> When we talk about God as Christians we are not talking about a generic conception of God. As Christians we believe in a very specific concept of God, one that was most fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
For people that believe in Jesus and call themselves Christians, I think that it is important that we get something strait: Jesus was not violent. That is the first proposition. The second theory flows out of that: since Jesus was not violent, maybe his people should not be violent either.
I know that there are those who will object. Some of them will even point to verses in Scripture. I will try to look at each of the objections that I hear as best I can as quickly as I can.
I think that it is important to recognize that we are not GOD-ians, or Spirit-ians. We are Christians.We would take our cue from Christ.
Here is my concern: Every time some Christian wants to be violent and can not find a way in Christ to justify it – they reach back into the Old Testament in order to do so. This is a bad way to read the Bible. Sometimes, when christian ministers speak, it almost comes across as if Jesus never came. When I say “Jesus was not violent” you can’t just jump backward and say “In the Old Testament God…” That is not the right way to do it.
Turning over table in the Temple
Whenever I say that Jesus was not violent, almost without exception the first thing someone says is “what about when he cleared the Temple?” In passages like John 2:15, Jesus makes quite a ruckus in the Temple – driving out the animals that were for sale and turning over the tables of the money changers.
I would just point out three things: A) it was the only time that he did something like this. It was an exception. B) he did not harm any human or living thing. He cracked a whip and turned over tables. C) this act was in protest of those who had made religion big business, profiting from the vulnerability of others.
So often I hear this verse used to justify supporting violence and ironically it is by those who have made the christian religion big business and make a handsome profit off of it. That should tell you something.
The Book of Revelation
in chapter 19 of John’s Revelation you hear this:
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
Somehow this becomes permission to be violent to other countries and to people of different backgrounds or persuasions.
The error is threefold:
1. To derive doctrine from apocalyptic literature in difficult at best. The very nature of the genre is poetic, fantastic, and explosive. It really should not be read like the rest of scripture. I am firmly convinced that each genre should be read in ways that are appropriate to the nature of that genre. The Histories of the Hebrew Testament, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles (or letters) and the Apocalyptic all need to be read in distinct ways.
2. To miss that his sword is a non-sword – it is his Word ! I call this “the problem of jesuSword” and though it can be confusing, it’s important to see that it is not Jesu’s Sword but Jesus’ Word !! What brings the nations to submission is not a sword but Jesus’ Word – or the word of the Word (if you prefer). To miss this is to miss the point all together. It is to think that the Romans did the right thing is nailing Jesus to the cross. It is to miss that Jesus was killed unjustly and the injustice pains the heart of God. There is poetry in that Jesus told Peter to “put away” his sword (jJohn 18:11) and said that if his kingdom was of this world that his followers “would fight” (John 18:36). The implication is that his kingdom’s power does not originate with this world* and therefor his followers will not fight.
3. Some people justify violence by saying “Jesus even said that he came to bring a sword” but think about the whole sentence… what did he say?
Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Here is the important thing: swords were meant to guard families. To protect me, my things, and those close to me! Jesus says that his sword it to divide up families – and I think he was being ironic !! Because in his day swords were actually for defending one’s family – for guarding me and mine. In this sense, Jesus’ “sword” is an un-sword… or an anti-sword. It does the opposite of what human swords are used for. Jesus’ sword is not for defending family but for dividing family. Jesus did not come with a human sword but the opposite!!
The Kingdom suffers violence
In Matthew 11:12 Jesus says that the Kingdom “suffers violence” and that the violent “try to take it by force”. I know that this is a tricky passage. Some people see it as saying “you have to be aggressive to enter the kingdom” but I think it is more appropriate to read it as “violent men try to seize to use for their own purposes”. Regardless, either reading does not give us permission to be be violent and advance the kingdom of Christ “by the sword”.
I am not a pacifist. I am not passive. I am actively and passionately non-violent. I believe that violence begets more violence. Sometime – a person who wants permission to be violent in Jesus’ name will pull out the big two examples and ask me either “what about the Nazis” or “what if some guy broke into you house and was going to rape your wife”? These are always the big two and I will deal with them next week in “Breaking the Bell Curve”. Suffice to say – barring those two examples, most of what we are talking about with burning heretics, Godly nationalism, and militarized violence does not primarily fall into those two famous categories. They are just all too normal human violence baptized in Jesus’ name.
Let me get down to the heart of the matter. Here is an example of exactly what I am talking about. There is nationally known pastor in Seattle, Washington who is famously quoted as saying “Jesus is a cage fighter with a tattoo on his thigh and a sword in his hand, determined to make someone bleed”. He said this in reference to the fact that he “could not worship somebody that he could beat up.”
Some people dismiss statements like this and chalk it up to testosterone fueled, overly inflated, pumped up hyper-masculinity. I think that there is something much deeper and much more sinister involved. I think that it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God and the interpretation of Christian scripture.
What is noteworthy is that in Revelation 19, the sword is not in Jesus’ hand but it comes out of Jesus’ mouth. That seems important in the poetic nature of Revelation. This sword is not your average sword. It is not in Jesus’ hand and that makes you wonder if the way in which this sword “strike down” the nations is not in bloody violence but in a kind of destruction that would happen as a result of a sword that proceeds from the mouth of God? Let’s ask ourselves “is there something that comes from the mouth of God that radically impacts or consumes peoples and nations?” Is there something sharp that comes from the mouth of God … something sharper than any two edged sword?
I am suggesting that we need to be open to consider at least three ideas:
1. that since that time in church history when the church rose to Roman power and began to kill people (burn, hang, and behead) what we often call Christianity has been very different than the initial vision of Jesus and the precedent set by the early church when Jesus was killed by Romans and the church suffered violence.
2. that when groups of nationals are invaded by violent foreigners who mix commerce and religion with genocide and ethnic cleansing, that maybe the rejection by the indigenous population of the alien religion can not be called a rejection of christianity. Maybe when groups like the Native American tribes who were assaulted by European invasion were not actually rejecting what you and I would know as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. that when preachers get stuff like this wrong, that it essentially changes the message and thus the addition of violence to the gospel makes it a different enough message that they are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ anymore but a different gospel. Maybe he doesn’t just quote this passage wrong, maybe he has Jesus all wrong.
Now usually people say “no no it is not a different gospel – it is just an adding of something to the gospel.” It is the gospel plus violence.
But I would ask, if the example and model of Jesus and the apostles is essentially and fundamentally non-violent, and one adds violence to it… does it then essentially and fundamentally transform the gospel into something that is then not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But is it possible that this preacher did not just get a detail wrong but is actually portraying Jesus wrong. That he is not just adding something to the gospel but is preaching a different gospel and thus is not preaching the gospel?
I guess a fun example would be : if I write a book about how English is the best language and how everyone should speak English. Then someone translates that my book into French… that would be complicated. But what if they then appropriated the message and said that French was the best language and everyone should speak French… would that then be a different message? Even if it were based on my original book, had the same title and used all the same stuff – it would be a different message.
I think that they would not just have translated my message but would have changed my message. Essentially and fundamentally they would be saying something different than I was. They would not be promoting my same message.
This is the exact situation that I think we often have. People use Jesus’ name, read from the Holy Book and even put crosses on the outside of their building and on their stage. It has all the markers of a Christian message. Here is the problem – it has a fundamentally different message and motives than Jesus did. It uses Roman models and methods and thus it is not in keeping with the Spirit of Christ.
Jesus was not violent. jesuSword is not Jesu’s sword but Jesus’ word. It’s not a sword – it is an un-sword or an anti-sword. When we miss this detail, we miss the message.
* the phrase “not of this world” does not mean that Jesus power has nothing to do with this world, but that it does not originate with this world (unlike Herod’s or Pilate’s). It definitely impacts the world and is for the world. “Not of this world” does not mean that it has nothing to do with this world and is for a “world that is to come”. It means that it is fully IN the world but that the source of its power is not OF the world.
November 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm
>I love this. It's never made sense to me to take Jesus one way and God another… especially since Jesus claims to represent God. Is Jesus who he says he is or not?Although, I do like to think the tip of that whip in the temple caught some flesh… I'm trying to be non-violent but I must admit to liking God/Jesus getting passionate about defending the poor and powerless.
