Tuesday, October 24, 2023

How Should We Then Live?

This blog began as a pretty hard-core thin-libertarian blog.  When I was a child and all that.  As I have grown into a man, I came to understand that moving toward liberty required much more than perfecting an abstract non-aggression principle.

As this understanding has evolved, more of my writing has focused on topics that are Christian.  I won’t belabor the reasons behind this in detail; those of you who have been around for awhile understand this evolution and the reasons behind it.  Let’s just say there is no liberty without this foundation.

I have mentioned a couple of times that I am spending and plan to spend some meaningful time on the Sermon on the Mount.  I didn’t think that I would be writing about my studies here, and still am not sure that I will after this post – I will have an “ask” at the end of this post regarding this.  My studies will involve the following two books:

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol.2 - The Sermon on the Mount, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

So, why am I writing about it here?  I have read the introductions to each of these books – these are before getting to the first verse in Matthew chapter five.  There are some good points that are a little more in the ballpark of where this blog has led me, so I thought it made sense to at least dive in this far.

I selected these two books because I wanted an examination of this sermon from two different theological traditions.  The book by Lloyd-Jones was recommended to me by a couple of pastors who are strong on the exegetical, expository sermon path.  Metropolitan Alfeyev, the author of the second book, is a bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church.  So, the Catholics among us don’t feel left out, the first endorsement of this second book is from Pope Benedict XVI: “This is a work of great importance…”

Why study this sermon?  In hindsight, the question answers itself, yet I never really came to the answer until recently.  First, of course, it is the longest discourse of Jesus during His earthly ministry recorded; that’s reason enough.  Per Metropolitan Alfeyev:

No other Gospel contains such as extended and systematic exposition of Jesus’ spiritual and moral teaching.

But, second, it is the ultimate statement of how we should live – man’s purpose, or telos.  In other words, by properly identifying our purpose and holding this as the north star, we are then able to properly determine natural law ethics.  And living in accord with natural law moves us toward liberty and gives our lives meaning.

How do I differentiate quotes from two different books by two authors with very long names / titles?  Let’s go with DMLJ and MHA.

DMLJ: The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a great and grand and perfect elaboration of what our Lord called His ‘new commandment.’  His new commandment was that we love one another even as He has loved us.  … It is a perfect picture of the life of the kingdom of God.

MHA: Its very position in this Gospel, and in the entire corpus of the four Gospels, compels one to see in it a sort of spiritual and moral program that is further uncovered on the pages of the New Testament.

Yet, I have read this sermon numerous times and never really dealt with it.  Lloyd-Jones deals with this:

It is possible for us to read the Bible in such a mechanical manner that we derive no benefit from doing so.

I certainly have experienced this.  I read a couple of chapters, content to get through this.  Then what?  Nothing.  I have taken away nothing but the feeling of having progressed through the Bible.  Or, perhaps worse, I take away the verses that support my preconceived notions, and ignore those that seem to get in the way.

DMLJ: There is a sense in which it is true to say that you can prove anything you like from the Bible.  That is how heresies have arisen.

 This is clear.  Certainly, many of the earliest heretics were sincere men, in search of truth.  But in Lloyd-Jones’ view, they may have come to the Word with preconceived ideas, then found support for these everywhere in Scripture. 

He sees this manifest especially in the area of law and grace.  Yes, we are under grace, but does this mean we have nothing to do with law?  No, he offers – we aren’t under the law in the sense of being condemned by it, but we are still meant to live it – and based on this sermon, go beyond it!

DMLJ: Christ kept the law; He lived the law….

We (at least many Protestants) have so overemphasized grace that we neglect Christ’s teaching of not only living to the law, but exceeding it.  And the best way to face this question, as Lloyd-Jones sees it, is to squarely face the Sermon on the Mount.

DMLJ: what does the Sermon on the Mount mean to us?  Where does it come in our lives and what is its place in our thinking and outlook?

I will stand first in line in having failed to stare these questions right in the face.  Perhaps because to live as such seems impossible.  Well, it kind of is:

DMLJ: …no man can live the Sermon on the Mount unaided. … The Beatitudes immediately take us into a realm that is beyond the law of Moses completely.

MHA: the moral radicalism of the Sermon on the Mount has often puzzled commentators.  How realistic were Jesus’ calls to spiritual perfection? …Early Christianity perceived the Sermon on the Mount as a call to action.

MHA: Grace is the divine gift that is necessary in order for people to fulfill Jesus’ commandments and to live in truth.  With the help of grace, and not by their own efforts alone, his followers are called to seek and attain the kingdom of heaven.

In the first three centuries, the sermon was often used as a classic exposition of Christian ethics.  The idea that parts of it were impossible to live by was lacking from the earliest teaching.  Yet, there was an acknowledgement that not every Christian could achieve this condition; there was room in the Christian community for those not capable of fully living according to this teaching.

No one could perfectly keep the law of Moses, yet Jesus tells us to go beyond this.  As Christians, we are to live like this.  Christ died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount.

The sermon shows us the absolute need for new birth, for the Holy Spirit to work in us.  We read the Beatitudes and feel utterly helpless.  It is when we feel such helplessness that we come to understand how dependent we are on God’s grace.

DMLJ: If you want to have power in your life and to be blessed, go straight to the Sermon on the Mount. … Face the Sermon on the Mount and its implications and demands, see your utter need, and them you will get it.  It is the direct road to blessing.

And the world is in desperate need of Christians living the Sermon on the Mount.  Lloyd-Jones wrote these words in 1959.  How much truer are these words today?

Lloyd-Jones addresses the difficulty of living in accord with the sermon; no part should be read outside of the whole.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  I suspect he will develop this as he proceeds verse by verse.  Metropolitan Alfeyev comments on this as well:

The Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew is a whole, coherent text that has its own clearly thought-out structure and composition.

Taken as a whole it isn’t a “law.” It is a description of what we as Christians are meant to be.  To argue with any one point means that we don’t understand the whole.  To disagree with any of it says something about us, not about the sermon.  If we find any of it ridiculous or believe any of it is impossible, we can be certain our interpretation is wrong.  The apostles and the saints through the ages have lived it – we cannot say perfectly as Christ did, but they did live it.

DMLJ: Beware of the spirit of arguing against them; beware of making them ridiculous; and beware of so interpreting them as to regard any one of them as impossible.  Here is the life to which we are called.

To whom is the sermon addressed?  Metropolitan Alfeyev offers: the multitudes are mentioned, also the disciples are mentioned – but only four of them. At the end, it is noted that the people (the multitudes) were amazed.

MHA: …he addressed his words either to both the disciples and the people, or to the disciples only but in such a way that the people could hear them also.

What does Lloyd-Jones take away?  The Christian is one who must be concerned about keeping God’s laws; he must live always realizing he is in the presence of God; finally, he walks in fear of the Lord.


To my surprise, an overlap between these two books.  From Metropolitan Alfeyev, when he also addresses those who approach the Scripture with a theory then find verses that support their theory:

This is pointed out by the well-known mid-twentieth century Welsh Protestant preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the introduction to his own commentary on the Sermon on the Mount:

The mistake of many consists in that they “approach the Bible with a theory”; with this approach, everything that they read out of the Bible is controlled by the theory, and they cannot find anything in the biblical text besides that which supports their own theory.

Perhaps this will lead to another benefit of using these two sources for my examination.  Various Christian traditions have much more in common than that with which they disagree.  Call it C.S. Lewis’s hallway.


My “ask”: is it worthwhile that I continue to post at this blog my work through these two books, or is it way too far afield?  I am not sure I will follow whatever responses I receive to this, but I do want a sense of this community on this question.


  1. My "tell": You have me intrigued. I would be disappointed if you started this, as you have, and then dropped it. By all means, continue. Please.

  2. "What we have in the Sermon on the Mount is a concise statement of Jesus' teachings on how to actually live in the reality of the Kingdom of God which is available to us "now" (that He has lived, was crucified, died and was buried, was resurrected). The Sermon concludes with the statement that all who "hear" and "obey" what He says there will have a life that can stand up to everything - that is an eternal life, because it is already in the eternal. (cf Matthew 7:24-25)" [Dallas Willard]

  3. Mr. M,

    I don't agree with much of your doctrine, yet I still find value in reading your writings. I say yes, go for it!

  4. I have found all your work engaging and would anticipate the same here. Most of all, when there is radio silence I start to get concerned. Proceed on!

  5. Of course you should write about these two books. I don't think you have a choice. I'm referring to your own religious path. How much are you really writing of late about liberty (yes, yes, some, but...) and how much are you writing about your faith? The blog has changed. I'd also suggest that's what you should have done. You've changed too. That what He does to us, isn't it?

  6. I'm interested in whatever it is you're working through.

  7. Some time ago on the libertarian journey I had a nagging suspicion at the back of my head, that whatever we thought of the NAP it would never redeem us. As time went on this had proven true, at first only by gross applications of the NAP in libertarian theory. Then we had society shut downs, and we saw some otherwise "brilliant" libertarian thinkers began pleading the NAP and property rights amidst one of the greatest civil liberties abuses in history. The sad thing - their logic wasn't wrong through the most linear definition of libertarianism. We can argue about proper application, but the only application that counts is the one that's applied. So private property holders towed the line, and didn't violate the NAP for it. Censorship, forced masking, coercive vaccination. Speak up and get cancelled.

    So whatever we think of it, the NAP was applied. Property owners operated in their best interest (despite the motivations or coercion behind the scenes). For it, we turned a panacea into an anti-christ. For all of our talk of theory we've asked the machinations of the Leviathan to be anything but, and our theories justified Leviathan's ends. Matter cannot be redeemed by matter - if so, why send Jesus at all? If so, then the secular society is a utopia and we're doing just fine.

    Which takes us to where you are now, The Sermon on the Mount - where the savior that became matter, to defy matter, and resurrected beyond matter for it taught us the only liberation that matters.

    "You cannot serve two masters."

    I'm looking forward to you exploring this!

  8. Please do post , I find them very valuable.

  9. Please post, I find it very valuable.

  10. I think this would be a fantastic study and I would greatly appreciate your insights. The difference between the two traditions should make it interesting.

  11. It is worthwhile. Please continue.

  12. Approaching the Bible with a theory is called eisegesis. It is part of the reason why theological system can cause problems.

    Reading the Bible without presumptions and letting the words speak for themselves is called exegesis. It is the only way to get close to an unbiased interpretation. It is objective in that the words change what we think. It is inductive in that you take the individual verses to understand more abstract, universal concepts.

    Great start to the books. I for one am interested in hearing more about this from you.


  13. It would be profitable for me if you were to document this journey here.

  14. Yes. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. The word of God is life itself.

  15. Please: continue on your study, commentary. The Sermon is a hard teaching, but it is, in my humble opinion, what separates Christianity from other religions. And that uniqueness is not only in the words of what is being enjoined upon us but Who is doing the enjoining. Part of my attraction to this website has to do with your desire to be a thoughtful Christian, but also someone committed to the Non-aggression Principal. I was not brought to libertarianism through Objectionism, but a discussion of Ms. Rand's dismissal of Christian ethics, especially the Sermon, and what you found to be unsatisfactory about her stance, might prompt a stimulating discussion..

  16. Please proceed as you feel would be most enlightening to your followers. There is no established road map to where you want to take us.

  17. Well, I for one should love to hear your experience with these two books. I really don't believe it's 'too far afield', as the study has to do with ethics and, as you have admitted, man's telos.

