Tag Archives: Violence

Should Christians Kill Each Other?

I talked to a brother the other day who was a conscientious objector in the 1960’s. I asked him why he refused to do military service.

“Because I don’t want to kill a Christian brother. And it would be unreasonable to first run and ask an enemy soldier what he believes before you eventually kill him. So I can’t kill anyone.”

I found this argument for pacifism very interesting. Now, I think it’s clear that Jesus doesn’t want me to kill anyone, regardless of their faith. He wants me to love my enemies (Mt 5:44) and not use weapons of war (2 Cor 10:3).

But obviously, other Christians disagree. They think that we are sometimes warranted to kill others. But do they seriously think that we should kill other Christians?

Did Jesus envision his disciples to ever kill each other?

I think the answer is obviously no. But I was curious if my non-pacifist sisters and brothers think differently. And so I asked them on Facebook:

If Jesus envisioned his disciples to sometimes kill each other, why didn’t he talk about it?

Skärmavbild 2019-11-17 kl. 22.20.49

So far, I have received hundreds of comments, and not a single one addresses why Jesus doesn’t talk about his disciples killing each other if he really envisioned it. Most people have asked me questions instead, of how I would stop Hitler or a murderer attacking my family etc. Interesting questions for sure, but this time I wanted an answer from them.

Some did address when they found it appropriate for Christians to kill other Christians. It was when a Christian is defending themself from an attacking Christian. This scenario is of course hard to identify. Most people who are “attacking” others do it in perceived self-defense, be it a preemptive strike or due to a perceived threat.

What’s worse for this theory of just fratricide is that it is completely detached from the Bible. Not only is Jesus silent on the matter of disciple-killing, but the rest of the New Testament also abstains from discussing it. It is as if the early Christians only expected them to love and care for one another rather than taking each other’s lives.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t even talk much about self-defense. The two views on violence one can reasonably deduce from the biblical text, is that it is either OK when a political leader demands it, or that Christians should be pacifists. The Just War theory that distinguishes between different kinds of wars originated with the pagan Cicero and was later adopted by church father Augustine without much input from the Scriptures. Before him, most church leaders were pacifists.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus doesn’t want his followers to slaughter one another. I find it even harder to imagine that he wants us to kill non-Christians, condemning them to eternal punishment. And so, I think that when he asks us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, he really means that we should not kill anyone.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.

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 Tell Violent Parables?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.

Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.

A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.

The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

We live in the midst of spiritual warfare. This is the reality of being a part of creation where Satan prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8-9). The Scriptures make it clear that all of creation is in need of redemption. While most Christians assume that the cross was only about saving humans, the scope of Christ’s saving work was far vaster than that. It is cosmic in nature.

Paul teaches that in Christ, God was at work to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20, emphasis added). Similarly, Paul says the whole creation has from time immemorial been groaning to be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

One can only reconcile two parties if these parties are currently hostile to each other, and one can only liberate something if it’s currently oppressed. These passages are thus teaching us that everything in creation is, at least to some degree, currently out of sync with the Creator and oppressed by hostile powers. Christ died not only to reconcile and liberate humans, but also the whole of creation. Someday we will see his victory fully manifested. At the present time, however, the world remains under the curse and is not reflective of the Creator’s good designs. Continue reading The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

God’s War on War

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Though the OT portrays God as not only tolerating violence but also in many cases various narratives quote God as getting his hands dirty and actually promoting and commanding acts of violence, this is not the true character of the God of the OT. Throughout the OT we find passages that reveal God’s war on war. We may begin by recalling the famous passage in Micah in which the Lord expresses his dream that someday people,

…will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Mic. 4:3).

Though God had for a long while been condescending to the violence of this fallen world, in this passage we see the true character of the heavenly missionary breaking through. God’s dream is to eventually grow all people to the point that weapons designed to kill people will be transformed into tools designed to feed them. His dream is that not only will there be no more war, there will be no need to anticipate its possibility.

Along similar lines, despite how gruesome depictions of God and of his people are in certain Psalms, in others we see the Spirit of Christ breaking through with remarkable clarity and beauty. For example, we find the Psalmist at one point turning the warrior image on its head as he declares that God,

            …makes wars cease

to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46: 9-10).

Here we find that the divine warrior has declared war on war (cf. Hos 2:18Mic. 5:10). He is already at work to “[s]catter the nations who delight in war” (Ps. 68:30). Though he is presently willing to in some sense participate in it, God does so, this passage suggests, for the purpose of ultimately bringing an end to it all over the earth. And insofar as he succeeds in doing so, he is revealed to be a God who is exalted above all the conflicts of the nations of the world.

In Isaiah this vision of peace is broadened to include nature as well. When God’s future ruler finishes judging the earth (Isa 11:1-4), the Lord says,

            The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

Infants will play near the hole of the cobra;

young children will put their hands into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:6-9).

However literal or figurative we take this passage, it is clear that it envisions a future in which the violence that now exists between humans and animals as well as that which exists between different kinds of animals—e.g. the “wolf” and “lamb”—will be no more. It’s a vision of the restoration of God’s original creation in which animals and humans alike feed on vegetation, not one another (Gen. 1:29). When the one who is appropriately called “the Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6) assumes his rule over the earth, the curse that causes the entire creation to presently groan will be eradicated and the entire creation will be reconciled to God and will therefore participate in his perfect peace.

While all canonical writings are divinely inspired, I submit that, in the light of what we know about Christ, we must regard peace-loving divine portraits such as these to be more reflective of God’s true character and will than the depictions of God resorting to, and even delighting in, violence. While these later depictions indirectly reveal God’s character by bearing witness to his incarnational and sin-bearing nature, the depictions of God loving enemies and hating violence do so directly, for these cohere with the character of God as revealed in Christ.

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!

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?

Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.

Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence