Deliberations and Resources on Radical Christianity

Nonviolence in Scripture

My discussions with Heretic today inspired this short post.

I made a couple of posts earlier on, one on Agapé love, the other on Jesus and the Moneychangers, which I felt gave some sense of why Nonviolence is an integral part of the Gospel. I appreciate, however, that to many Christians there may not be an implicit understanding of nonviolence as Jesus taught it, and I suspect this is mostly due to the ignorance of its centrality to scripture within most modern churches and seminaries.

I would reaffirm, very briefly, that if God commands us to approach our enemies (Matthew 5:38-48) with the sacrificial love of agapé, then this by necessity cannot involve the use of fatal violence. Verse 48 iterates that we are to love perfectly even as God loves perfectly, that is, loving neighbour and enemy alike without discrimination. Agapé seeks only reconciliation with our enemy, and reconciliation cannot happen if we put our enemy to death. This “eye for an eye” mentality of justice was repudiated by Jesus within this very passage.

Beyond the actual teachings that Jesus gave us, I also think it is important to remember His example. Jesus certainly didn’t resemble the warrior-minded military leader that the Hebrew people were expecting; they wanted their Messiah to fight for them, to lead violent revolution against the Roman Empire and all Israel’s enemies to grant the nation its freedom. Instead, they got the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, one who spoke of the evils of the human heart as His primary concern, and one whose message of salvation was as much for the Gentiles as it was for the Jews. And what a shock it was for even His disciples, wasn’t it, when Jesus ended His ministry on what should have been one of the most humiliating deaths at that time! Crucifixion, a torturous death reserved for the most troublesome of insurrectionists. Jesus did not, as the Hebrews desired, set up a military presense to conquer the powers of oppression. He showed them that there was instead another way, a way of self-sacrifice, a way of conquering that wasn’t achieved through bloodshed. Upon that cross, Christ not only unleashed the power of salvation onto the entire world, but also defeated forever the power and authority of darkness. He turned what was seen by many as defeat into the ultimate victory.

I feel that through this, God informed humanity that there is a way to effect change in the world and resist the forces of oppression without surrendering ourselves to the same use of violence and warfare they exact upon us. Rather, that we are to resist evil with goodness, the goodness of reconciliatory love. Just as the early Christians gladly gave themselves to martyrdom, it may well be that we are to see self-sacrifice as the means to God’s victory. Does this mean we ought to be passive and unresisting? By no means. We turn the other cheek, but we do not back down and walk away. To turn the other cheek is to return the evildoer with the resistence of love, not violence. We cannot hope to drive out Satan with Satan.

Paul himself reaffirms Jesus’ example in this wonderful piece of scripture:

Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I wholeheartedly rest upon this conviction, that if one wishes to abide by the Law of Christ, then they must by no means inflict fatal violence upon another human being, and in this regard I feel that Christians ought to avoid and renounce any position which would necessitate them engaging in killing or the possibility of killing. We are not of the world, and are called to respond to its evils in a different way than people of the world would deem necessary. War is deemed necessary by governmental authorities, rather than God’s authority, and as such it is very much a worldy system; more than this, a Satanic one. The early church knew this well, and made it obligatory for Roman centurions to renounce their position upon converting to Christianity. Rome would not have perceived the church to be a threat if it did not present a rival to its system of authority.

In the same line of example as Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church, I feel we are called to resist the evils of empire in the same way they did. If violence and war will find their end upon the establishment of the Kingdom of God, then we must do all we can now to walk in that Kingdom way.

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13 responses

  1. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

    What happens when it no longer becomes possible?

    What about God’s command: Thou shalt not murder?” Isn’t he saying in that statement that we have the duty to preserve life? Wouldn’t I have the obligation to preserve my own life?

    And if something were to come to blows – am I to choose my enemy’s life over that of my children? God forbid! I am to protect them and care for them.

    Most of what you say is good, but I think you cross a line when you say that God’s authority would not deem war as necessary. God is a god of War. He said so. He’s coming back to wage the bloodiest war this earth has ever seen. And it says the saints will fight with Him!

    The gospel does demand that we turn the other cheek, and I’m not advocating or justifying any war – because wars today are between the kingdoms of men. However, God uses those wars to bring about justice for people who are oppressed and held captive. War is necessary.

