Swords vs. Guns

We are told by St. Paul “The government does not bear the sword in vain”. (Romans 13)

This is often used to justify the use of lethal force by the government to protect, defend, and punish.  After all, as I tell my catechumens, a sword has but one use.  It is a weapon that kills. The analogy I use is the gun.  While a .22 pistol is not as lethal as a .50 caliber machine gun, they both exist for the sole purpose of killing. (Whether people or animals).

Yet, elsewhere scripture speaks of the sword in ways that do not at all apply to guns.  Swords kill by dividing – joints from marrow, arm from body, etc.  Guns kill by smashing and tearing.  They do not divide.  The simply destroy.

In this sense, a sword is “an elegant weapon for a more civilzed age.” (Obi-Wan-Kenobi)

Jesus speaks of his teaching dividing, like a sword.  “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  “I came to set father against son…” etc.

So when we read of the word of God as the sword of the spirit, it is a dividing tool.  Today, too often the Word of God is seen as a gun – get a big enough one, and just spray everything.  Let God sort them out. The Word of god divides.  A well used sword is like a surgeons scalpal – diving bone from bone and joint from marrow.  It contains law and Gospel.  It cuts us, separating us from our sinful  human flesh.  The “Gun of God” simply scatters buckshot everywhere and hopes for the best.  The Sword of the Spirit cleaves in two – people, households, churches, etc.  So, it should not surprise us that the Word of God causes divisions.

It is certainly an elegant weapon.  If this were a more civilized age, perhaps we would appreciate it more.


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