their families, to value their wife’s input, et cetera. So, you know, we’re looking at ways to do that and enable that better locally while also maintaining some brand purity in a sense in making sure that these very nuanced subjects like violence, like masculinity are done well and firmly rooted in the Word of God, firmly rooted in the truth of how God has made this world.

That being said, we’ve started doing workshops. We’ve started doing these different things and, we just had our Starting a Small Business Class. At   the time that you list into this episode, we’ll have just held our Productive Property Class.

So, those are our driving at the Build portion of what we’re about. Then the defense side, which we’re going to start tapping into in this episode today with theology of violence is about how to become more of a dangerous man. Not somebody that’s violent in the way he conducts stuff, but essentially has capacity to do violence and is exercising wisdom and restraint and is not somebody that’s going around picking fights.

Many of you have had the privilege or known somebody that was very dangerous, very gifted in either combatives or in exercising violence with guns, et cetera. And those guys are often the calmest, nicest people that you’ll meet. And that is because they know that they are dangerous and there’s no need to ruffle up the feathers or walk around with Imaginary Lat Syndrome as it’s called with your arms cocked out and strutting around like a rooster, et cetera. You have a capacity. You’re dangerous. And so you can be chill. You can be calm as you live life. So, this podcast is going to be an introduction to that, the theology of violence, and specifically looking at the individual capacities that you need to cultivate within this framework.

Influential Sermon: “Bring Your Guns to Church”

I would be remiss to not mention one of the sermons that influenced this significantly for me. And it’s from a Rich Lusk, the sermon is entitled, “Bring Your Guns to Church.” And this was very helpful for me. My pastor pointed me to that direction. You actually see him, they hosted these different lectures at their church, and it’s just something that really helped me form the Scriptural basis and the framework for this theology of violence that I kind of already knew from experience. I was kind of already operating on some of those things, but it helped me draw all these disparate ideas and thoughts into a pretty good framework.

Let’s go ahead and get to the discussion on a theology of violence. So, one of the things that I think is present in today is an unhealthy tension as people of the faith, as people who live these virtuous lives in the direction of a martyr mentality or what I like to call the “martyr syndrome” in the sense that we have elevated the “turn the other cheek” theology as encompassing and the way that everyone of faith, everyone that is living a quiet, Christian life—that’s how we operate. If somebody smacks you on the cheek, turn it. And we’ve let that kind of move out into all areas of our life. And that we’re just supposed to, as Christians, just take it. And when violence is done against us, we just, we just take it some more and we just are peaceful.

And that is obviously in the Word of God and obviously is applicable to certain areas of our life, but when we let that extend out to all areas of our life and become the M.O. for us and everything we have, in a sense, distorted the word of God, and we have allowed certain passages to dictate our actions that aren’t true. And I think that we also need to have a healthy understanding, a healthy capacity to do violence, much like David, Sampson, Moses, all these different people that may at times have used violence inappropriately, because God’s word is not a story of how perfect man is, but how good God is in spite of man’s perversion and man’s sin. But that we also see a godly use of violence and that violence being walked out as men of God, as the most lethal men of their era, and how David was able to slay Goliath as a young boy, when all of Israel’s army was cowering, was afraid. He did the blow.

Becoming Dangerous

And that is something that every one of us, as men of God should cultivate in some ways. Now the church of God has many members, all part of one body. Some of us are going to be better at that. Like me. I had 14 years of special operation service, 12 deployments, hundreds, and thousands of hours, hundreds of thousands of rounds expended working out. This was the primary thing that I was responsible for in life to be deadly for 14 years of my life. So, you’re not going to cultivate that level of capacity for violence that I have, but as a part of Christ’s church and his body, I’m going to relay some of that to you in a good way. And I view that part of my mission here is to give you some well-designed training and resources in that area, specifically tethered to how we are supposed to be as Christians, not just the technical aspect of violence, but also the theological underpinning of this. And hopefully pulling us away from this lopsided “turn the other cheek,” being pacifist, Christians.  

