By Femi Aribisala
In the Christian churches of today, the preferred champion is David; it is not Jesus.
Situate Jesus within most Old Testament frameworks and he just does not fit. Jesus would never kill any Midianite or Amalekite on the way to the Promised Land as Moses did. He would not have bears kill children that abuse him as Elisha did. Confronted with Goliath as David was, it is more likely Goliath would kill Jesus than that Jesus would kill Goliath.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus killed no one. Instead, he healed all those who came to him for healing. When John and James asked Jesus to call fire from heaven as Elijah did in retaliation against a Samaritan village that denied them free passage to Jerusalem, Jesus rebuked them. He said to them: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56).
Like Father, like Son
Jesus says: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). If so, who do we see when we look at Moses, Elijah, Elisha and David? We see servants of God who only second-guessed the Father’s will. But Jesus knows the will of the Father. He said: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). What is the will of God, the Father? God requires his sons to lay down their lives out of love for him.
This requirement defined Jesus’ approach to the world. He fought no one and defeated no one. He merely overcame the world. Jesus was required to live in the world without being seduced by the values of the world. He lived in the world without gaining or desiring to gain the world. All the time he was here on earth, he never lost sight of the one reality he expressed emphatically to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36).
In this process, even his life on earth became disposable. Jesus says: “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).
Since Jesus is the Good Shepherd, his sheep should follow his example. John says: “As he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). Jesus sends his disciples into the world as lambs among wolves. (Luke 10:3). He challenges us, not to be giant-killers, but giant-overcomers. He says: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21).
However, the pattern of life of Jesus is not the preferred pattern of life of Christians. Indeed, in most countries of the West, Christians, including the clerics, are the war-mongers. Pat Robertson, an American pastor, even called for the assassination of a head of state, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Paradoxically, he saw no contradiction between this and his Christian faith. Another American pastor, Terry Jones, orchestrated the burning of Korans, a move deliberately designed to provoke Moslems. But Jesus never attacked any other person’s faith except his own.
Evangelical Christians in the United States are the very people most likely to reject the teachings of Jesus when it comes to politics. They favour punitive justice, including the execution of criminals for capital offences. They would rather billions of dollars be spent on jet-fighters and not on social welfare. They prefer granting tax-breaks for wealthy corporations to helping the poor and the needy. American evangelicals supported the sending of their children to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Europe, those claiming to be disciples of the “Prince of Peace” are likely to be the most militaristic. That is not the way of Christ.
Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-yhr 39). However, Christians do not turn the other cheek; we fight. Christians today are not pacifists. On the contrary, we have been responsible for a great many massacres and for genocide. Christians go to battle. Christians fight wars. Christians fight to defend and protect our interests.
The old wine of David killing Goliath is served regularly in Christendom. We teach this killing to our children. They act in plays celebrating it. But the values of Goliath-killing David are anathema to Christ. David was an ambitious and ruthless politician who initiated, sanctioned, or condoned murder and assassination as a way of eliminating his political rivals. He authorized the murder of Abner and Eshbaal. He plotted the death of Uriah. Even on his death-bed, David was still planning the deaths of two people: Joab and Shimei.
Jesus, on the other hand, does not tell us to kill our enemies. He does not even tell us to fight them. Instead he says: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45).
However, Christians don’t seem to have received this Jesus memo in 2,000 years of church history. In today’s churches, we go to prayer meetings not to pray for our enemies, but to kill them. You can get to one meeting and find one thousand prayer-warriors chanting “die; die; die” in alarming frenzy. Who do they want consumed suddenly by Holy Ghost fire? “Every enemy of my marriage; every enemy of my destiny; every power planning to wage war against my divine vision; what are you waiting for, die in the name of Jesus!”
This leads to the conclusion that, as a rule, Christians don’t know Jesus; the David who did not kill any Goliaths. But we certainly know the David who killed Goliath. David was a man of blood who lived by the sword. Jesus is a man of peace who warns that: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52).
When we look objectively at the scriptures, we see two champions. In the Old Testament it is David; the man who killed Goliath. In the New Testament it is Jesus, the David who did not kill any Goliaths but was killed by the Goliaths of the priesthood. But we can only have one champion: we cannot have two. In the Christian churches of today, the preferred champion is David; it is not Jesus.
But Jesus warns: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).