    The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God. We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against “kingdoms” and principalities. Interesting use of the word kingdom.

    Is it wrong to take up arms against a kingdom who has set it’s face against God’s kingdom?

    Make no mistake about it. We are at war. There will be casualties. Though we do not seek them as Christians, we do not need to renounce “killing.” We need to proclaim that there is life, and that it can be found in Christ.

    The Kingdom of God is here and now. That’s why there is war. It is not a future coming Kingdom. It is now. That was the gospel or good news that Jesus preached. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is here.”

    Question – who is my enemy? I really don’t have any that I can think of. But who is an enemy of the Lord? I could think of a lot – not just lost people in general – but men who have set their face against the Lord. They’re not my enemies. They’ve not rejected me. They’ve rejected the King. My King.

    And the Lord loves justice. He commands us to do the same. To love justice. Sometimes justice requires death. That’s not my words, it’s God’s!

    Didn’t God kill some people in the NT for lying? God is a god of War! We are at war! Not with men, but with the spirit of this age.

    Justice is not evil. Killing is not evil. Murder is evil. But if I have to kill (God forbid) to preserve my life – or more importantly the lives of my wife and kids – I have violated no law of God. I have upheld it!

    ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 1:41)

    Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (Deut. 4:34)

    for many fell dead, because the war was God’s. And they dwelt in their place until the captivity. (1 chronicles 5:22)

    Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: “ Waheb in Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon, (Numbers 21:14)

    Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle— (Psalms 144:1)

    The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

    The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. (Exodus 15:3)

    March 9, 2007 at 7:04 pm

  2. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
    What happens when it no longer becomes possible?

    The key here is “so far as it depends on you.” If you endeavour to live at peace with someone who does not have it in mind to live peaceably towards you, then you have done all you can on your part, and peace has not been made possible only because of *their* attitude.

    What about God’s command: Thou shalt not murder?” Isn’t he saying in that statement that we have the duty to preserve life? Wouldn’t I have the obligation to preserve my own life?

    Jesus also says “there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” Of course, he was referring to Himself in this quote, but He also asserts that a time may come when a Christian will have to take the courage and lay his life down. Consider Jesus’ example; He did not lay His life down as a warring leader who destroyed His enemies and then fearlessly atoned for the world’s sins by dying in battle. Rather, He laid it down as a suffering servant, the servant of all humanity, who not only allowed Himself to be crucified by corrupt powers, but also cried out for their forgiveness and demonstrated to them that their action was one of evil and shame, which even God could turn around to triumph in the name of good. Remember also that many of the early Christians were martyred for their faith. They did not incite violence against Rome, but saw a higher way of self-sacrificial resistance, and accepted that if they were to love their enemies, then they would sooner or later be in a position where they would have to lay down their lives for the sake of that love.

    And if something were to come to blows – am I to choose my enemy’s life over that of my children? God forbid! I am to protect them and care for them.

    Please do not misunderstand me; I am by no means advocating passivity. We have a clear Biblical mandate to fight for the oppressed and the defenseless, but at the same time this must be balanced against the commandment to love our enemies and return evil with good. And I am not saying that there will not be situations where the righteous form of action is clear, but as Christians we must be aware that each situation must be tackled first and foremost with faith. You are indeed right that each person must protect their friends and family, but we must consider that we do not return evil with good if we deliver fatal violence to the enemy in order for that protection to be effected.

    Most of what you say is good, but I think you cross a line when you say that God’s authority would not deem war as necessary. God is a god of War. He said so. He’s coming back to wage the bloodiest war this earth has ever seen. And it says the saints will fight with Him!

    If you have the prophecies of Revelation in mind here, then I would be careful about reading too much into the heavy symbolism employed in that book. I am not dismissing it as scripture, but I do feel we need to read the person and revelation of Jesus into any other scripture in the Bible. God has demonstrated upon the cross that His heart is for ALL people of the world, saint and sinner alike, and that He showed His supreme love in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Were not each of us enemies of God before we came to faith in Christ? If God is a god of war, then His war is the same as ours, against rulers, authorities, principalities, and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12), not with people themselves. We take the Gospel to be entirely the opposite of what it says if we are to set up God as a bloodthirsty deity. Yes, vengeance is His, but until the time of vengeance we are to act in the same manner of love toward our enemies and the enemies of God as human beings who are still made in His image. No one, not even the most hideously evil and depraved human being, is beyond the redemptive love of God.