  18. I appreciate these posts and am glad to see them posted here. On a separate note, I’d prefer to say the sermon exhorts us to “fully” obey God’s law rather than “go beyond it.” The law tells us about our God who is perfectly good. We can’t exceed that goodness. He did not give us a substandard law in Exodus.

  19. Please continue. I think it is of the utmost importance to the question you've been probing at for years. I for one am very interested.

    The Sermon on the Mount has always given me trouble. Who are the poor in spirit? The meek? Who is a peacemaker? What is a least commandment? What does He consider swearing? What does He mean by not resisting evil or loving your enemies?

    How do we reconcile the Beatitudes with natural law, liberty, and self-defense or defense of others? The Beatitudes seem to be consistent with an extreme pacifist philosophy, but is this what Jesus intended? Would Jesus have me kneel down and pray for an intruder raping my daughter? Or worse, would He have me offer him my son as well?

    1. I'm just going to throw this in here quickly. Each person is told that he or she must 'turn the other cheek', but it does not follow that we have to allow our loved ones to be harmed. Each person is allowed to sacrifice him or herself for another.

    2. In your view does sacrificing myself to save my child look like me jumping in between them and taking the abuse, or does it look like me smashing a baseball bat into the intruder's temple and paying the eternal consequences for taking the life of another creature fashioned in the image of God (however lost he had become)? Personally I'm choosing the bat.

      Also, if I wake up in the middle of the night to an intruder who is attacking me only, I, as a saintly Christian (let's imagine for a moment), must turn the other cheek by letting him beat, rob, and/or rape me unopposed?

      Is the saintly thing to do to take the abuse and to allow this man to leave my home free to hurt others, or is it to defend myself with deadly force and remove the threat from society, protecting other potential victims in the process? I'm personally torn on this one. I think this touches on the timeless truth that both justice and mercy are virtues, and God is both righteous and merciful.

      I apologize for playing devil's advocate here. I do not believe that Jesus outlaws self-defense or defense of others, but it is difficult to come to this conclusion based only on the Beatitudes. I don't know the history of Eastern Orthodoxy, but I do think that the Roman Catholic Church has taught in favor of self-defense more or less from the beginning. The RCC's teaching is basically that justice is the baseline (cardinal virtue) and mercy is above this (heavenly virtue). So defending yourself is just, but turning the other cheek (so long as no one else is harmed because of this) is perfect?

    3. If you get slapped on the cheek and turn the other you are not allowing serious violence. You are de-escalating the situation. Slapping isn't killing, raping, or continual beating.

    4. I don't see that Jesus makes this distinction, and further He says, "not to resist evil" (non resistere malo). In the Bp. Challoner's translation of the Douay-Rheims Bible there is a promising note that says this:

      "[39] "Not to resist evil": What is here commanded, is a Christian patience under injuries and affronts, and to be willing even to suffer still more, rather than to indulge the desire of revenge: but what is further added does not strictly oblige according to the letter, for neither did Christ nor St. Paul turn the other cheek. St. John 18., and Acts 23."

      Anyway, my point was that it is not clear what is meant, and the simplest reading of this verse is troubling from a natural law perspective, and therefore I am very interested to see what Bionic's focus on this passage (and others nearby) will turn up.

      It seems to me that the Decalogue represents the 'natural law,' while Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount gives us something that could better be described as the 'supernatual law.' He is telling us to be perfect like God, rather than live like good men.

