I had an interesting Sunday Bible study recently where we covered Romans 13. Of course since this is probably the most debated text in the New Testament it was a lively discussion. I have to hand it to my pastor, he allow a free flow of diverse discussions. I will only cover one topic from our discussions and that is about the “sword”. Here is ther particular verse:
For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Of course these verses refer to how we are to submit to government authority. The particular words I want to discuss here are “for he does not bear the sword for nothing”. It seems that some take these words to mean that God gives permission for governments to kill people via capital punishment and war. Of course being a person who believes in total non-violence they do not mean that to me. I take my clues from the red letters and Jesus only mentioned the sword twice in the Gospel accounts. Once was where is said he is not bringing peace but the sword and that brother would rise up against brother…. The other place was where Peter cut off the soldier’s ear as they were taking Jesus in for subsequent crucifixion. In that account Jesus made the all to familiar statement that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. This is a rather negative aspect of the sword! By these words did Jesus give governments the authority to execute people? I think not.