November 16, 2010 at 8:36 pm
>This is such an important conversation that we're simply too often afraid of bringing up because of the church's investment in militarism. There are so many questions that the Bible is unclear about…and this isn't one of them. It is easy enough to make arguments for non-violence from Scripture, many have done it and will continue to do so…but in light of your previous posts on Relationship…there is an entirely new dimension. If God is primarily concerned with reconciling relationships, then isn't violence automatically precluded? How can we seek reconciliation if I'm holding a bat behind my back, ready to strike if I perceive a threat?My personal journey in this area is easily the most profound experience and transformation I've had since coming to Christ. Committing myself to non-violence has changed the way I think about EVERYTHING. I'm trying to explore ideas of intellectual and philosophical non-violence, in addition to physical non-violence. What does it look like to hold opposing ideas and converse about them without attempting to break down the person behind those ideas? It seems simple, but as soon as an emotional issue or concerns regarding things that are held in our identities are involved, it becomes infinitely more complex. Looking forward to further conversations about this.BTW – the Nazi question is easily refuted. If Christians were non-violent, who would stand up to the Nazis? If Christians were non-violent, there would be no Nazi military. What non-violent Lutheran or Catholic would participate?
November 16, 2010 at 11:36 pm
>Thank you both so much for posting! It helps me out so much to hear what people are thinking.You have both given me great ideas for the Friday Follow up! Donnav we will have to be honest and talk about when we want the whip to touch the flesh 😉 and Improv, we have to have the kind of courage that you are talking about. Courage to ask tough questions and the courage to make changes depending on the answers to those questions.I have a terrible fear. I fear that most churches and the most popular churches have no interest in asking the questions or in making any of the changes. I am terrified that those churches simply care about 1) getting more people and 2) those people giving more money. That is how it feels anyway when I am listening to what it blowing in the breeze out there. jeez that sounded cynical 😦 sorry.
November 17, 2010 at 12:08 am
>Non-violence is clearly the message of Jesus and you will get no argument from me here. There is however one question I would ask concerning the actions of individual followers of Christ. How does the leading of the Holy Spirit figure into what we decide to do in the moment?Put another way, I would say that anyone who claims to follow Christ would have to have a default position of non-violence. However, Jesus did not come to give us a new law, he indwells us by his spirit. Wouldn't it be possible (and this has happened with me) for the spirit to provoke us into some kind of aggressive behavior in a moment of confrontation?Paul struck a man blind. Jesus cleard the temple. Paul uses very aggressive language ("cut the whole thing off") when dealing with the Judaizers.While I believe with conviction that Jesus was non-violent I wonder what the culture of the first century would consider violent, aggressive, etc. Isn't some of this discussion relative to the culture? And isn't some of this discussion relative to how the spirit leads individuals to respond to a confrontation?
November 17, 2010 at 2:55 am
>Some really great stuff in this posting! I wanted to add to a couple of things that stuck out to me. First, Jesus turning over tables etc. This is an interesting event and if one reads all of the gospels, one would find that one gospel account actually has Jesus visit the temple the day before his "violent" outburst. This means that his outburst may have been a calculated demonstration rather than a temper tantrum. Also, the people Jesus shows anger towards are those whom he actually was closest to theologically..the Pharisees. He gets most frustrated with the people who are separating any who want to know God from Him/Her. I see this event not as an example of justified violence…but of God's passion for having relationship with everyone and his frustration at those who try to get in the way. Anger directed not towards non-believers…but towards those who SHOULD know better. Secondly—I too am an active and passionate advocate of non-violence. Others always bring up things like the Nazi's and someone attacking a loved one. My response is this: the Nazis–if one would recall—believed their violence was protecting the "right people" and that exterminating "Christ Killers" (aka Jews) was protecting people….Hmmmm. They believed their violence was justified for this reason. In regards to protecting a loved one. I honestly believe that Jesus would not have stood by and watched as an individual was attacked. He prevented a women from being stoned, he stopped Peter from attacking a soldier etc. I think Jesus believed that violence was never the answer and he prevented violence whenever he could…no matter who the perpetrator was. Lastly, I had never thought about the concept of adding violence to the gospel as changing it. I believe the gospel is the message that a new Kingdom has come and is coming, a new way of living is made possible. While I am not quite sure that adding violence changes that message initially…it would definitely change the way that message is lived out an communicated, which DOES eventually blurr the message so badly that it becomes a different message. Great stuff to think about. Thanks for the posting.
