Article 16 | Christian Non-Violence
The enemy has overcome you when he makes you like himself.
Pelagius, fourth century Monk and Theologian
How can we actively bring God’s peace to a fallen world?
Is being a peacemaker realistic?
This article requires a great deal of explanation for two reasons: Christian non-violence is highly counter-cultural and it can easily be confused with secular pacifism.
The reason Christian non-violence isn’t connected to secular pacifism is that Christian non-violence is a dimension of discipleship that flows from a transformed heart. It is not a “right position” so to speak, but the actions of a person who has come to have by degree the character of Jesus pulsating within them.
Below are the important points that roughly define Christian non-violence:
1. If we confess the Trinity and Jesus as Lord, than by allegiance to Jesus we have to view the cross as demonstrative of how He works in the world. Meaning Jesus rejected the use of force to inaugurate his kingdom on earth and instead chose to be killed on a cross in the ultimate demonstration of God’s earth shattering love and the way of his kingdom.
2. The Christian is by adoption a child of God in Christ, a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). He or she is called to imitate the Savior who, instead of defending Himself with twelve legions of Angles (Matthew 25:55) allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross and died praying for His executioners. –Paraphrased from Thomas Merton, A Passion for Peace.
3. Since the church is an eschatological community, it’s non-violent because of its “long view” of history. The Church is intended to be a contrast model and a sign of how things will be in their future and complete status with the return of Christ.
4. “This is a spirituality of active nonviolence. It is not rational behavior, according to common wisdom… But a higher rationality… a rationality with a long view, a deeper understanding, a radical wisdom that violence begets violence, which begets violence again.” – David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship
5. The cycle of violence woven throughout society comes to an abrupt end with the Kingdom of God and in the disciple of Christ.
6. “Our society is literally addicted to violence.” – Brian McClaren, paraphrased from a Christianity Today article, from his new book.
7. Resolute and habitual non-violence is a way of living with as little coercion as possible within all of our human relations.
8. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:17-21
9. Disregarding Jesus’ teaching on non-violence, requires advanced ethical constructs that delineate between the individual and social and disregards the role given by God to governmental authorities via the “powers” (Ephesians 6) in mediating a form of universal justice. Although this current justice does not meet God’s own standards, it’s necessary for maintaining basic order while the Gospel of the kingdom is preached and lived throughout the world. The Church modeling as Martin Luther King Jr. says, ”a more excellent way.”
10. God’s initial law was given with the intention of restraining violence upon the earth. The reason He destroyed humanity (Gen. 6:11, excepting the Family of Noah), was humanity’s relentless violation of this basic command and because they refused to acknowledge that each human being carries the image of God (Gen. 9:6). Thus, as disciples, prior to seeing any person through the lens of their ethnicity, nationality, behavior, or even religious identification, we’re to see each person as made in the image of God and as human being whom He alone created, loves and died for.
11. Although God permits and even initiates violence to retard evil upon the earth at times, Scripture records a consistent disdain by God towards violence, murder, and war – including a lovingly constant and Justice filled effort to restrain evil and human violence through His law, revelation, regeneration and transformation of people.
Recommended Reading: Passion for Peace, by Thomas Merton, Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger, Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King Jr., The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, The Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder, The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Agenda For Biblical People, and Call to Conversion, by Jim Wallis.