Jesus and the Crusades

Today marks the last day of Pope Benedict XVI's service as head of the Roman Catholic Church. As I travel through my seminary class on church history I have come to appreciate all the church of old has done. Much good has come from the Catholic church. While I don't agree with some of their doctrinal positions, I can't help but admire how much they have practically impacted our culture for the good of Christ's Kingdom. Whether it is in the form of universities, hospitals, or other charitable organizations, the heart for those in need is evident.

Like most large religions, it wasn't always pretty. Most would look to the crusades as a giant blemish on the record of a church that is supposed to love others. I have my own thoughts on the crusades which I won't get into here. Suffice it to say there was great blame on both the Christian and Islamic side, and need for much forgiveness from both sides as well. One of the men who pushed Christians to head out and fight on the crusades was a french doctor of the church named Bernard of Clairvaux. When trying to recruit men to go, he would use this logic: "Our King Jesus is accused of treachery...any man among you who is His vassal ought to rise up to defend his Lord...." This phrase was put to my Church History class recently and the professor asked how we might respond to Bernard. Here is how I answered that question.

"I would have responded by asking Bernard what kind of king he thought Jesus was. His statement is very appropriate if it is referring to an earthly monarch to whom we owe taxes and who protects us from physical enemies. But Jesus isn't like that. He is a heavenly King of a heavenly kingdom. One day that will become an earthly physical reign with Christ present on a physical new earth. But it would be inappropriate to think of Jesus that way now. This is the same trap the Jews fell into when Christ came the first time. They wanted him to be an earthly monarch who would free them from the reign of Caesar. Christ himself spoke against this view with his kingdom parables and ultimately with the testimony of his death. His ascension proved that, for now, He isn't reigning over a physical territory, but will one day come to fulfill that role.

"Yes, we are Christ's vassal's, but not in the same way that we would serve an earthly king. To serve Christ means to do His will, including loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and submitting to the governing authorities. It doesn't mean doing what we think he wants. Peter tried this when he cut off the temple servant's ear and was reprimanded by Christ. Christ could have called down a legion of angels to defend Him when He was crucified, but He didn't. Christ doesn't need us to defend Him, and to imply that He does empties Christ of His sovereign power and goes against how Christ commanded us to serve Him."

That's how I would have responded. What would you have said?


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