November 17, 2010 at 3:08 am
>now that is a VERY interesting question. a couple of thoughts:- I was listening to lecture a while ago about how the things that Paul says are of value (like the fruit of the Spirit) are definitely NOT what the Roman view would have valued. so that is something that would be fun to look at.- IF someone was claiming to be led by the Spirit, I would actually have listen to their case 🙂 in the Friday Follow up I am planning to address sometimes when it MIGHT be appropriate to get rowdy. – Here would be my one caution with the scenario that you suggested. I would just want to use caution if that person were A) in the dominant culture (white in my neck of the woods) B) Male (and way into it) and C) in a position of power (like being a pastor). Also if the person watched UFC then I would be suspicious. so let me paint the picture with way: if you are a white male pastor who live in America and watches UFC (like the pastor from Seattle that I mentioned in the post) … then "no" it is not the Holy Spirit leading you to be aggressive. It is just you and your ego and the construct of privileged boyhood that you enjoy. You are too much of a risk that you are just used to being in charge and getting your way.Final Verdict: do not be aggressive! it is not the Holy Spirit leading you! no matter how much the other white guys around you tell you that it might be… you are being deceived by your socialization and cultural grooming! It is not God! crinkle some tin-foil on your antennas – you are getting some bad reception.
November 17, 2010 at 3:18 am
>Naomi – that is some GOOD good stuff that I have not thought through all the way. I really appreciate your posting that. I might reference some of it in the Friday follow-up.on a side note: since moving into our new apartment we have had two incident of neighbors in domestic violence. When you hear the sound of a fist hitting a head, the sound of pain leaving the body in windpipes, and the sound of crying for hours afterward… the reality of violence comes 'home'. TV and movies do not do it justice. Violence on a screen is… not the same. Your comment really made me think about the REALITY of what is going on in the text. To picture what is going on… thanks for posting – sorry if I was too dark. I just hate this stuff.
November 17, 2010 at 4:52 am
>mtdan, I was thinking about how odd (or funny) my earlier comment may sound to someone who is used to me saying "perhaps" and "some" and "maybe" a lot. That this sounded too definite or too sure.But the more that I think about it… the more convinced I am that what the world does NOT need is another white male religious leader saying that "God told him" to be violent. That is what we might call "holy crap"! 🙂
November 17, 2010 at 9:05 am
>yeah. I like lot of stuff you say concerning an ever changing Christianity. However, I am getting quite tired of the judgment thrown at white males, especially pastors. You make the continual mistake of defining people by their culture and their spiritual heritage. Gotta say, its quite arrogant to decide for anyone white, black, male, female, pastor or non-pastor that their decisions as they follow the holy spirit are holy crap. What the world does need is another white male religious leader who loves Jesus and lays down his life for those in his community. And I for one don't think it helps the discussion any to redraw the lines of dogma to devalue the lifestyle who experiences Jesus differently than you do. Or would it help if I was black.
November 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm
>OK – let's start in a place that we agree: people are led by God's Holy Spirit. That is saying something. I think that is worth noting. It is not insignificant to make such a claim. We agree. We are led by God's Holy Spirit.Where we are seeming to differ is that I think that we are led – but that it is not independent of our experience, socialization, and culture. I think that the gravity of God does not act upon us a independent agents separated from our context – but at members of a community saturated with context.I like what you said about the world needing pastors who love Jesus and lay down their life like Jesus. Here is what I would like to see – if you and I agreed that "violence is not an option" and THEN we saw what creative thing that the Holy Spirit might lead and create!! We could say "Jesus was at work" with 100% confidence."Otherwise… let's be honest. Church history is full of all too ordinary human violence that has been baptized in Jesus name. You can get upset if you want – but I think that I should be applauded for having internal coherency 🙂 IF I believe that Jesus was not violent, then it follows logically that I would not think that someone was being led by Christ's Spirit to be violent!The other stuff just intensifies it. If you are part of a dominant culture, in a privileged place, in a position of power… then I am going to be even more suspicious that it is just you and not God who wanted to get violent. Especially if you watch violence as entertainment (UFC) like the famous pastor in Seattle does (who think that Jesus is a cage fighter). so I'm going to go ahead and go with "No" – that it is not God. This is only amplified if the other stuff is true as well. ;)Keep in mind – I am a BIG rowdy guy who would love nothing more than permission to be pushy and to get my way (or to bring out events as i think they should be) – in god's name. I literally only take this stance because of how I read Jesus. There is nothing else in me that wants to go this way. This rises and falls for me based on the way the Jesus was.