    5. I believe the 'turn the other cheek' clarifies more than at first is evident. The key, it seems to me, is that it specifies the evil that is done to me (or you) as a person. I can turn my own cheek, but I'm not able to turn someone else's. Thus, to protect someone other than myself is permitted, whether that is a parent, child, neighbour - and that one can really take us places. And the note you mention is consistent with Dante's idea of there needs to be righteous anger if there is to be goodness; I believe St Thomas says the same, but I'm not going to say I'm positive on that... I agree, I do hope Bionic delves into all this

  20. " "[39] "Not to resist evil": What is here commanded, is a Christian patience under injuries and affronts, and to be willing even to suffer still more, rather than to indulge the desire of revenge: but what is further added does not strictly oblige according to the letter, for neither did Christ nor St. Paul turn the other cheek. St. John 18., and Acts 23." "

    Slapping on the face is evil if you read earlier, calling someone a fool makes you deserving of hell. How much more so slapping someone? That doesn't mean the person's life is in danger. The fact is slapping on the face isn't anywhere near rape and murder on the worldly plane.

    It isn't troubling to me at all but shows there is a choice for each person when confronted with conflict. You can equally accept suffering or pursue justice. Either one is righteous and depends on the specific context. Sometimes one response is best and other times the other response is best. The Holy Spirit and Biblical wisdom advises. This is an example of when subjectivity is important. You look at objective truths and determine which one applies most appropriately to your personal situation.


    1. Well stated: thank you! And thank Christianity for having seeded a culture where "turning the other cheek" was often the rule. As present events seem to indicate, we are on the verge of a world where "an eye for an eye" will be on steroids. I, however, do have reservations about the role of "subjectivity" in the practice of ethics. There are, mercifully, few situations where what we ought to do hangs upon the outcome of the toss of a coin: the ultimate subjective scenario. You are, of course, correct that the application of objective moral norms to a given situation requires the dimension of the personal, respecting judgment. Aristotle emphasizes this in his teaching about the moral virtues. What is required in adequate moral practice requires skill, the activity of a habit that Aristotle calls prudence. The same holds for Christian ethics: if we act in accordance with informed conscience, we are never morally culpable. Yet, I believe, we must always act reasonably: that is, in a way for which we can given a cogent account of what inclined us one way or the other. And, being able to give cogent accounts, is what I mean by prudence.
      As a Byzantine Orthodox Christian, one example of choosing the (violent)defense of others to non resistance to evil done to ourselves involves Constantine XI's action during the fall of Constantinople. The last Byzantine emperor led his troops into battle, at the cost of his life but, he hoped, for the survival, of a self-governing Christian political community.

  21. The downside of Christian mercy is monsters and parasites walking among us, imposing numerous externalities and making our public spaces chaotic and dangerous.

    Christian mercy extends most enthusiastically to immigrants, which will eventually result in the immigrants' descendants squatting in the same desolation that their grandparents fled in Mogadishu and Tegulcigapa.

    The Christian response to these consequences has been to burrow ever further into abstractions. It is not the way of human thriving. People are becoming ever more neurotic and atomized, and the Church offers no succor other than to say it will all be worth it when you die (or better yet, are killed by a feral human) and go to Heaven.

    1. And the counter to Christian mercy is non-Christian or un-Christian mercy, which produces great men and women who are of immense value to the community. Right? Of course, right!

      Either Anti-Gnostic is confused or deliberately misleading. Christian policy does not foster monsters, parasites, nor ne'er-do-wells gripped in extreme poverty. Socialist policies do. Policies which seek to impose State approved means and ends on the public do. For instance, the LGBT+ and abortion issues were not an outgrowth of Christianity, but of willful men and women captive to their own lusts and desires. Murderers, thieves, and rapists are not encouraged by Christian "mercy", but rather by society excusing these behaviors as somehow "normal, yet aberrant". The list goes on and on.

      When Christ spoke to the woman caught in adultery, he did not offer her "mercy", but told her flat out to "sin no more". He refused to condemn her as the prosecuting public wanted, but made it quite plain that she needed to correct her character and actions. This is exactly what is necessary when dealing with the monsters, parasites, and grifters in our midst.

      Negative consequences which bring about positive reformation should be imposed. At the very least, the said "monsters and parasites" ought to be isolated and removed from society. The fact that they are not is due to the current political climate which we live in, not to some nebulous Christian failing.