That being said, I think there’s a lot of great people out there that hold a pacifist view, and I’m seeking out some conversation with them. And to let them allow me to put to death aspects of my life that may be sinful or out of whack, and to not just seek out other people that are the same as me, but to continue to grow and learn. So, this is a work in process and a learning process for me. I humbly, want to say that to you and I’m looking forward to more conversation with you on that.

Working and Protecting

So, moving to the Word of God, we see in Genesis 2:15 that “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

And that same language of keeping it is in Numbers 1:53, “But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.”

So that same language in Genesis of Adam being priest of his household and Eden and keeping it, the same language as it was for the Levites to keep and guard the testimony, and understanding as men, we have a responsibility to guard and to keep our garden, to tend it, to protect it, just like the Levites did with swords around the tabernacle of the Lord as priests.

So being men, being priests of our household, protecting just like actual priests protected the Holy of Holies or the tabernacle for the Lord. In Exodus 22:2 we see in the law that there is an allowance made that “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him.” And this forms a pillar of, if you are protecting your home, and someone breaks in it comes to assault your home, and you kill them, that is not murder.

And one of those things that I always was questioned when I was in the military—“it says, thou shall not kill as, as a Christian, how can you be an Airborne Ranger that goes, and does these missions and assaults, if the Bible says thou shall not kill?” and understanding—like we talked about—there are nuances to things about this, but one of those cases being when someone breaks into your home, this is not murder. This is not blood guilt. This is something that you are allowed to do in the Word of God, to protect your home, to defend your family. We also see a Nehemiah 4, that they station people by their clans with their swords and spears and their bows. And this is a very known passage for those of the faith, you know, in the sense the sword and the trowel as the people of Israel rebuild the wall that they had their sword strapped at their side, we see that in Nehemiah 4:18.

Capacity for Violence is a Deterrent of Violence

There’s a lot of reading between the lines that I have done as a warrior and as someone who understands battle, but in some ways, I like to point out that the capacity to do force, to do violence, the fact that the men that were laboring to rebuild the wall in Israel and to protect had that sword at their side, they had the spears, they stationed guards is how they were able to be successful without there being violence without the people— even though they said that “let’s run amongst them let’s cause this problem,” there was lots of people talking about it, that visible capacity of the Israelites to do violence and to protect themselves actually served as a deterrent. And the thing that I like to stress is a capacity to do violence, owning a weapon, understanding how to use it doesn’t mean that you use it; it doesn’t mean that you are just always killing the person that breaks into your home.

You know, that doesn’t mean that you’re a whipping out the gun and being crazy with it, but that capacity is a deterrent and puts you in control and allows you to be calm in these situations because you’ve trained, you’ve prepared for this aspect of being a man, being a priest of your household.

We are to Preserve Life through Strength

So, some of the stuff that we see in the Longer Catechism is in Question 135, “What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?” And there is actually a prescriptive in the sixth commandment “Thou shall, not murder,” being that as leaders as men, we actually have a prescriptive in that commandment against murder to actually preserve life, to tend to the unjust taking a way of life of any by just defense thereof against violence and at the end, protecting and defending the innocent.

So, a theology of violence in a sense is understanding that we also protect against the innocent having violence executed against them. And the way that we do that is being capable of violence. And those are pulled from Psalm 82:4, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” And in Proverbs 24:11–12:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?

Proverbs 24:11–12

So, in some ways, this podcast is coming to your ears to make you understand that you have this responsibility. You don’t get to tell God “Behold, I didn’t know this. I didn’t know I was supposed to be violent. I didn’t know how I was supposed to protect my household.”

You don’t get to claim that. The Lord knows now that you’ve listened to this, and you understand that as a man that’s your capacity. And that’s what I’m trying to do, to give the truth to you, that you need to do this.

