Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Neh 4:14 (KJV)
There was an unfortunate event in our community that happened recently: one of our man, better to say, one of our child, in self-defense and in defense of his family, in their home, killed the thief, burglar. He shed the blood, as people would say. As I have heard from those who are close to him, the accident deeply had affected him and, since then, he has no peace of mind.
There are unfortunate times that are above and beyond our desires and power, which have the ability to scatter our life and scatter it so well, that it could last, sometimes, forever.
Since I was deeply concerned about the fate of this man, it came to my mind a moving story about our actor, Zarko Lausevic, who, as well, had similar misfortune.
Just to remind: in one hot summer night Lausevic and his close relative went to a pub for a glass of cold beer. Suddenly, from nowhere, group of drunken thugs, “čegović” and “koljenović” came into the pub just for a fight. And -there was a fight! Actually, Lausevic and his cousin were defending their bare lives. And, at one point, when one of drunkies got a broken bottle intending to slaughter his relatives, Lausevic fired! From that moment, nothing is any more like it was. From the moment of this accident, even to this day, twenty years after, the tragic event, actually, the consequences of this tragic event are not ended.
Now, let’s return to the recent unfortunate event that happened in our community – one of our young brothers, in no way had intentions to hurt anyone. Actually, at this very evening, he went to bed quietly with his wife and his children. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, the three armed robbers forcedly entered the house and attacked them. And the fight begun. He was alone against the three, defending his family and himself. Then, fortunately, he snatched a gun from one of them, and fired killing one of them! He lived his life peacefully just one day before, just one night before, but now, who knows for how long, he will wait for his life to be peaceful again? What a torment! Endless questions loaded on his soul. There is also another dimension of this tragic event: for the baptized person, in any circumstances, even in self defence, it is not easy to shed human blood. To say, it is not easy to take away human life… And I’ve wondered over his fate, and over the similar fate of many, and I was determined to look for answers for him. And for myself.
The sixth commandment of God is a short but succinct: “Thou shall not kill” (Exod. 20, 13) And in the New Testament, the Lord tells us, clearly and unequivocally: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matt 5:38-39 (KJV) “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 (KJV)
When you need to clarify to yourself the difference between us, Orthodox, and sectarians of-kind, the basic gap is between is: we approach to the God’s word completely, we never observe only one side of an event, we search for an adequate proportion and we measure all possible sides of everything that is happening to us. In other words, we read the word of God in their yards on the context. It would take long time to read and explain the commandments of God. I’d rather have all the sophistry sectarians and pacifists, transcend by this: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 (KJV) This word of God sounds explicitly clear to any well-intentioned and intelligent person. Christ calls us to follow Him in the sacrificial Love. He gave His life for the whole human race. This means that we are to sacrifice our life for the loved ones. Our Saint, Bishop Nikolai explained so beautifully the gradation of sacrificial love: “All nations at all times in history hailed as great people and heroes, those who have laid down their lives for their friends or loved ones. Such love, self-sacrifice love for friends and loved ones, our Savior calls of our greatest love.
In a broader scope, such love can relate to those great men who laid down their lives for an entire nation. In its broadest scope, it applies only to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life on the cross to save entire human race. So – says the Saint Bishop – God’s, and not of men is to lay down His life for humanity, and for the ordinary people of the great (my emphasis) is: to lay down your life for your dear ones, and is for greatest sons to lay down their life for the whole nation.” (Oreol svetog ratnika, Vladika Nikolai Velimirovic) So, if we are in dilemma about our Serbian brother and about what happened to him and his family just recently, we should know that our saint Bishop Nikolai would name him: a great men!
Even if there is still a suspicious cloud in our mind over this question, here’s a breath of fresh breeze of God to dispel it: Is not the holy prophet of God, the great King David, in the defense of his own killed the mighty Goliath? King David was a great saint, whose unrivaled poetic prayers and psalms color our sacred service of God. This saint prays and sing: “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.” (Psalms 144:1 (KJV) Our Lord does not want us to take the justice in our hands , for we, when we are blinded by the moment of extreme challenge, we do not know the extent. When we have a choice, we should not do evil against evil. If we have time, we even turn the other cheek. BUT IF (translator’s emphasis) the lives of our loved ones, even your own, is concerned, there is no choice. Since, it is said: “Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (Neh. 4:14 (KJV)
This was exactly what our brother has done – he did what he was even obliged to do. If he acted opposite, he would sin. Nobody is supposed to wait his family to be tied and tortured before his eyes. Nobody is supposed to watch the unleashed anger over his wife and children. If the guard – and what else is the father and husband but the guard of the house! – sees the coming danger and does not respond, the blood of killed ones, is a burden on his soul. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Tim 5:8 (KJV) This one who is meek, and who would allow robbers to take over his household forcedly and sadistically, Solomon described in the verse: ”A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring. (Prov. 25:26 (KJV)
And finally, there is something that relates very closely to the case of our brother and what should ease his consciousness, if not already, are the words of God that we read in Exodus of the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus says the Lord: “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” (Ex 22:2-3 (KJV) “Obviously, here we see that when a thief breaks into someone’s house at night, and that person defends his house and slays the thief, God does not hold that death over the defender’s head. However, God does not wish for anyone to take the low into his or hers hand. This is why it is said that if a thief is struck down during the daylight the defender is guilty of bloodshed. Now, this is speaking of thievery, not an attack. So if the thief were to attack the defender even during the day, self-defense would be justified.” (Paul Coughlin, A Biblical View of Self-Defense)
This is the child of our own, and we belong to the nation, probably unique in the Orthodox world that have painted sacred walls by holy warriors (Monastery Manasija, and other). These heroes are celebrated by Lord Himself, should not we celebrate them as well?
This is the answer to my doubts. Let it be the answer to everyone, including our brother, whose fate has led me to these thoughts.