      Unfortunately, I do agree with A-G that much of the blame lies with the "heavenly-minded" attitude among many Christians. The idea that evil is only meant to be conquered at the personal, spiritual level is absolutely wrong. The belief that society will not get better until Jesus returns is fallacious and causes many to withdraw from action because "it is useless to even try".

      We are to work in the here and now, in time, in history, on Earth to bring the message of the Gospel to those around us. This Gospel preaches consequences (good or bad) for one's actions and strongly encourages us to choose the good. It also mandates that we conquer the evil within us and also within our culture, not by brute force or violence, but by making positive changes and modeling those changes to others as an example to follow.

      For Anti-Gnostic, I would challenge him to state plainly and explicitly what he means by "Christian mercy" and why it is detrimental to society. Throwing out assertions without supportive reasoning is not good enough.

    2. Well said. You obviously have more patience than I do.

  22. Do you want me to list all the Christian clergy, hierarchs and congregants who oppose the death penalty, support transfer payments from net tax producers to the thug class, and call for open borders? It will be a long list. They can support these policies with Biblical references as well.

    Also, the argument that we shouldn't defend ourselves but are allowed to defend others is ... interesting. You're not going to be around to defend others after the criminal has killed you .

    A response that there is another, actually correct interpretation of "turn the other cheek" is a form of no-true-Scotsman argument. The phrase is unambiguous on its face and in any event, one sincere person's interpretation is as valid as anybody else's.

    Christianity does not protect its people against its enemies: criminals, degenerates, non-Christian immigrants. Instead, it exhorts its adherents to submit to all manner of atrocities and support them with their taxes again, on the premise that we're all just hurrying to Heaven any way. That's an okay if nihilistic philosophy for old men waiting to die but not for young men wanting to start families.

    1. "Christianity does not protect its people against its enemies: criminals, degenerates, non-Christian immigrants. Instead, it exhorts its adherents to submit to all manner of atrocities and support them with their taxes again, on the premise that we're all just hurrying to Heaven any way. That's an okay if nihilistic philosophy for old men waiting to die but not for young men wanting to start families."

      This is a forthright statement. There can be no doubt about the meaning of it. Christianity is a loser, its adherents are nothing more than empty-headed nincompoops who are totally passive and compliant in the face of evil, hoping only that graduation to Heaven is accomplished peacefully.

      I would like to know more, therefore, I ask Anti-Gnostic to provide third-party documentation (sources, references, quotes, etc.) of the assertion and to then explain, in plain language, why this belief is representative of Christianity as a whole.

      I doubt it will happen.

      Here's my logic. As soon as A-G (or anyone else) publishes anything in support of the above ridiculous and ludicrous statement, I am ready to analyze it critically and counter it with sound reasoning, which will require a response from him, to which I will respond. Eventually, one or the other of us will concede and withdraw from the debate.

      If A-G does not respond, then his position is, by default, lost and we no longer need to listen to him.

      The gauntlet has been thrown. Will it be accepted?

      Again, I doubt that it will happen.

    2. A-G, if you choose to reply, I will suggest that one verse here or there does not a theological position make. All meaningful heresies are founded on just this approach.

  23. "Do you want me to list all the Christian clergy, hierarchs and congregants who oppose the death penalty, support transfer payments from net tax producers to the thug class, and call for open borders?"

    Christians, one of the few groups that recognizes man is fallen, are often attacked just as you do when they are seen as fallen.

    "The phrase is unambiguous on its face..."

    Clearly I would save a lot of time from my reading and writing through these two books and the readers here would be spared a large investment if we just get your unambiguous interpretation of this sermon.

    Do you have something positive to add? If not, you will remain a spectator on this topic. The comment section of this blog should not be confused with a twitter thread.

  24. My positive proposal is that Christianity is a coherent, integral belief system only when grounded with a Christendom which its people defend, with arms if necessary, as was done for a thousand years.