    The gospel does demand that we turn the other cheek, and I’m not advocating or justifying any war – because wars today are between the kingdoms of men. However, God uses those wars to bring about justice for people who are oppressed and held captive. War is necessary.

    That God uses wars to achieve the purposes of His justice does not make them necessary. That God used the corrupt devices of Rome and the Jewish authorities to atone for humanity’s sin does not clear those powers from sin. God can use any form of human evil and turn it round to suit the purposes of His good. When kingdoms go to war, God is not on the side of any of them. Rather, He is on the side of the refugees, the casualties, the destitute, the ravaged, and the poor.

    The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God. We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against “kingdoms” and principalities. Interesting use of the word kingdom.

    The New Testament, when translated in English, uses these kinds of terms to speak of both human rule and demonic rule, meaning that context is an important determining factor. In this verse, the kingdoms and principalities are those of Satan. That the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal” is exactly the point. That “we do not fight against flesh and blood” is exactly the point!

    Is it wrong to take up arms against a kingdom who has set it’s face against God’s kingdom?

    Every kingdom has set its face against God’s kingdom, by imposing itself as an authority where God alone is the only true authority. When Israel demanded a King in 1 Samuel 8, God gave it to them only as a concession, with the warning (perhaps even curse) that this system of rule would bring them nothing but trouble. God only ever wanted His people to look to Him as their monarch. So in answer to your question, it is wrong for the Christian to take up arms against any kingdom, yes. We are simply not called to be in a position of retaliatory violence.

    Make no mistake about it. We are at war. There will be casualties. Though we do not seek them as Christians, we do not need to renounce “killing.” We need to proclaim that there is life, and that it can be found in Christ.

    You cannot proclaim life if you are dispassionately encouraging the end of it. Our war is not with people, it is with the forces of darkness who are holding those people captive. If everyone suffers from sin, if everyone deserves the state of death rather than God’s grace, then it is not up to us to determine who lives and who dies. Agapé love, which God commands us to have for neighbour and enemy alike, is sacrificial, redemptive, and FORGIVING. You cannot say to your enemy, “I forgive you,” and then in the same breath slaughter him. The very act of killing has rendered your proclaimed forgiveness invalid. Forgiveness is that which seeks to reconcile, and in killing there is no reconciliation.

    The Kingdom of God is here and now. That’s why there is war. It is not a future coming Kingdom. It is now. That was the gospel or good news that Jesus preached. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is here.”

    And that is why Christians must walk in the Kingdom spirit. The Kingdom of God being here and now means that the kingdoms of darkness and the kingdoms of the world are coming to an imminent end. War is one of the many evils darkness uses to attack this world. If war is tool of the kingdoms, and the kingdoms are of this world, then war is a worldly thing and has no source but evil, even if we believe that war to be necessary and good. You cannot wage war and hope for peace, and you cannot kill and hope for life.

    Question – who is my enemy? I really don’t have any that I can think of. But who is an enemy of the Lord? I could think of a lot – not just lost people in general – but men who have set their face against the Lord. They’re not my enemies. They’ve not rejected me. They’ve rejected the King. My King.

    And how does God feel about those who reject Him? Does He not love them and wait patiently for them to come to repentance? They may not find it, but not because of any condemnation on God’s part.

    And the Lord loves justice. He commands us to do the same. To love justice. Sometimes justice requires death. That’s not my words, it’s God’s!

    Justice does not require death, at least not the kind that God has commanded His followers to execute. “True” justice, if that every human being should die without reconciliation to God, which He grants to us out of mercy. God, therefore, is a god of justice AND mercy, and we must be likewise. Justice is a correctional quality, and so is agapé love. Agapé seeks the ultimate good for its recipient, and sometimes that might involve correction and discipline, but death is not correctional. One cannot learn from it, they cannot progress, and their possibilities for good and redemption have been eliminated. The justice that God requires us to have is to care for the widowed, the orphaned, and the poor, and to return aggressive love to those who oppress them. We do not stand down from our mandate to fight for the oppressed, but it is a different kind of fight. The fighting the world administers is not done out of true love. You cannot love someone by killing them.

