Tag Archives: pacifism

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort.

First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’ part, as some allege. Most NT scholars concur that this was a calculated, strategic act on Jesus’ part, and it contained deep symbolic significance. More specifically, this episode appears to be a classic example of a prophetic symbolic action.

There is, however, some disagreement over what exactly Jesus was symbolizing. For example, many argue that Jesus was revealing himself to be the long-awaited messiah who was widely expected to cleanse and/or restore the Temple. Others argue that Jesus was symbolically revealing Yahweh’s displeasure with the corrupt religious establishment and issuing a prophetic warning that the Temple would soon be destroyed, a point that John makes explicit (Jn 2: 19-22). While interpretations differ, however, they all presuppose that the Temple cleansing was anything but a spontaneous tantrum on the part of Jesus.

Second, there is simply no indication in any of the Gospels that Jesus resorted to violence when he cleansed the Temple. Yes, the texts suggest that Jesus was angry, and yes, John tells us that Jesus made a whip (Jn 2:15). But there is no suggestion that he used it to strike any animal or person. To the contrary, throughout history cracking a whip has been a commonly used means of controlling the movement of animals, and John explicitly reports that this is what Jesus used it for.

He used the whip to create an animal stampede of “both sheep and cattle” out of the “temple courts” (Jn 2:15). Not only this, but had Jesus actually whipped any of the court officials, it is hard to imagine how he could have avoided being arrested on the spot. It is also hard to imagine how he could have avoided the charge of hypocrisy, for such behavior would have flown in the face of his previously mentioned public teachings about refraining from violence.

There is therefore nothing about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that runs counter to my claim that the non-violent, enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial love that was supremely revealed on the cross is the thematic center of Jesus’ identity and mission. To the contrary, Jesus engaged in a kind of “street theater” out of love for his “Father’s house” as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who ran the Temple’s “buying and selling” system.

And, as the Gospels make clear, he confronted these leaders in this aggressive manner as a way of forcing their hand, and thus as a steppingstone to his crucifixion. Far from illustrating Jesus acting in an unloving, let alone violent way, I submit that this entire episode reflects Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.

Moreover, John explicitly makes the cross the thematic center of this episode, for he records that Jesus brings this episode to a close by drawing a connection between the newly cleansed temple, which Jesus prophesied would soon be permanently destroyed, and his own body, which would rise again three days after being destroyed (Jn 2:19-22).

Read in context, NT scholar Richard Hays notes, John is declaring “that Jesus’ body is now the place where God dwells, the place where atonement for sin occurs, the place where the division between God and humanity is overcome.” Hence, far from counting against the thematic centrality of the cross, the Temple cleansing illustrates this centrality.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). 

Some, both modern scholars along with church leaders since the fourth century, have used this passage as evidence to argue that Jesus is not altogether non-violent.

When we place Matthew 10:34 in its broader context, it becomes clear that Jesus’ teaching not only does not condone violence on the part of his disciples, it actually rules out all violence. As Jesus is preparing his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the arrival of the kingdom of God throughout the region, he warns them that he is sending them out “like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16, cf. vv. 5-15).

Continue reading Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

Few but Pentecostals Realized that World War One was Pointless

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the ”War to End All Wars”: World War One. It directly killed nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Furthermore, it contributed to the spread and severity of epidemics that killed an additional 100 million people.

And here’s the really embarrassing part: with few exceptions, WW1 was a war in which Christians killed other Christians. Catholics fought other Catholics; Protestants fought other Protestants. People who claimed to follow Jesus slaughtered their supposed brothers in the trenches because their leaders – many of which claimed to have been appointed by God – ordered them to.

Madness. Utter, disgraceful madness.

As time went on and more people died without breaking the stalemate of the conflict, many started to protest. In fact, one of the reasons the war ended in 1918 was that soldiers and civilians alike criticized their own governments for continuing the pointless fighting. But many were late in the game. Christian pacifists criticized WW1 long before it was cool: and many of them were Pentecostals.

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The Weekly Evangel, the official evangelistic magazine of the Assemblies of God, stated in 1917:

From the very beginning, the movement has been characterized by Quaker principles. The laws of the Kingdom, laid down by our elder brother, Jesus Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, have been unqualifiedly adopted, consequently the movement has found itself opposed to the spilling of the blood of any man, or of offering resistance to any aggression. Every branch of the movement, whether in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, or Germany has held themselves to this principle.