  25. The Bible does not condemn nor command self-defense against aggression, either personally or in the service of others. There is no hard, fast rule on the subject.

    Abraham rescued Lot. Esther went to bat for her people. Jesus told his disciples to acquire swords. This seems to come down squarely on the side of permissible self-defense. Yet, Jesus also limited the arsenal to two swords, which seems to caution against the acquisition of weapons as a source of faith or to unilaterally use them aggressively against others.

    Self-defense is allowed, but when the aggressor has been neutralized, the violence must stop. Further aggressive action is prohibited. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." Retaliation, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, is prohibited. (This does not exclude the administration of justice per se, but that is another argument.)

    That being said, Christianity also advocates for a better way, turning the other cheek, refusing to resort to violence against evil, but rather "overcoming evil with good". In this, Christ offers us a model, the personal choice to decide whether to meet aggression violently OR to "turn the other cheek". Concerning this, it seems evident to me that this is a purely subjective decision on the part of the individual and no one is condemned for acting as he sees fit in the specific situation, but each of us is encouraged to adopt the better way of handling controversy and confrontation--"those who would be greatest among you must be the servant of all" and "they loved not their lives unto the death".

    I am flirting with the idea of giving myself up completely to faith in God and God alone, forswearing any violent action on my part to defend myself and those I love, but I will admit I am not there yet. As it stands right now, I would not hesitate to bring out the shotgun in a violent manner, but I certainly hope that never has to happen.

    Perhaps this is the way it should be.

    1. Roger, I often think about what if the command to love my neighbor and love my enemy conflict? Then what?

      Perhaps as I get into the relevant verses in the Sermon on the Mount, the two authors might offer some clarification to this question.

    2. What if your neighbor is your enemy?

      When Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were outside and wanted to see him, he asked the question: "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" (Matthew 12: 46-50) In the same vein, who is my neighbor and who is my enemy? They might be the same person and, if that is the case, we already know how we should relate to them.

      The best place to start unraveling this might be by defining the terms "neighbor" and "enemy". Is my neighbor only someone who lives in the same town as I? Is he someone I associate with regularly (work, church, local pub, golf course)? Is he someone I see only occasionally? Or is my neighbor anyone I have contact with in some way or another, whether physically, verbally, or digitally?

      Is my enemy someone who hates me? Someone who wishes to do me harm? Someone who wants to use me for his own benefit? Or, conversely, someone I hate and wish to harm?

      We have clear instruction for our relations with both neighbors and enemies--we are to love them. I cannot see a conflict here. In fact, I would say that we are to love our enemies in such a way that they become our neighbors whom we then love as we do ourselves.

      It should be pointed out that love is on a completely different plane than the topic of self-defense. There is a place for both. I think that if we differentiate between these and treat them as separate non-overlapping issues, our conclusions would be better.

    3. "It should be pointed out that love is on a completely different plane than the topic of self-defense."

      Roger, it would be helpful if you could tease this out some. I understand love is much broader than offering comment on self-defense, but the two topics do intersect at some point, just as two different planes might if extended far enough.

      But in my comment I am thinking of how love intersects with the topic of self-defense. Unless you are telling me that these don't - in this case, please tease this out a bit.

    4. With Internet access and instantaneous communication, everyone on Earth, hypothetically at least, is our neighbor. This means that everyone on Earth could, potentially at least, become our enemy. We are commanded to love them anyway and, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Love for others is not an option.

      Self-defense is. It is a choice I make. Here, I am speaking about defending myself only, not others. For myself, I have the option to either employ action to defend against the predations of others OR I can allow them to act unimpeded.

      Self-defense is not necessarily violent. It can take the form of being careful what we say to others in conversation, of refusing to divulge information which might come back to bite us (passwords, bank account numbers, et al), manipulating our financial affairs to minimize our tax burden, and keeping our tempers under control in the presence of someone we vehemently disagree with. These are a few examples. There are innumerable and everyone engages in the practice, sometimes automatically.