We also think of Proverbs 31 being something that prescribes the godly woman, but the first ten verses are actually to man. And we see it says in verses 8–9:

Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8–9

As a godly man, as a godly man in leadership, you are supposed to defend the rights of the poor and needy, and you can’t do that as a weak, out of shape, mentally untough, mentally weak, physically weak man. You must be physically fit; you must be mentally strong; and you must have a capacity for violence If you are really going to defend the rights of the poor and the needy.

One of my favorite passages, Genesis 14:14:16, we see Abraham having 318 men trained and ready. So, when his kin are carried away in this pre-city, pre-government, wild wild west life that he lived in the Middle East— there were Kings obviously, but his family was carried away and the Kings weren’t ready to do things—so he, as a very wealthy household had 318 men that were trained and they “went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman.” (Gen 14:14b–16a)

And as a man that served in the military, dividing of forces and assault by night was the most difficult thing that we in the special operations community did. So, Abraham was a special operations commander in charge of skilled men, and that’s 318 chosen and trained. The word for that is hanōk. And that is the only time it appears in Scripture. This chosen, the set apart, this trained, this specialized force.

And I would, would argue that every one of us that are Christians are chosen by God have this also, this responsibility to be trained like Abraham’s household and have this capacity. And that’s what I’m trying to do here with this podcast. And one of the facets that we’re trying to do is enable you to build a household like Abraham’s that has excess funds and excess time to be able to cross train in things like these 318 men so that if there is a need to defend the rights of the poor and needy, like we saw in Proverbs 31, you have that capacity.

What is Meekness

And that requires that you have an understanding of meekness: Ability tempered with wisdom and restraint. And that we see that in Matthew 5, “Blessed it are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” And also, Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peace makers for, they shall be called sons of God.” Some of the ways that you make peace or you keep the peace is being meek, having an ability for violence, to do violence and having wisdom and restraint, but also, like we talked about, to deter occurring violence.

One of the things that Rich Lusk pointed out was a quote by Alastair Roberts:

Something we notice as we go throughout Scripture: again and again, the leaders of the people of God are tough men. These are not pushovers: just about every man that you meet in leadership in Scripture is a man who has killed someone. Now we don’t think about that enough because we have a very effeminate idea of leadership. But these men were tough men because they are guarding the people of God; they are guarding against wolves, against bears, against lions—that is what shepherding meant within that context.

Alastair Roberts

Just like we talked about, there is an effeminate idea of leadership. And that’s what we’re doing here on the podcast. Part of what we’re doing is to pull you as men away from that belief, just like Alastair Roberts pointed out in that quote.

Obviously, Jordan Peterson is flirting with Christianity in his public appearances, and he has a quote that says “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.”

I posted that on my Instagram and got great feedback from y’all. Those types of messages are well received, but what are you doing when you see a quote like that, to move yourself from the harmless man end of the spectrum towards a dangerous man? I can help you with that. Let’s walk this out better as men of God, where we are. From Rich Lusk’s sermon he says, “The essence of masculinity is controlled capacity.”

Walking This Out

What does this look like to walk it out? What are some ways that we can cultivate this? That’s what we’re talking about. Now, I start with this spheres of responsibilities graphic and at the center is dominion over yourself. It’s you understanding what your responsibilities are individually before you can protect your family, your church, and the rights of the innocent in the city. So that’s what we’re focusing on today. That overarching kind of theology foundation of violence, but it requires first becoming a whole man yourself and tending to every part of what being a man or being a Christian before God is. And that is dominion over your body, your soul, and your spirit.

Dominion Over Body

So, first of all, your body. We see in Romans 12:1:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1

We see in this scripture that your body, your physical body, being presented as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. That requires dominion over your physical self. Also, we see in 1 Corinthians 1:20, “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We’re going to look at what that is and how you do that a little bit in the next episode, where I’m going to talk about having a sound mind and what goes into that.

