Monday, June 01, 2009

Why Nonviolence? Part I

This topic is not necessarily such a new theme in my thought and experience, but it has certainly come to a head in recent months.

I am now convinced that there are few things found in the bible as explicit as the path to nonviolent action in the Christian life. This is a pretty bold statement, I know. All sorts of questions start to come up. The most famous of which is “What if someone attacked a loved one? Surely you would defend them! It would be a sin not to defend them!” or similarly “What about Hitler? Bonhoeffer said that the Christian thing to do would be to get a madman driver off of the road to prevent him from killing any more innocents.”

Before getting to these questions I would like to start with looking at a couple of issues. First I want to look at the teachings and actions of Jesus. Next we will look at the vision of the Garden before the fall, and the vision of the New Heavens and New Earth after the final resurrection. Thirdly I want to address the issues of violence in the Old Testament before finally returning to the above questions as mini case studies.

Today we will start with Jesus however. As we are all descendants of the original Adam, and are in bondage to sin, so we will one day bear the true image of the second Adam, the one in whom there is no sin. In the meantime we are attempting to bear as much of that image in this life as the Spirit will allow, in anticipation of being clothed in our new bodies at the resurrection. In other words, we strive to be like Jesus. The life of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels and reflected in the teachings of Paul and the other apostles is not merely some hopeless ideal which we can never attain. Well, it would be only that had the Holy Spirit not been given to us as a gift in order to facilitate the Kingdom life.

It is not an ideal because when the Spirit lives in us, and we serve through it and act out God’s will it has become reality. We are acting as Christ towards others in those instances. Christ is truly present in that kind of human exchange. Living for ideals is not empowered by the Spirit and is therefore death. Living for Christ is life.

If what I have said is true, then we must look to his example set forth in the bible to teach us what his will might look like in a Kingdom oriented life. This is where I see no ambiguity about violence. Jesus rejects violence at every turn.