When the war first broke out in August of 1914, our Pentecostal brethren in Germany found themselves in a peculiar position. Some of those who were called to the colors responded, but many were court marshaled and shot because they heartily subscribed to the principles of non-resistance. Great Britain has been more humane. Some of our British brethren have been given non-combatant service, and none have been shot down because of their faith.

In the same year, Arthur Sidney Booth-Clibborn who was a Pentecostal leader and grandson of the founders of the Salvation Army, wrote:

Find me in the New Testament where Christ ever sent His followers on such a mission? On the contrary He sent them out to save men—not to butcher them like cattle. . . . No! as far as the Christian is concerned, the “eye for an eye” system has given place to the “Turn to him the other cheek also” of Matt. 5:39-44.

And A. J. Tomlinson, first general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy, wrote in early 1918:

I could not take a gun and fire it at my fellow men even at the command of a military officer. I could submit to the penalty inflicted upon me for refusing, but I cannot kill. I doubt if I could take the obligation to become a soldier in the first place.

Pacifism is often labeled naive or short-sighted, but in this case the pacifist Pentecostals were able to see the truth through all the patriotic war-mongering around them, thanks to them sticking to Jesus’ commitments in the Sermon on the Mount.

World War One was an idiotic catastrophe of Christians killing Christians. Our Spirit-filled ancestors refused to play that game.

Read more about early Pentecostal pacifism here.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Conquering the World Through Love

American foreign policy is always in the news. After all, the United States currently has the largest military in the world, and frequently serves as the globe’s police force through alliances such as the United Nations and NATO. The recent appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser for the Trump administration simply reinforces this as Bolton was very supportive of the US invasion of Iraq and supports further military aggression towards Iran and North Korea.

On that last point, the Korean War also happens to be in the news again in response to recent nuclear testing by the North and now peace talks in Korea between both Korean nations.

War is in the news. It usually is, and I don’t see any chance of that changing any time soon. It is very unfortunate, but those of us in Christian peace and nonviolence organizations also have to talk about war. This is a great sin in our world, and it expresses the spirit of the Wicked One rather than the spirit of the Anointed One.  Continue reading Conquering the World Through Love

Re-thinking Romans 13

Romans 13:1-8 is a passage that has been used in ways that are unjust.  It has been used to justify the divine right of kings, to justify slavery, to justify apartheid and segregation.  This text has been used in support of the Just War Theory.  It’s still used in the church to justify oppressive policing and discounting of immigrant’s basic human rights.  If people would just obey the law, the logic goes, then they will be left alone.  But is that what this passage means?  Is Paul saying that that all laws are good? Is he saying that all people are treated equally under the law? Is he saying that laws should be obeyed without question?  These things are often read into the passage making these verses something like a sword to keep oppressed people in their place.  I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent.

Just because a particular action is legal does not mean it is just.  As God’s people it’s imperative that we carefully discern and think through texts like these so that we might walk well in the way of Jesus.  How shall we view this set of scriptures? Continue reading Re-thinking Romans 13

It’s Impossible to Both Love and Kill Our Enemies

Jesus told us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). This has been the cornerstone of Christian pacifist theology; whether you look at the early church, or the Anabaptists or the early Pentecostals, they all agreed on that loving enemies is incompatible with killing them, and hence they refused to wage wars or use violence against other human beings.

For this reason, the Christian non-pacifist has to argue for one of the following positions:

  1. Killing is an act of love towards the one you kill.
  2. We should not follow Jesus’ command to love enemies when we decide to kill people.

There are serious problems with both of these ideas. Let’s start with the first one. Continue reading It’s Impossible to Both Love and Kill Our Enemies

The Biblical and Apostolic Foundation of Pacifism

Quite consistently in my life the issue of Christian pacifism has been a subject of interest. Even well before I became a Christian, I held to a deeply pacifist morality. I distinctly remember one conversation at a family gathering when I expressed disagreement with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My brother (an enthusiastic Charismatic Christian at the time) said something that stuck with me; he called me “the family Democrat”. To him at the time, pacifism was not a Gospel or Biblical issue. Pacifism was entirely partisan (despite Democrats engaging in just as much violence as Republicans).

For many people, this continues to be the case. Regularly with my work in the church and wider community, the issue of Christian morality comes up, and this inevitably leads to a discussion about pacifism. As I observed with my brother many years ago, pacifism is often understood as a somehow disconnected from Christian values. For many, there is simple ignorance about the teachings of peace found in the Gospel, and for many others, they are aware of such teachings, but find them unrealistic, and do not believe that they are relevant for post-New Testament Christians.  Continue reading The Biblical and Apostolic Foundation of Pacifism