The Non-Violent Way Of Christ

On this Good Friday morning, as I reflect on who Jesus is and the sacrifice He made on the first Good Friday, I am reminded of the non-violent way of Christ.  Over the last several years, I have become increasingly convinced that the way of Christ, and thus the way Christians are called to live, is a way of non-violence.  I know some of you reading this are thinking, “It took him long enough to grasp this obvious reality.”  And others might be thinking, “Wait.  What?  Is he suggesting pacifism?  Can’t we defend ourselves?”  Well, the tension between these two perspectives is what I have been struggling with.

In my mind, it makes sense that though we shouldn’t be aggressive towards others, we should be willing to stand up to aggression with aggression if needed.  How else are evildoers to be stopped?  If someone comes at me with a gun, do I really think saying to that person, “Come on now, fellow.  Let’s put the gun down.  Violence isn’t any way to solve anything?” will make a significant difference?  In my mind, it makes sense for me to pull out a gun, or better yet, my black belt training (which I don’t have), in defense of myself and others and stop that person from doing harm.

The way of Christ is different.

I’ve struggled with how to convey this also because I do not want to seem as if I am dishonoring the service and sacrifice of the many fine men and women who serve in defensive roles, whether in the military, as police officers, and other such vocations.  I honor and value the personal sacrifices they have made.  They are far braver people than I will ever be, and I appreciate their desire to serve a higher cause in the capacity that they believe they are best equipped to serve it.

I also wrestle with this because I do not have an answer to the “But Hitler?” question.  In Hitler’s rise to power, many tried to take a passive role.  As a result, millions of people died.  How can this be a better way to go?  How can we refuse to stand up to aggressors?  Honestly, I do not know.

What I do know, though, is that the way of Christ is different.

Paul writes, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength . . . God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-29).

It doesn’t make sense to me.  It seems wisest for people to be willing to defend themselves.  But . . . the way of Christ is different.

Just prior to those verses, Paul wrote, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).

The way of Christ is different.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the people shouting, “Hosanna!”  They expected their Messiah to overthrow their Roman overlords and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel.  Even after His resurrection, His disciples pushed Him for that to be the time that Israel would once again be lifted to prominence.

But the way of Christ is different.

Instead of rallying His people and throwing the Romans out of Jerusalem, Jesus surrendered Himself to the humility of the cross.  Nobody understood it.  Why would the Messiah allow Himself to be mocked, beaten, and slaughtered?  But . . . the way of Christ is different.

Of course, we now know that in the crucifixion, atonement was made for the sins of humanity.  There was a greater purpose for Christ’s sacrifice.  So, at this point, it would be easy to revert to human logic and say, “Well, for Christ it was the way to go.  He had a specific purpose.  But we don’t have to do that.”

But the way of Christ is different.

Throughout the Gospels . . . well, throughout the whole New Testament, we are called to follow Christ’s example.  Though certainly our personal sacrifices do not have the same atoning power that Christ’s did, it is still our calling.  It doesn’t make sense.  It is outside of human logic.  But the way of Christ is different.

Who would have thought that the death of one Man would result in the defeat of death itself?  Who would have thought that through Christ’s sacrifice a New Creation would emerge?  Who would have thought that non-violence would result in the eventual overthrow of all aggression and violence?  You see . . . the way of Christ is different.

I don’t have answers to all the “But Hitlers?” of life.  I don’t know the best way to handle ISIS, terrorists (whether Islamic or not), school shooters, home invaders, etc.  And I honestly can’t say that if threatened I wouldn’t defend myself, even with violence if needed.  But I remain convinced that the way of Christ is different.

Know that if you serve, or previously served, in a vocation that included the possible use of violence in defense of others, I do not dishonor your service.  In fact, I thank you for your willingness to give of yourself in defense of others.  If, through prayer, contemplation, and wise counsel, you believe that the role you serve (or served) in is/was your best life vocation choice, do not let me take the assurance away from you.

Likewise, if you are a well-trained gun handler, and you carry concealed for what you believe to be the defense of others, and you have confirmed the appropriateness of this through prayer, contemplation, and wise counsel, know that I am not trying to tell you that you are in the wrong.  Follow your conscience.  I have no desire to take away your guns or undermine the 2nd Amendment.  I have been around guns most my life, and they do not make me nervous.

But . . . through your prayer, contemplation, and wise counsel, I encourage you to reflect on the way of Christ.  And remember that though the way of Christ oftentimes does not make sense to human logic, it always results in greater things.  The Kingdom of God turns all things upside down.  It doesn’t make sense, but we really shouldn’t expect it to.

The way of Christ is different.

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