    Didn’t God kill some people in the NT for lying? God is a god of War! We are at war! Not with men, but with the spirit of this age.

    Yes. God did. Not people. You might have an argument of it was Peter and the Apostles who had stoned liars and sinners, but they did no such thing. Vengeance belongs to God alone. God alone is the giver and taker of life. You are quite right in saying that our war is with the spirit of this age and NOT with men.

    Justice is not evil. Killing is not evil. Murder is evil. But if I have to kill (God forbid) to preserve my life – or more importantly the lives of my wife and kids – I have violated no law of God. I have upheld it!

    You have upheld God’s law in one measure by protecting life, and disobeyed it in another measure by taking it. Again, I must affirm that there will always be difficult situations in the world which have no clear cut answers, and hypothesising over them can be a fruitless task because we really have no way of knowing how we will act unless we are experiencing them first hand, and there are likely to be many factors in them that we cannot thoroughly muse over in a detached setting.

    My question to you, however, would be why “killing” in the name of good is considered righteous, and yet “murder” is considered evil? To take life is to take life, regardless of the motive. And if ever I were to be in a situation where I acted on instinct and felt forced to deliver fatal violence to an oppressor, I would pray that God would forgive me for not having faith, and I would mourn for that person.

    ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 1:41)
    Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (Deut. 4:34)
    for many fell dead, because the war was God’s. And they dwelt in their place until the captivity. (1 chronicles 5:22)
    Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: “ Waheb in Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon, (Numbers 21:14)
    Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle— (Psalms 144:1)
    The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)
    The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. (Exodus 15:3)

    Isaiah2:4
    He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
    and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
    nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

    Isaiah 9:6-7
    For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
    and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
    on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

    Zechariah 9:9-10
    Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
    behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
    humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
    I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
    and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
    his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

    John 14:27
    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

    Galatians 5:22-23
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

    March 10, 2007 at 12:43 pm

  3. Ok,
    I don’t think we’re too far off. I think God’s Kingdom should fight an offensive battle – for life. God’s kingdom was not meant to be fought defensively – against death.

    Justice always requires death for transgressions. This was why Jesus had to die. This was why the atonement always required a blood sacrifice.

    If killing were evil (bad) then God would be evil (bad). Because he has called for the death of many. He even opened up the ground and swallowed some. He sent armies from heaven against some. He killed Annanias and Sapphira for lying. His law demands justice.

    The difference between killing and murder is motive. Killing for revenge is murder and evil. Killing for justice is God’s way.

    He and His law demands justice, because He is good. That just doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t necessarily like it, but then again I’m not Him!

    Blessings! ;)

    March 12, 2007 at 4:05 pm

  4. I don’t think you and I are in as much disagreement as you think we are. I just happen to think that “killing” is a role now reserved exclusively for God, who is the perfect judge of the human heart. The taking of life is not our function, and should not be performed when we resist evil.

    March 12, 2007 at 4:55 pm

  5. Agreed – we’re not so far apart.

    But I won’t say that “killing” is a role now reserved for God. One because I’ve never been in a situation (and never hope to be) where I’ve had to make a decision like this. And two, because I won’t stand in judgment of those who have!

    Blessings! :)

    March 12, 2007 at 8:19 pm

  6. I certainly wouldn’t want to come across as if I am out to condemn people who have been in a position where they felt their best course of action was to take life. I’m simply endeavouring to explore and convey the Gospel of love (and consequently of life) in the manner I see it. I do not condemn Christians who serve in the military and other areas requiring fatal violence for a defined cause, I simply affirm that Christians are not called to undertake such actions, and that we ought rather to “leave room for the wrath of God.”

    March 13, 2007 at 12:14 pm

  7. I will agree to disagree as I don’t think we’re so far apart. I just have a problem with the statement that “Jesus was a pacifist.” I think he was anything but. He came to lift up the broken, and tear down the proud. His very presence created riots on numerous occasions.

    Blessings my friend!