Part of that is that all of the parts of you are connected body, soul, and spirit. And by cultivating all three, there are benefits for the other part. Cultivating the body helps you cultivate the spirit and the soul. Cultivating the spirit helps you cultivate body and the soul. All these things are connected. We talked about this in the pornography and sex episode previously that you can’t let sin be in your life physically, mentally, because it infects other areas. And so we’ll talk about that a little bit more in the next episode.

Cultivating Your Soul

 Now, cultivating your soul.

“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Genesis 2:7

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, ‘Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.’”

Acts 23:1

We have to cultivate our soul. We have to present ourselves to God. We have to be ruling over that aspect of our being.

Cultivating Your Spirit

And finally coming to the spirit, our intellect, our emotions, our fears, our passion, and creativity, you know, that goes back to the mental toughness episode, ruling over our emotions, our thoughts, our fears, the things that work themselves out physically, spiritually, but cultivating the sound mind aspect and using our thoughts to rule over our emotions and our fears.

We look in Hebrews 4:12–13:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:12–13

So, we see that kind of intersection of the heart, of the soul, of the spirit, of actual physical body, joints and marrow that that is all intertwined as being a human made in the image of God. We are naked and exposed to God in our state right now. And back to that confessing our sins that we talked about in the sex episode that we have already been exposed. God already sees our behavior, and the freedom that comes in relationship with others to confess our sins.

As an exercise, do an account of yourself, and I’d encourage you to do that now. Where are you? Give yourself a rating from zero or from one to ten, where you feel like you are before God being fully exposed in dominion over your body, in dominion, over your soul, and in dominion over your spirit.

And what do you need to cultivate?

If you don’t have dominion over your body, you need to be eating better. You need to be working out. You need to be doing behaviors that cultivate sleep, that allow your body to be restored that allow your mind to be restored. More about that in the next podcast episode, so stay tuned for that.

Your soul—that gets cultivated by being in church. That gets cultivated by being in fellowship with others that can give you sound biblical council. That’s what we’re trying to do, where we are locally having a biweekly men’s group, we get together and talk about these issues and enabling you to do the same.

What Are You Doing?

Also, the spirit, the intellect, the emotions, the fears. How are you cultivating that? There’s a lot of things that you can do by—we talked about in the mental toughness episode—understanding your thoughts, taking dominion over them and how that will cue the right emotions when you are thinking correctly, when you’re not assuming your thoughts are all true, good, and beautiful, but that you are taking control of those thoughts. You’re taking every thought captive and ruling over and how actually the right practices physically and spiritually will benefit how you have dominion over your spirit.

And lastly, just wrapping this all up, you can’t expect to walk out a good and right view of what it is to be meek, to have ability under restraint and to have the right wisdom in how you exercise that ability to do violence, to be dangerous, unless you are very vigilant in how you cultivate your body, your soul, and your spirit. And if you are letting yourself slip in any of these areas, then you should be suspect of your ability to rightly exercise violence in a way that will protect others, in a way that will allow you to defend your household, defend the word of God, defend the church. You can’t do that well, if you aren’t taking every thought captive, if you aren’t ruling over your body well. And so, we’re going to continue to give you resources to do that and enable you to do that.

I hope that this was enlightening for you. Again, go check out Rich Lusk’s sermon on bringing your gun to church, and let’s figure out how to be dangerous, where we are, but dangerous in a way that is protecting, that is saving the innocent among us, that is preventing those from going to the slaughter.

As always, if this episode is helpful, please share it with a friend. This content is necessary in our day and age. You have to have the wisdom to be able to do the violence correctly. And a lot of people aren’t giving you the wisdom or the frameworks to walk it out. It’s more than having a gun. It’s more than knowing how to draw the gun. Having stockpiles of ammo. That’s just such a small facet about what it is. So, share this with other people, let’s grow the movement to become more wise in how we protect those around us. And let’s see it grow and help locally, where we are now as Christians, as men, trying to walk this out well, where we are. Thanks for listening. Have a good one.

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