The Karma of the Sword?
by Rod Jackson

All verses are quoted from the NASB anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was about to be arrested when His disciple, Peter, took a sword to protect Jesus. Notice Peter's motives are good; he wants to protect his Lord. Peter swings the sword and takes the ear off the high priest's servant. Peter is obviously not trained to be swinging a sword. The story continues -

"Then Jesus said to him [Peter], `Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.' " Matthew 26:52

So Jesus rebukes Peter showing that what Peter does is the wrong thing to do. Therefore we can see that it is not sufficient merely to have good intentions. Rather morality requires both right attitude and right action. Peter may have had the right attitude but he did not have the right action.

Here is where we get the expression "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword". But is Jesus making an absolute claim here or is it merely a general truth? If it is an absolute claim then it must at least be a general truth. So first we need to see if it is generally true. I think it is pretty obvious that people who live in a violent manner will one day come across someone who is faster, stronger, better or sneakier than they are. And so the likelihood of that person coming to a violent end is greatly increase. Thus I think it is safe to say that this statement is at least a general truth.

Now if this statement is also an absolute statement then we could say that Jesus is talking about some form of Karma. That is, if someone is violent then their Karma will always insure that as they did to others, it will be done to them. I will look at 2 examples of historical figure to show that this cannot be an absolute statement, but is merely a general truth.

Alexander III of Macedon (356-323 BC), more popularly known as Alexander the Great was the ruler of a large Greek empire. Alexander was undefeated in actual battles or wars and he was a skilled fighter. In a mere 13 years he conquered the Persian empire (no small feat) and entered India. Alexander died in bed of fever; he was never killed in battle or in a fight. He definitely "lived by the sword" but never "died by the sword".

Alexander the Great live BC which means he lived "before Christ". So someone may object that it could be the case that Jesus is introducing a new rule, that only applies from the time He said it.

In Japan a ronin (masterless samurai) called Shinmen Takez˘ (1584-1645 AD), but more popularly known as Musashi Miyamoto was undefeated in 60 fights and was a master sword fighter. He died peacefully in a cave and not in a battle. Hence he did not "die by the sword", even though he certainly lived by the sword. A case can be made that he had a more peaceful ending to his life and hence didn't always "live by the sword" but in his older age (1640ish & onwards) he spent his time writing. His writings are all about the way of the Sword, thus he never really left the path of the sword.

Notice that Musashi lived AD (Anno Domini) which means he lived "in the Year of our Lord". That is he lived after Jesus. So the new rule objection fails as well as people both before and after Jesus spoke lived by the sword but did not die by the sword. Thus we can see that Jesus' general statement cannot be used as an example of Him teaching some form of Karma.


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