November 18, 2010 at 12:15 am
>Again, read my comment. I agree that Jesus was thoroughly non-violent. My two questions were about agressive behavior when led of the spirit (ie. Paul striking a man blind, Jesus clearing the temple, Paul sarcastically telling the Galatian Judaizers to cut the whole thing off)and the notion that anyone's definition of violence is culturally relative. Agressive behavior in one culture is not agressive behaviour in another. And violence in one culture is not violence in another.I thought part of this discussion was admitting that our personal beliefs are culturally motivated and may differ from those of Jesus and the early church because our cultures are so different. Also you say, "If you are part of a dominant culture, in a priviledged position, in a place of power I am going to be even more suspicious. . ."Sorry, this is really poor reasoning. Many men and women have been given by God places of priviledge and functions of authority because they use their authority well. It is not internally coherent to assume that people in these places should be suspect. Some are using this earned place of influence for the kingdom of heaven and others are using it for their own agendas. Let's not used the intollerant generalizations of the orthodox in our pursuit of a better expression of the gospel.
November 18, 2010 at 3:58 am
>Working backwards through your last comment, mtdan:Re: suspicion of those in the dominant culture, privileged and powered position – I think you're right that some are given spiritual authority and use it well. But when someone in a position of authority is doing something that is contrary to the teachings and model of Jesus…that is suspect. I think it is more suspicious in this particular area because those in power are most easily tempted to use violent force if it might preserve their power and authority. It is a healthy suspicion, but a spiritually dangerous area to tread as well, since being overly suspicious morphs quickly to overly-critical cynicism. re: cultural relativism and violence: I'm with you to a point. American football, while one of the most aggressive sports in the States, is not as violent or aggressive as rugby. But at a certain point would you agree that the intention and purpose of aggressive behavior, expressly to hurt or intimidate or control others, would be discernable in all cultures? I'll say it, I think that kind of violence in ANY culture is wrong. So even if different cultures have different levels of acceptable aggressiveness…at some point the intention to hurt, intimidate, or control is a cultural universal. re: aggressive behavior when led by the spirit…we're also to judge other believers by the spirit. Of your three examples, only Paul striking a man blind is clearly violent – the other two are at best ambiguous (as per the previous comments re: the temple, and Paul's language in light of rhetoric and hyperbole) So even granting that there MAY be instances where the Spirit leads someone to engage in some kind of violence…due to the clear abuse through history I'd say we have the responsibility to be INCREDIBLY cautious and suspicious. Additionally, a common approach to the question of violence from those who support a violence-permitting interpretation is to use some sound-bite proof-texts and then justify things that are way beyond the text. It's like saying that because Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying about their offering, we're allowed to shoot people who break into our homes. Or because Jesus flipped over the tables in the Temple, we can and should kill people with remote controlled planes in Afghanistan (as long as we don't sleep with someone of the same gender). Please keep in mind I'm not accusing you of this kind of thinking, but this is the danger I see in leaving any area of this particular conversation ambiguous. It has serious consequences. Thanks for pushing back a bit in this conversation. I think you're getting at some important points and helping us all to clarify our thinking and our words. I'm looking forward to your response!
November 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm
>Reply to improvfaith:Working through your post from the beginning.Thank you. I detect some cynicism in this discussion when it comes to white males in power.There are many wonderful churches and ministries out there that have white males at the healm that are doing a great job of loving on their communities and connecting people to Jesus. Do they do it like me or you, no. Let's be careful not to jugde a culture and a context that we are not part of. If there is one thing church history has taught me is that I will not always understand what the spirit of God is doing in cultures that are differnt than mine.The point of viloence in any culture is to hurt, intimidate and control. I agree and like this measuring stick better than the word violence. However, I do think Jesus' intention was to control the economics of the temple at least for a day. I do think Paul's intention was to intimidate the man he struck blind. And even if it was hyperbole cutting the whole thing off in Galatians, would definitely hurt. My point is that we are making a rule about how the spirit of Christ can and can't work when we say that nothing Jesus does is violent. I would say that Jesus was clearly non-violent, but he was certainly aggressive. He was particulaly aggresive toward spiritual lies and power structures that enslaved and hurt people.Finally, aggressive behavior when led by the spirit – I agree with you that the propensity is to proof text some verse to legitamize really bad behavior. That is not what I am after. Rather, I think the evaluative tool to use on a persons individual decisions as he is led of the spirit is the track record of the individual.For instance, if a person's track record is one of gentleness, service, and sacrifice for his or her fellow man and they claim the spirit led them to do something aggressive I would give serious weight to their "normal" posture of non-violence.If someone is known for his or her kindness, sensitivity to the spirit and love for people and they enjoy rugby or MMA I think it is pretty judgmental to assume they have a non-Jesus posture toward violence.If I could sum up what I perceive to be my difficulty with the current discussion (and by the way it leaks into other discussions on this site) it is this:We have been deconstructing a dogmatic gospel that doesn't work. One of the main reasons it doesn't work is that it is based on rigid dogma, rules, doctrine. I'll bet you twenty bucks that subjectivity (open standards, generalizations, relational judgments as opposed to a moral standard) is necessary to honestly follow Jesus.Grace is the non-negotiable posture we must have toward anyone if we claim to follow Jesus.
