violence & my Lord: what did Jesus do?


V-for-violenceTwo thoughts. (1) Violence in our country. It’s the topic of the day these days. (2) Jesus Christ. My Lord and Savior, every day.

One question. How did Jesus respond to violence?

Let’s find out.

The government ordered his death and sent soldiers to kill him … so his parents, rather than standing their ground, fled the country with him.

Surrounded by men who wanted him dead … he stood his ground, and armed only with reason, he reasoned with them, and disarmed them.

On another occasion, they tried to lynch him … so instead of standing his ground, he eluded them.

When one of his disciples understood that his life was in jeopardy and displayed weapons with which to defend him … he chastised the disciple, turned, and walked away.

When as intruders in the night they came to haul him off to murder him and a friend drew his weapon and began to actively defend him … he rebuked his friend for doing so, powerfully attended to the needs of the wounded, and then went away willingly with his captors.

When his captors had him beaten and whipped … he remained silent and passive, not even uttering a single violent word.

And though he had access to unlimited power to have himself released from the post on which they had nailed him and had hoisted him up high from the ground … he did not exercise that power at all, choosing instead to voluntarily die with a prayer on his lips for his murders’ forgiveness.

And so, two questions now come to my mind:

(1) How did I miss all of this for most of my life as a Christian?

(2) Is the record of my Lord behaving so merely a record of his unique life and experience or was this record made for that purpose and intended to teach all who would follow Jesus as to how to follow him when they find themselves faced with violence?

8 Replies to “violence & my Lord: what did Jesus do?”

  1. Reblogged this on Instrument Rated Theology and commented:
    I do not use other people’s material here often (maybe I should) but these posts from David Smith (no known relation) are outstanding. I want my readers who may not be familiar with David to have a chance to read these posts.

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic and I’m fascinated by it.

    Jesus taught and modeled non-violence in the face of aggression. Absolutely true, as you state.

    There are Christians who claim to follow him in this, refusing to use violence in their own defense (or defense of others). This in itself is extremely admirable, and contrary to popular opinion I think it would require an extreme amount of personal strength to actually live life that way.

    However, I’m full of questions…

    Isn’t it equally as true that someone who claims to follow Christ in pacifism could never call on men with guns to protect or serve them either? Jesus certainly didn’t.

    In the case of someone trying to kick down your front door in the middle of the night, calling the police to do your violence on your behalf is certainly just as morally reprehensible as doing it yourself. (Perhaps even more so. Having someone else doing violence as your proxy means your just spreading the evil to more people.)

    Likewise, it seems pretty obvious to me that anyone who follows Jesus’ pacifism could not morally vote in a political election. Voting is simply the act of giving tacit approval to the force monopoly in society (government) to utilize the threat of force/violence against their neighbors. Laws and regulations differ from any other social construct in that they draw their sole power from the threat of violence (in fact, that’s the only power “laws” call upon – the power of the gun). Anyone who votes therefore certainly cannot claim to hold some sort of pacifist moral high ground. Jesus certainly wouldn’t cast a ballot giving his approval to one armed gang over another. Would he?

    Incidentally I’ve also noticed that all the committed pacifists I’ve encountered are single younger folks. Certainly, pacifism is something that is a lot easier to practice when all you have to worry about is yourself! I have yet to meet a genuine pacifist (who actually holds to all of what that term means) who has a young family they are responsible for … not saying they aren’t out there, but I’d love to have a conversation with one! I’m so curious about this topic, I’d have a million questions.

    1. A good analysis – these consequences do follow from Jesus’s teaching, especially the sermon on the mount. It follows, for me, that a person who supports the use of violence cannot be a true Christian and I’m always surprised how few so-called Christians accept this.

      To meet adult Christian pacifists I suggest you visit a mennonite (Amish) community where there are plenty.

      (And before you ask – I’m niether a Christian nor a pacifist._

  3. Jesus found me [i wasent seeking Him] when i was 16. in those days & in that place street fighting was how you proved your manliness. i was known for my `manliness’ & was occasionally called on to prove it. i ended up in training school [broken home, troubled youth] where i `had’ to prove myself. it was there that Jesus found me. from that moment on i lost my violent nature. when called on to `prove myself’ ,all i could do was pray for them & guess what; they left me alone & They Respected me.what i had was real & they saw it. one night after i was released, another fella wanted to prove himself. i told him Jesus loved him & i couldn’t fight him. he said i would & he hit me hard. i couldn’t raise my fists. Jesus wouldn’t let me, so i didn’t run;i stood there & let him hit me. he said “it aint worth it” & left me alone. after that he was very respectful to me. so to me there is a power greater than violence & if we are truly “Born of the Spirit” that Power will manifest its self in us.

  4. Here is a question. If being violent (or better yet, working in violence-laden occupations like the police or the military) is deeply antithetical to Christian discipleship, how come it is not a subject of Christian discipline? In other words, if we consider working in violent occupations to be a version of knowing, willing, unrepentant “mark-missing”, how is possible to allow such persons in Christian pacifistic congregations to be extended Christian fellowship and access to Communion? To make the point: If we knew of a congregation member who became a strip-club/adult book store owner who made it very clear that he would NOT stop owning the club/store and making money off of strippers/pornography while in the church, many Christian leaders (ala Matthew 18 and such) would see every reason in the world to at least temporarily exclude him from Christian fellowship and the Table if he refused to cease his vocation after being repeatedly talked to about it. Why? Because, it would be argued, that his vocation is antithetical to core Christian discipleship principles of what it means to be Christ-like. If that’s the case, then the same logic should apply to the career veteran who’s just come back from a tour in Afghanistan and wants to receive fellowship and Communion. Or the police officer who’s a member of S.W.A.T. Or the government official that sanctions violent actions by police and/or military. It is INCONSISTENT to allow an unrepentant person who willingly continues in their violent occupation to be in good standing with the Church if it is indeed true that such violence is completely antithetical to Christian discipleship and principle. See what I’m saying?

    1. Dwayne,
      It happens because most Christians don’t take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. I guess that’s because most Christian churches inherit the legacy of the deal that the Emperor Constantine did with the church fathers – state support for them in return for their support for him.

      And a few other things of course, like standardising Sunday, not the sabbath, as the weekly day of rest and worship.

      Today Christian leaders in many countries cuddle up to power – Russia and the UK are but two examples. England has an established church, a constitutional abomination in my view, and many Christian leaders in the US seek special protection for their faiths and rights to dictate law.

      Their rights words to the state should often be “Get thee behind me satan”.

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