As the Sword, So the Christian
The life, indeed the legacy, of a sword can be mundane–or glorious! Likewise the life and legacy of a Christian. The fashioning of a sword, whether the result ends in elegance or ugliness, involves undeniable violence and brutality. Of course, the greater care taken toward the crafting of such a tool demands grander durability and mettle imbued upon the finished product. Suffice it to say that the tempering of a sword requires extreme longsuffering and hard work. Indeed, the strength of a metalsmith’s character is often reflected in the fruits of his trade. Thus one could say, too, that the strength (or weakness) of a Christian’s character is often reflected in the fruits of service, be they poor or noble.
Jesus assured us how His own would be known: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them… By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another…” (Matthew 7:20; John 13:35).
The transformation of earthbound ore into the enigmatic form of a sword is wrought with pain and peculiarity that is seldom evident when beholding such an icon. The smelting and kilning processes require levels of heat that evoke thoughts of Gehenna, whilst the fierce hammering, folding, and shaping can fast conjure images of insufferable torture. A fiery blade drowned in the cooling bath creates a steaming and hissing racket that rivals even the harsh metallic clanging of the smithy’s mallet! The ash and ember bed and the precise art of the heat-temper is an endeavor that holds no bias, driving the insanely patient insane. One ill move can require beginning the solemn technique anew. And then there is the painstaking work of honing, dusting, and polishing, and depending upon the item’s destiny, etching and wrapping–each step possessing its own procedural protocol.
When reflecting upon the beating, drowning, tempering, and forming concerning the fashioning of a blade, I cannot help but to think of the parallels to Christian discipleship. Moreover, I cannot help but to think of those who have undergone similar fashioning, namely Paul and the original twelve disciples/apostles (discounting Judas, as he was replaced by Matthias). And amidst this stalwart group, Paul and John draw my regard. Paul attests to his own “fashioning” in 2 Cor. 11:24-33 concerning his claim of apostleship. He ultimately was killed in Rome.
John, despite suffering splendidly and often, is an interesting subject, for after numerous attempts on his life (including surviving being boiled alive in a vat of pitch) he became a boon to the Romans who feared angering the God who upheld John’s spirit; thus he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos where he penned the Revelation of Jesus Christ as he received heavenly visions. Eventually he was released whereupon he returned to Ephesus, presiding once again over the Ephesian church and dying a natural death long after leaving his island imprisonment.
Who then was the sharper sword, Paul or John? Which was the mightier tool in the hand of God? Or perhaps one of the other apostles, the rest of whom were martyred violently, deserves such merit. Whereas after an exceptional conversion Paul established needed beachheads of Light in a dark world, solidified doctrinal teaching, and in the end imitated Christ grandly through a life of servitude culminating in a martyr’s death. John likewise contributed to the work of Christ significantly, recording the Holy Spirit’s counsel on our assurance of Christ’s salvation and finalizing doctrinal teaching via the Revelation, but he did not die a martyr’s death. Does this disqualify him from a level of Christ-likeness reserved for Paul? Was Paul the better Christian? One could argue either way, though the practical high ground would elicit an understanding of how the Body of Christ operates, for we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function (Romans 12:4).
Yet how can we neglect to mention Jesus Christ? Indeed, any argument concerning the greater sharpness, or fortitude, of one disciple over another is dispelled at the mention of Christ and His Passion. One may insist that the theistic gravity of His Passion is simply a given in light of all discussion among disciples, but I dare not dismiss His Sacrifice so readily! In fact, I strive to maintain such an atoning act as not only an underlying Truth, but moreso an ever-present reflection upon said Truth. Further, since the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, then it follows that Christ, as the Word made flesh, is in actuality the Sword of God (Matthew 10:34).
As the tested sword demonstrates true integrity and flawless craftsmanship in the hands of its wielder, so the tested Christian will exhibit the same in the hands of our King, Jesus Christ. With the violence and distress of forging and crafting rarely evidenced in the sublime beauty of a finished sword, so it is that upon first glance the violence and distress of life is rarely evidenced in the mature Christian disciple, for the joy and peace of Christ are the seal and polish that represents His ownership and reflects His glory. Truly there are storied scars and wounds that testify of service to the King, but it is love for the Commander and the joy of fulfilling His mission that defines Christ’s swords!
Now as Paul encouraged us, let us consider such things (Philippians 4:8). Contemplation dispels neglect and pretense, for the unused blade falls quickly to rust and ruin. Thus it is my prayer that the armory of the Church today would be as stocked with true blades of perfect balance and integrity as the armory of the first three centuries of Christendom, for my life experience thus far has witnessed too few.