November 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm
>Good conversation! Two ideas & Two things in my defense :)1) we are agreeing on 80%. We agree that Jesus was not violent, that we are lead by the Spirit who is at work in the world, and many other things like gracious posture. We simply part ways on that final 20%. I don’t want to endorse religious leaders (of any stripe) that say that “god told them” to be aggressive/violent. I think that this pastor in Seattle gets Jesus wrong, is preaching a false gospel, which makes the world a worse place by enforcing that status quo. We don’t have to agree on the final 20%. 2) I just want to make sure that the ‘subjectivity’ you speak of is not that of an Enlightenment Individual. This is not YOU doing what “God” is laying on YOUR heart. I am convinced that what we need is a community discernment where there is both accountability and faithfulness to what God has ALREADY revealed in the 10 commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. That would be my suggestion. Not just you being you (Rambo style) and calling it “being undignified” or a "jesus freak” or “on fire”. In my defense: 3) I have been clear from day one about my conviction is that we will need a VERY different theology for the next 500 years than what we have had for the past 500 years. I have never apologized for that. That should not be surprising. It could not be more clear about what I am up to.4) I don’t think that not wanting religious leaders to say that “God told them” to be aggressive/violent is being UN-gracious. I think that I am being very gracious in saying that I want to make a sharp break with the violence of Church History since 300. I think that it is all-too-ordinary-human violence just baptized in Jesus name and that we need to STEP AWAY from that as an act of repentance and take it OFF the table in order to see what God’s Holy Spirit can do that we can not do in our own power.
November 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm
>Re: taking it off the table – this is why I'm so passionate about this and unwavering in it as well, due to my personal experience. Removing the option of violence, basically saying to myself that God will NEVER tell me to use violence against another, has changed the way I think about EVERYTHING. The floodgates of creativity, humility, and passion for reconciliation were opened when that decision was made. I recognize that it would appear to be limiting God in some way, but the paradox is, I now see God's unlimited capacity for reconciliation and restoration when violence is removed. Joe P
November 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm
>I love that we are exploring a non-violent gospel. I am 100% in favor of this gospel. My question which should not be this hard to ask is why when I say aggressive you say violent. And isn't each community free to determine together in the presence of our God how they will walk out non-violence without total strangers passing judgment on their decisions.Here is a practical question. Would we rather our police force was made up of Christians or non-Christians?
November 18, 2010 at 10:28 pm
>You're right that we should distinguish between aggressiveness and violence. I think there can and should often be such a thing as an aggressively non-violent response. But you've muddied the waters. Maybe we both have, but let me point to your previous response to me – you agree that violence is about hurting, intimidating, and controlling, then describe the three examples in those terms, and then say that Jesus is non-violent but aggressive. Please clarify if I'm mistaken here. Let me be clear, I think violence is any action that is an attempt to hurt, intimidate, or control others through force. This is an off-the-cuff definition, I'm not sure if I'd add 'physical' in there or 'coercive'. But I think it suffices for now.Aggressiveness is an active, impassioned pursuit. All aggressiveness is not violence, but all violence is aggressive. Regarding judging total strangers – yeah, we need to be in relationship with people. I get it. But, even using your example of Paul in Galatians…if we think that other Christians are actively promoting something that we believe is contrary to the good news of Jesus, in fact is the anti-thesis and prevents people from coming to know Jesus…shouldn't we, like Paul, use aggressive language to refute them? This doesn't mean I don't love them, or have anything to do with their status regarding salvation or whether they are Christians or not. We all have elements of our character that are opposed to the Gospel, but conforming to Christ-likeness means an active, aggressive pursuit of changing those things. Culture can blind us to areas where we need to be conformed to the image of Christ, and I pray for other Christians to lovingly correct me when they think I'm out of line. That means judgment. Maybe I'll get to your practical question later.Joe P
November 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm
>HA – mtdan 🙂 I know that you are trying to be funny (you troublemaker) offering up an either-or option like that!! You are really clever. So I am going to go with a “Both-And” option !I don’t think that the Police force should be ONLY Christian. For obvious reasons (see changes in the 4th Century Roman Army if you are not clear) .I think that it would be good if there were SOME Christians to be salt & light in the Force and be able to speak with authenticity about ‘walking the beat’ with Jesus. What I am MORE concerned about is what Cops see when they go into Christians’ homes. I had a friend who was a Chaplain with the State Troopers in a southern state. He told me some stuff about the behind the scenes (and why cops generally don’t go to church) that made my blood curdle. So I contacted the Cop and the State Trooper that I knew and asked them about this. The said it was true.Apparently Domestic Violence is a cop’s least favorite call. It gets worse when they walk into homes where there are Bibles on the coffee tables, pictures of Jesus on the wall or items with BIble verses on them – the dynamics are especially difficult. The husband believes that he has certain rights, their pastor will usually tell the women to stick in there and she usually will not file a report, and other worse things. It is not good for anyone to see what Cops see – whether Christian or not. The permission for violence that comes from Christian pulpits has an impact in family rooms and bedrooms that many pastors never see. I thank God for Cops in general and that there are christians in their ranks.