      Self-defense can also be violent. If someone throws a punch at my nose, I can respond by giving him a knee in the groin. If a thug breaks down my door, I have the right (authority) to meet him forcefully and violently if necessary. These types are also innumerable and practiced regularly. I have no problem with anyone who acts in this manner and might even applaud his behavior, depending on the circumstances. I do not and will not condemn them.

      The conflict between love for neighbors and love for enemies arises if someone attacks one of your neighbors. What is your responsibility then? This is compounded when your neighbor is a member of your household—wife, daughter, grandchild, even the dog. How do we balance these and take the appropriate action?

      Does self-defense encompass those who are under my authority? I say, yes, emphatically. I do have a responsibility to protect my family. My strength and ability are an umbrella over those who live under it. I show love to my teenage daughter by keeping her safe from those who are intent on causing her great harm, brutal rape, for instance. I may have to protect her with a deadly blast from my shotgun. This does not mean that I have a lack of love for the perpetrator nor that I hate him, but simply means that I have assessed the situation and made a choice in favor of good vs. evil. The opposite extreme is that I allow him to have his way without trying in any way to stop him, which would show a decided lack of love for the well-being of my daughter. If I love my daughter, I will act accordingly.

      The examples shown are extreme ends of a continuum and there is an infinite variety of possibilities between them, all of which I am expected to face with good judgment, knowing that my actions (self-defense) may cause harm to either my neighbor (daughter) or my enemy (rapist), perhaps even to myself. On the other hand, it is possible that by foregoing physical violence and using peaceful, non-violent means to persuade the would-be rapist to change his mind and stop, I have successfully exhibited love for both my daughter and her attacker.

      Is this possible? I don’t know and won’t know until I am put in that situation and forced to act in some manner.

    5. We should not build our position around a hypothetical. The fact is, that while we ought always to be ready to defend ourselves, the possibility that a man might try to rape my daughter is quite remote and, more than likely, will never happen. I am acquainted with a man who justifies abortion on demand because he wants his daughter to have an “option” in case she should be raped and become pregnant as a result. Bad things do happen to good people, but this should not color our commitment to the truth.

      I view love as a blanket, a plane. It is universal and covers everything. There are no exemptions, no exceptions. I see aggression, violent or non-violent, as a line which intersects that plane at certain points, and it is only at those points where we are allowed to act in self-defense. Until and unless some form of aggression, violent or non-violent, occurs, we are expected to live in a state of love and when that aggression happens, as it will at some point, we are supposed to meet it in the spirit of love. My method of dealing with it will be different than yours, but all of us are ordered to follow the example of Christ, who showed love to everyone, whether His neighbor or His enemy.

      I do not have all the answers and, on this issue, I have “miles to go before I sleep”, but I can say that, after 65 years, I am confident that I am on the right track and headed in the right direction.

      Thank you for your consideration and I welcome your comments.

    6. Roger, you and I are quite well aligned, however you have explained it in terms much better than I ever have.

      I will expand on one point: you did examine the question of immediate family members, e.g., a daughter. I also consider neighbors (of which you mentioned, but did not provide an example or examination), as those who live in physical proximity to me or others within reasonable physical range of my home or person.

      In my view, the same thinking applies – in other words, such “neighbors” have and will continue to have a more meaningful hold on me than some random and unknown (to me) “neighbor” meaning to do my known “neighbor” harm.

      It gets more complicated if I happen to stumble across two (or more) unknown to me people in conflict, especially physical. Much more caution and judgment is required – but this, as you say, is in the gray area of continuum.

      With all of this said, I thank you very much for giving my question such thought and consideration.

    7. "It gets more complicated if I happen to stumble across two (or more) unknown to me people in conflict, especially physical. Much more caution and judgment is required..."

      Think globally, act locally?