    March 13, 2007 at 4:45 pm

  8. Well, in the words of Gandhi, “The only people who don’t think Jesus was a pacifist are Christians.” Prominent people who advocate nonviolence to further the causes of revolution often do rock the status quo as a result, since the status quo (ESPECIALLY under the rule of Empire) relies on violence to maintain its order, and so for someone to preach pacifism is very much countercultural and against the Norm. That such disturbances occur doesn’t necessarily detract from the teachings of the figure who stands at the centre of such events, but rather indicates the RESPONSE of society to their ideals, in which the same way the response to Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s respective nonviolent revolutions were often turbulent even though neither of them advocated violence.

    The early church was notorious for disturbing the status quo because it ran counter to the culture of Empire. Caesar was known as “The Son of God,” so Jesus came into the world as the TRUE Son of God. Where Caesar was called “Lord,” Christ comes into the world as the TRUE Lord. To become a Christian in times of Roman rule was to put yourself in grave danger unless you compromised your Christianity with the decadences of the State. Even Roman centurions who converted were ordered to leave the military.

    But through all of these turbulences, and particularly in the New Testament, did Jesus ever order His disciples to use violence, or did He ever advocate it? You tell me.

    March 13, 2007 at 5:48 pm

  9. I still see a distinct difference between advocating advancing the kingdom through the use of the sword, and condemning violence and war as evil?

    True, Jesus doesn’t ever advocate the use of the sword to advance His kingdom in the NT, but that doesn’t mean He decries it’s use, for there are times throughout current history – that it’s use (whether by believers or unbelievers) has brought about the freedom of God’s kingdom for many who were oppressed.

    Violence and war are not evangelistic tools in the sense of – convert or die. But they have been tools in the hand of God to break the back of tyranny throughout the world to allow His Gospel message to go forth.

    These are two distinct purposes. Regretably, men in power have taken the first approach – convert or die – which is never the heart of the gospel. But the fact that men have have abused and beared the sword in vain does not make the sword in and of itself evil.

    Rocks are not evil, but they can be used to accomplish it. However, they can also be used for good. God commanded His altars to be built of stones. He also commanded them to be used to exact justice in the OT. To say that swords, guns, even war is evil – is the same as saying that rocks and stones are evil. They are inanimate objects with no intrinsic morality. It is how men chose to weild those objects that determines whether or not they were used for good or for evil.

    Matthew 10:34
    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

    John 9:39
    And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

    Revelation 19:11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had[e] a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,[f] followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp[g] sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

    KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

    17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,[h] 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free[i] and slave, both small and great.”
    19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

    March 13, 2007 at 7:02 pm

  10. I really don’t understand why Christians who support violence keep plucking Matthew 10:34 out of context to make it seem as though Jesus was encouraging violence. Anyone who reads the passage in its entirety understands that the “peace” Jesus is speaking of here is the kind that exists between family and friends. Jesus is not talking about war, He is talking about the cost of discipleship. In fact, if you read verse 28 of that same chapter:

    Matthew 10:28
    “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”

    Here, Jesus affirms that God is to be feared above men with carnal weapons. A very big running theme throughout the entire New Testament (and indeed, some areas of the Old Testament) is that violence isn’t even NECESSARY for the one who has faith, since God will fight for him. What are we saying through our actions if we return violence with violence? Are we not, in effect, saying that we believe these people have power over our lives above that of the Almighty God?

    The verse in John has nothing to do with violence either way. Perhaps you could explain what you were trying to convey with it?

    The Book of Revelation is indeed filled with violence, but the history and context of that part of scripture is a little more complicated than most Christians are aware. I am actually reading a book at the moment entitled “Unveiling Empire” which posits the theory that Revelation actually advocates nonviolent resistance against empire in spite of the unbridled violence contained therein. I plan to blog about it when I get a good idea of what the authors are trying to say, but at the moment we must accept that Revelation is apocalyptic literature and as such, is highly symbolic. Although the imagery is often violent, John of Patmos uses this violence in context to speak largely of the evils of the world, namely Satan and the governments he controls. An underpinning principle of Revelation is that God is firmly opposed to this kind of violence, and stands in judgement of those who use it.

    You are correct in saying that weapons in and of themselves are not evil. But when people weild them, they do no good. Violence begins in the human heart, and if such is the case, then it makes absolutely no sense to denounce violence on a small scale and encourage it on a larger one.