November 19, 2010 at 9:12 am
>Hey. Have you thought about being a 'peacemaker' in addition to being non-violent? 🙂 While I see non-violent as a step up from being passive=pacifist, I would like to suggest that as followers of Jesus, we are called to not only refuse to be aggressive, but also nurture and build environments/contexts/society ecosystems in the way of covenant with each other- where the relationship matters more than the argument, but the argument can be more of a life-long discussion. Peacemakers often find themselves as mediators between two parties, whether it is in war or in discussion, and work towards reconciliation. A safe space is provided to share wrongs and grievances as well as confessions and repentance.Oh, and I'm not sure where else you will describe the term peacemaker quite like this- it's working terminology for me.
November 19, 2010 at 12:42 pm
>I get to teach a room full of Christians each week (and some non-Christians). For the record, some of the other leadership in our church family have labelled me a pacifist. While I am not quite a pacifist I am vocally non-violent in practise and teaching. As I have men and women in my church who have served in the armed forces or have children in the armed forces, as I live in Montana where weakness is a dirty word, and as I live amongst a people who post crosses draped with American flags on every street corner I ask my self a very practical question about non-violence. How does non-violence affect men and women in vocations that require some level of violence/agression (soldiers, police officers, coast guard, FBI, game wardens, etc.)Sorry, I am not discussing theory or a new theology, I am talking about people's lives. Let's get this one right as we teach a gospel of grace that invites people into a lifestyle of non-violence in a very real world filled with violence.
November 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm
>Complete-Joy: YES! thank you so much for the reminded! I had totally forgotten to do this. It is vital to be not just NON-violent but to also BE something: a peacemaker 🙂 I think that Jesus said something abut that one time… anyway – thanks for the post. I huge oversight on my part. Nice catch.mtdan: i appreciate your candor. I agree with you that it can be difficult to pastor in the midst of such large societal and government structure. When I was back East we had many members of the Navy in our church and some cops. When I moved out West we were right by an Army base and had many Police families and connections. I understand the dynamic. Having said that – I am surprised to hear you say "sorry" and then draw a big line between theory & practice. This may be where you are getting caught up. The art of pastoring, as you know, is navigating just that thing. We work with the way things are to bring about things on earth "as they are in heaven". Otherwise we are just reinforcing Caesars' status quo.If we were in Las Vegas we would still have to talk about Sex and Money ;p
November 19, 2010 at 4:54 pm
>MTDan, how does a Christian sexual ethic affect men and women engaged in the sex trade? Because being in the military is legal in the US, does that make a difference? I'm not trying to be snarky here. I think you're correct when you say we need to get this right. I just think that the dominant view, both inside and outside the church is SO FAR off that we can't even IMAGINE what it looks like to live in a consistently non-violent, peacemaking way. The unified testimony of the early church was non-violence. Is it even possible that Christians shouldn't participate in vocations that require or further violence? Most people refuse to even consider that as an option. But I'd imagine that if you had a confessed follower of Jesus in your church who was working as a prostitute, or as an abortion provider, you'd have some gracious conversations about what it means to live out a Christian vocation. I appreciate your circumstances, and I also have family in the military and my church is near a naval training site. Please don't assume that this is theory for me or anyone else, either.