Thursday, January 7, 2016

On Jesus-Centred Non-Violence

"Abortion is an idol of the Left.
Guns are an idol of the Right.

Both L&R worship at the altar
of one of America's false
                                  - Nathan Hamm

A few weeks ago, an article by John Piper made waves across social media, in which he responded to Jerry Falwell, Jr’s disturbing comments on Christians, guns and violence against non-Christians.  Dr Piper rightly pointed out, “The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. You can read Dr Piper’s post here.

Not being part of the American Evangelical scene, I’m still surprised that there are Christians who disagree.  I didn’t grow up in an Anabaptist church or home.  I came to non-violent convictions in my high school years based on my reading of the New Testament, and my conviction that, as a Christian, if I were to take a life (whether in the military, as a police officer, or in self-defense), I would either be taking the life of another Christian (and therefore my brother), or I would be taking the life of a non-Christian, and thereby taking away from them any opportunity to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

I still think it's that simple. My life is not worth more than my brother's, and a few more years on this earth are definitely not worth guaranteeing someone else an eternity separated from God.

During my 5 years as a Calvinist, I didn’t really think about non-violence; it just never really came up.  Perhaps it was, at least partly, because of the underlying assumption that anyone who dies without Christ was simply not part of the elect anyway. This past year post-Calvinism, my convictions on Christian non-violence have firmed up.

Justice and peace are becoming more central to my reading of Paul (it was interesting to me that Dr Michael Gorman said almost the same thing in one footnote in Becoming the Gospel: “The theme of justice has become increasingly central to my interpretation of Paul” and adds in the next note, “Again, it is necessary to stress that the word ‘justice’ must be filled with biblical content, not the latest secular notions”), and to my understanding of eschatology.

As the vocational field I’m in forces me to see more and more of the world’s worst injustices, it pushes me to focus on the hope of Jesus’ return to restore the world (verses like Isaiah 9:7 and 2 Peter 3:13 come to mind) and to seek to live that future reality in the present.

The biggest influences in this direction over the year have been from reading Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace, Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation, Preston Sprinkle, Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence, and NT Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.

And also see: Rachel Stanton, “The Early Church on Violence

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