    Mark 13:7-8
    And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

    John 16:33
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

    March 13, 2007 at 8:16 pm

  11. I really don’t know why you keep saying that I support violence? I don’t like it, but then I don’t necessarily always like justice either?

    I think you make light of the Matthew passage – especially in a Muslim cultural context. Many people suffer violence from family, friends and state for the conversion to Christ. They were not to be afraid of people – but rather God – who can not only “kill” you but also make you suffer an “everlasting death.”

    I’m not sure how the John passage doesn’t apply. Jesus said He came for judgment. To make those who see – blind. That sounds violent, and although may not be physical – can violence not be effected spiritually as well?

    “What are we saying through our actions if we return violence with violence? Are we not, in effect, saying that we believe these people have power over our lives above that of the Almighty God?”

    I don’t think one would necessarily be saying that. I think that God can use both types of responses. One that says, “I trust that God can deliver me from the fire.” And one that says, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

    I think Revelation condemns violence for personal gain? It condemns violence against God almighty. It does not condemn violence in the cause of justice?

    Your passages in Mark and John apply to war, but they do not condemn it? Jesus is simply making an observation of how the end will play out.

    With this observation, I know that violence will continue in this world – especially wars and rumors of wars. I don’t believe the church is the cause of any of these wars – although there have been many that have supported the latest war effort? I don’t make a statement either way. I think the motives behind the war are wrong (on my countries part), but I won’t deny that it has been used by the Lord to bring the good news to many who have never heard? So is the war good or bad? I don’t know – I can’t say. I could argue either way? Only God knows!

    What would your position be if you were part of the UK that was at the brink of being overthrown by Hitler? I’m just curious? Was your government wrong to oppose him?

    Sometimes men through the course of human nature find themselves forced to take up arms in the name of justice. I’ll even go so far to say in the name of God.

    There seems to be a schizophrenia in the God you portray. How he was pro-war in the OT, and is now anti-war? Because He Himself claimed to be a man of war? But now He is a man opposed to war? Isn’t He the same God?

    March 13, 2007 at 8:42 pm

  12. I really don’t know why you keep saying that I support violence? I don’t like it, but then I don’t necessarily always like justice either?

    Unfortunately, it is supporting violence when a Christian vehemently defends the right to take up arms. Though that person may never be in a position to use arms directly himself, by his insistence on the righteousness of violence he supports governments who rely upon the opinions of their subservient subjects in order to be seen as doing good work through their warmongering.

    I think you make light of the Matthew passage – especially in a Muslim cultural context. Many people suffer violence from family, friends and state for the conversion to Christ. They were not to be afraid of people – but rather God – who can not only “kill” you but also make you suffer an “everlasting death.”

    Right. So how did the early Christians react to the violence being inflicted upon them by the Roman Empire? Did they return the violence in the way you suggest?

    I’m not sure how the John passage doesn’t apply. Jesus said He came for judgment. To make those who see – blind. That sounds violent, and although may not be physical – can violence not be effected spiritually as well?

    Violence can be spiritual, and Christians are called to be spiritually violent. The way to enact violence against the spiritual authorities of evil is to do good in the physical world, and to remove violence from both deed and thought. The judgment that Jesus speaks of in the passage you highlighted is a spiritual judgment concerning the souls of people, not an attack of violence against them. You seem to insist that there is not a difference between physical and spiritual violence. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

    I don’t think one would necessarily be saying that. I think that God can use both types of responses. One that says, “I trust that God can deliver me from the fire.” And one that says, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

    I don’t think you addressed this before, but if Jesus permits violence in the way you believe He does, then why did the early church up until the time of Constantine take Him literally at His word? How do explain the mandate for Roman centurions to give up their post upon conversion? How do you explain the early Christians’ martyrdom when attacked by Roman authority? How do you explain their willingness to go to prison rather than create physical warfare?

    I think Revelation condemns violence for personal gain? It condemns violence against God almighty. It does not condemn violence in the cause of justice?

    Isaiah 58:1-10
    1″Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
    declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
    2Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
    as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
    they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
    3′Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
    Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,[a]
    and oppress all your workers.
    4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
    Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
    5Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
    Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
    Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the LORD?

