Christ's Plan for Non-Violence - An Excerpt from South Asia Bible Commentary
The South Asia Bible Commentary was written for the cultural context of South Asia, but much of it can also be appreciated in our Western culture. Violence is an issue that affects us all in many ways. We don't even need to look as far as the daily news to see the marks of Sin in violence. Follow along as Joshua Kalapati unpacks what Christ preached about non-violence in this excellent excerpt from South Asia Bible Commentary.
Non-violence has a long history in South Asia. It is an important principle in religions like Jainism, Buddhism and some sects of Hinduism. Many all over the world strive to live without violence. Yet violence and bloodshed persist. Why is this?
The answer is found in Genesis, which makes it clear that violence was not part of God’s original design for his creation, which was “very good” (Gen 1:31). There was perfect peace between the man and the woman, between them and nature, and above all, between them and their creator. However, when sin entered the world, it brought with it violence and death (Rom 5:12). Murder followed (Gen 4:1-16) and soon the whole world became “full of violence” (Gen 6:11), a pattern that continues today.
But in the divine plan, the vision of a non-violent world was not lost. Isaiah provides a glorious glimpse of a nonviolent future. When the Messiah rules, the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion will be together, the cow will feed with the bear, the lion eat straw like the ox (Isa 11:1-10). The whole of nature will be transformed and will no longer groan in pain (Rom 8:22).
That era still lies ahead. But already Christ has come to the world to take away our sin, grant us his peace and make us new creatures in him (2 Cor 5:17). He introduced the great paradox of the Christian understanding of non-violence: The Good Shepherd who protects and provides for sheep suffered violence, dying on the cross for us (John 10:11). To put it differently, he was both the shepherd and the sacrificial lamb whose death atoned for our sin. In his death, he also showed us how we should live. Thus the cross is the symbol of shame and suffering, forgiveness and humility, sacrifice and victory (1 Pet 2:21-24). It is the antidote to all forms of violence, exploitation and persecution.
All those who follow him are called to be like him. We are called to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9), to overcome anger and violence (Matt 5:21-22), to love even our enemies (Matt 5:43-48) and to be forgiving (Matt 6:12). This is radical teaching as the path is not easy to follow. How can we forgive someone who consistently acts harshly and unjustly towards us? How can we show solidarity with minorities who are terrorized by those who espouse majoritarian ideologies? How can we understand God’s purposes when innocents meet violent deaths? How can reconciliation be brought about between warring communities and nations? Is it possible for any human to remain non-violent in thought, word and deed all the time and in all situations? There are no easy answers to these questions, although the Scriptures provide many a clue, if we search diligently.
Non-violence is not passive resistance or timid surrender. Our Lord’s statement that “when someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other also” (Luke 6:29) is not a call to tame submission. It is a powerful moral response that should shame and unsettle an enemy.
Rather than calling us to passivity, Christ calls us to make a resolute commitment to a) do no harm to anyone in thought, word or deed; b) forgive those who may have wronged us; c) initiate peace-building measures wherever required; d) be willing to suffer shame, pain and persecution for the sake of truth and righteousness, and e) love one and all without discrimination.
Non-violence is not a theoretical moral discourse, but an intensely practical way of life. We are constantly asked to choose between violence and non-violence, and the latter alone assures an abundance of life and a world free of hatred, ill-will and animosity. Violence breeds more violence, and peace fosters more peace. An unflinching commitment to peace and non-violence draws us one step closer to God. As Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9). (Pgs 1226)
To read more like this, purchase the South Asia Bible Commentary from Zondervan Academic today.
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