Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why Nonviolence? Part III

As I said earlier, the next place I wanted to look at was the time before the fall, as well as the coming time of new creation following the resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ return.

To start with, when we read the opening chapter’s of Genesis it is clear that violence was not a part of life in the Garden. I don’t think it is any small coincidence that the very first story following Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden is one of murder and violence toward another.  One great explanation of the fall is Jeremiah 2:13 – “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” The evidence is in Cain’s actions toward Abel. Humanity has fractured their relationship with the giver of life in such a way as to seek their own paths of authority and justice. Adam and Eve did it in listening to the serpent and acting on his advice. Soon, violence became woven into the fabric of how humans relate to one another, but I will leave that for the next post.

I do not believe that what is waiting for us is a place in the Garden exactly as it was in the beginning, but I do think God is preparing a place for us that will reflect the Garden in many aspects. We learn about this future through the life and works of Jesus. In the last post we saw that the Kingdom of God bears a mark of nonviolence in an unambiguous manner. We also learn of this in revelation. Here we get a peek into that future.

In particular, it is chapter 21 which is most helpful on this topic. Here are verses 3-8:

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home  of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples, 

and God himself will be with them;

4     he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.”

 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

  What I would like to point out from this passage is that in the New Heavens and New Earth, death is no longer around. One reason for this of course is that death was defeated in Jesus through his own death and subsequent resurrection. But I think another reason is that God eliminates the need for us to dig our own cisterns by dwelling among us.  When we are in him, and he is in us, we will no longer thirst for anything because we will have been quenched with the water of life. Where life reigns, death is no more. Where death is no more, violence fades away.


The last verse of that passage is one which I must leave standing as it is for now. The question of what happens to those who resist God’s reign is one that I am nowhere near having made up my mind about.  I am not inclined to take verses referencing fire and sulfur as literal, but I will say that whatever it is, it does include a permanent separation from God, and is no pleasant thing. It is however a very violent image of course, and one I don’t want to simply dismiss, I just don’t have a full thought on it currently.

  I bring up the Garden and the New Heavens and New Earth as an example of God’s grand plan for humanity. I trust that this is where he wanted us to be at the start, and that it is where he is ultimately taking us. We are not currently there, but we are striving for it. The Holy Spirit is what can empower us to see glimpses of it in our own lives in the present time. This is what is usually referred to as the already and the not yet of the Kingdom of God. We are a people caught between ages. We will not always be successful at peace, just as we are not always successful at sexual relations or with money. The important thing is that God grants us grace and mercy as we move in the direction of his Kingdom. He will lead us step by step, giving us no more than we can handle (1 Cor 10:13).