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It is suggested Jesus showed a better way through example and words, than the Old Testament, by dealing with enemies and relationships by non-violent means. But, would Jesus condemn a nation who sought peaceful means to resolve terrorist threats but when necessary protected themselves? Would Jesus really condemn an individual citizen who opened fire on one seeking to kill all in site in a school setting? If you would protect your own children, why not consider means to protect children in a foreign land from a dictator who enslaves them for sex and other evil acts?

It matters how we represent God when it comes to violence.

Condemning others in God’s name when we aren’t absolutely sure of God’s disapproval can drive people to unwarranted feelings of guilt with God or cause people to reject God for wrong reasons. One may think: “Why would a God who doesn’t intervene always in evil not allow me to protect myself.”  Obviously, God is opposed to beheading others for their religious beliefs. When we advise God opposes all violence, implying it is wrong to protect ourselves against evil, such words condemn military individuals fighting for freedoms or private citizen forced to protect their family or others in a dangerous situation. Does God really condemn all violence?

The Bible can’t be our only source for guiding us about God. 

The Bible surely wasn’t written to be an answer book as to what God would do in our unique situation. Jesus often didn’t answer questions directly. Jesus sought to change hearts which changes how we solve our problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties. Besides, literature requires interpretation and we don’t always agree what the writer meant speaking for God. Even the Bible tells us the Word of God has never been the Bible but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus’ Spirit now lives in us to guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience can lead to more accurate understandings of God.

Does Jesus really oppose all violence?  

As you might suspect since the Bible must be interpreted, there is disagreement about the passage most often used to advice Jesus speaks to a new way in dealing with our enemies: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt. 5: 39, 43-44). I just don’t know anyone in their right mind that would advise a wife being beat by their husband to turn the other cheek or not protect themselves. It is possible the literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means” which is more in line with Rm. 12:17: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”  

I am opposed to pulling verses from the Bible to prove a point, but there are passages which can suggest God is not opposed to protective violence. In Acts 23 the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the NT, defended himself quite strongly and then requested military protection from being killed by religious leaders. Jesus didn’t exactly turn the other cheek when struck while defending His innocence (Jn. 18:22-23). Parables are not meant to be taken strictly literally, but one might think if Jesus was opposed to all violence His teaching would have less violent metaphors (i.e. Mt. 13, 18, 25; Mk. 12; Luke 20). Evil is real and may require a violent response.

What we can know for certain about God and violence.   

The majority may agree that God would oppose violence if more peaceful means were available to individuals or nations. More often than not violence begets violence. If we are always looking to meet violence with violence and never consider peaceful means, there will never be room for changes of heart and forgiveness. But, if you think niceness always begets niceness and a soft answer always turns away wrath, you may be leaving a slew of victims behind. In fact, some may only change when forcefully confronted with the pain they are causing. Though we may not know exactly what God would do in each situation, human shortcomings suggest violence should be our last option. If you are anything like me, I am quick to defend myself and confront others without consideration of other possibilities.

Lack of certainty what God or Jesus would do doesn’t have to lead to chaos.

Supposed certainty in the name of God has led to justifying genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and other atrocities. Being unable to declare the certainty of our opinions about God forces us to listen, think carefully, and come to an agreement. I don’t always know what God would do in personal or national situations. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages not seeking revenge and praying for ways to change hearts. I can’t say God would never advise a nation or individual to meet evil with force.  Future lives may be saved. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages exhausting all peaceful ways possible. God surely desires a world where all look out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties.

 

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