    6″Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed[b] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
    7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    8Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
    your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
    9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
    If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    10if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.

    James 1:26-27
    If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

    The kind of justice that God requires is not death. If it was death, then why did Jesus repudiate the mandate which demands an eye for an eye? God alone is the administer of perfect justice, and He will stand in judgment against those who have opposed it, but Christians are called to oppose injustice with the opposition of love.

    Your passages in Mark and John apply to war, but they do not condemn it? Jesus is simply making an observation of how the end will play out.

    And that Christians are not to trouble themselves with it. In effect, keeping themselves separate from it.

    With this observation, I know that violence will continue in this world – especially wars and rumors of wars. I don’t believe the church is the cause of any of these wars – although there have been many that have supported the latest war effort? I don’t make a statement either way. I think the motives behind the war are wrong (on my countries part), but I won’t deny that it has been used by the Lord to bring the good news to many who have never heard? So is the war good or bad? I don’t know – I can’t say. I could argue either way? Only God knows!

    In the same way that God used the sins of people to magnify the purposes of good. Good CAN come out of war, but that does NOT infer the justness of war itself; all that demonstrates is that God can use all manner of human evils to work toward His good even though He detests them. The church may not be the cause of wars, but it cannot stand against war if it participates within warfare. If we agree that war is an inherently bad thing, how do we hope to bring good out of it by participating in war ourselves?

    What would your position be if you were part of the UK that was at the brink of being overthrown by Hitler? I’m just curious? Was your government wrong to oppose him?

    All governments are inferior kingdoms to the ultimate Kingdom of God. He has usurped them. Governments see war as something necessary when push comes to shove, and since there is a very close connection between government and warfare, it is hardly surprising that Jesus and the early Christians expected the people of God to keep themselves separated from governmental authority in every way possible. Christianity became a weapon for bloodshed only after Constantine converted in 300AD, thus giving Christendom its first government. This was never the way for God’s people though, as evidenced in 1 Samuel 8 when God conceded a monarch to the Israelites with the curse that this king would bring endless trouble to the nation. So yes, I feel that Christians are called to keep themselves separate from both warfare and governmental authority, and ought to act toward government only with an attitude of bringing the governments of the world to repentance.

    Sometimes men through the course of human nature find themselves forced to take up arms in the name of justice. I’ll even go so far to say in the name of God.

    Yes, they have. And I do not judge them, as I told you before. I simply do not think their actions were correct for the commandment Christ has given us.

    There seems to be a schizophrenia in the God you portray. How he was pro-war in the OT, and is now anti-war? Because He Himself claimed to be a man of war? But now He is a man opposed to war? Isn’t He the same God?

    No more schizophrenia than would be present in the God who changed His mind about pork, wearing clothes made of more than one type of fabric, about touching women on their menstrual cycles, about including Gentiles in His plan for salvation, about welcoming people with deformities into His church… would you like me to continue?

    God IS the same God who was, is, and ever shall be. He doesn’t change. He has, however, evidently changed how He does with people, as is obvious from the shift in focus from Old to New Testaments. In the OT, Israel was contained within one nation which God demanded be kept pure from the surround pagan nations. In these last days, however, God’s people are no longer contained solely within one nation, but now encompass the entire globe. There may have been a time when God used war to create a negative good among His people, but the coming of Jesus has rendered all possibilities of that void. As Hebrews 1 says, in Christ we have the exact revelation of God, who is the exact imprint of His nature. If I am to believe this, then I must believe in Jesus’ words above those of even the Old Testament. Not in a sense of throwing out the OT or rendering it invalid, but rather accepting that Jesus’ character must be read into those scriptures if we believe that He is the perfect representation of God’s nature.

    And also interesting to note, is that not all the righteous people even in the OT succumbed to resistance by violence. Daniel and his companions are a notable example, who defied their oppressive empire by means of nonviolent non-cooperation. They gladly allowed themselves to be thrown into the fire, and even to the lions, and did not resist because they had faith God would deliver them. And even if he DIDN’T, they accepted, they would gladly die rather than obey the godlessness of empire or worship false gods.

    Is violence our false god today?

    March 13, 2007 at 9:57 pm

  13. Good site!!!

    April 9, 2007 at 12:37 pm

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