I grew up watching the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers, on the new invention, television. Roy and his wife, Dale, were good people with wholesome values who lived by the golden rule in a make believe world of both horses and automobiles, of good guys and bad guys, with the good guys always prevailing in the end. At the end of each episode, Roy and Dale sang, “Happy Trails To You, Until We Meet Again.” I loved the show and the song.
At the end of all life’s episodes, we need to say something memorable and comforting, the way Apostle Paul closed his letter to the Romans. Chapter 16 is a list of 27 personal greetings and best wishes to Christians. Then he ends the letter in Romans 16:25-27: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” What a great tribute to God and the Christians in Rome.
I’m nearly through with my time as your pulpit minister. As I retire I would like to end with such final words. Something like, “Now to him who is able to establish you by the gospel I’ve preached to you and to which you have obeyed, to God be the glory through Jesus Christ. And happy trails to you, until we meet again.”
At the establishment of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus told his apostles, “if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). But later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his apostles, “Put your sword back in it’s place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). So did they need a sword or not?
Yes, the apostles would have need of swords, just not during Jesus’ arrest. There was a “large crowd armed with swords and clubs sent from the chief priests” (Matthew 26:47). In a sword fight, the apostles would have all been killed. So Jesus told them, “Put your sword back in it’s place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus was not teaching passivism for all times. It is a mistake to interpret Jesus’ words out of the immediate context. It is also a mistake to teach passivism in the name of Jesus. Those Christians who serve in the military, on our police forces, or protect innocent victims from forces of evil should be seen as heroic, not sinful. True Christians are not passivists.
Of course, Jesus preached in his first sermon, “If someone strikes you on the right check, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). We should not take that literally, however, anymore than, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gorge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). Jesus often used figurative language to make a point, but Jesus never intended for his followers to be strict passivists, then, now, or ever.