I’ve searched the New Testament.
I’ve studied commentaries, read blogs and corresponded with some of the authors.
And I’ve googled the web, searched out those who disagree, read and cross-checked their statements.
And I’ve come to one undeniable conclusion: Jesus would never sanction, advocate or even “turn a blind eye to” the use of life-threatening force.
He was against it. Period.
For those who might think otherwise, and for those who are uncertain, here are the statements I found most compelling. You may check them as you wish. (http://www.biblegateway.com/ is easy to use.)
First, I included only the New Testament in my biblical searches because I wanted to know Jesus’s view. (Greg Boyd’s blog has several thought-provoking entries on the Old versus the New Testament God, but my interests were about Jesus and what He espoused.) I searched the New Testament for the words “defend”, “defense”, “knife”, “knives”, “protect”, “resist”, “sword”, “violence”, “violent” and “weapon” and studied the results. I read of Jesus over-turning the tables in the temple. I studied how different books handled the same incidents and how different translations presented those same issues.
And I’ve even been studying how the Bible came to be, which books were written when, by whom, which are more about Jesus and which are more about His church.
And it is clear that finding Jesus in all this can be difficult.
And by no means am I any sort of Biblical scholar. On the contrary, I am just a questioning individual using the gifts at my disposal, and hoping, praying, that I’ve found the truth of the matter.
For the question at hand, and perhaps this is why I’ve become so focused on this one issue, the answer is there. It is clear, unambiguous and with no contradictory examples. Jesus was the consummate pacifist.
To show you why I’m now convinced of this, I’ll take the single most troubling incident first. It is quoted, in part, by others who use it as defense of their use of violence. Sadly, they quote only a small section and, in taking it out of context, they lose the meaning. Here are the critical verses. (If you are in doubt of my excluding of other verses, please conduct your own researches.)
Here is Luke 22, verses 36-38 and 49-51 from the New International Version.
36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.
49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
In an earlier blog, I wrote why I thought Jesus told His followers to arm themselves: It was because Jesus wished them to appear as outlaws to facilitate His arrest. Jesus was working to fulfill the prophecy (about being amongst the transgressors). He intended to get himself arrested, tried, convicted and executed and, thereby, fulfill the overall prophecy. Swords were essential to the look he needed to project.
And while it is true that Jesus did say
“… and if you don’t have a sword, …” implying that some of His followers may already have been armed, that does not mean Jesus encouraged the practice. On the contrary, the only statements and actions we have from Jesus are those which immediately follow when he halts the violence with,
“No more of this!” and then immediately heals the victim.
These verses are sometimes quoted out of context to suggest Jesus was telling his disciples to prepare to defend themselves by force. They have also been taken to mean that Jesus condoned the use of swords because some of the disciples may have already owned them.
Well, I have to now say that those conclusions just don’t seem warranted. Jesus’ words and actions are, without fail, to the contrary. Nowhere do we find Him condoning any such practices or actions.
Indeed, the clearest statement we have in these regards comes earlier in the same book in Luke, chapter 6, verses 27 through 38.
27“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Jesus holds us to a very high standard.
The question then remains, how will I measure up?
And that, dear reader, is something none of us can answer until the time comes.
And when it does, dear Jesus, I pray you will be there at my side.