Leave it to Jesus to challenge one of our most central cultural values – justifying violence by manipulating scripture. In this sermon, we discover what it means to practice non-violence both in our actions and our attitudes.
Jesus tells his disciples to take a purse and bag and then to buy swords. This passage (and the “temple clearing” episode) has been used to argue that Jesus wasn’t uniformly against violence. Throughout history it has been argued that “Jesus expects us to defend ourselves” or that “violence is okay when justified.” In this sermon, Greg proposes that Jesus actually means something different in this passage and is not justifying the use of violence.
Instead, Jesus wanted to fulfill the passage that he quoted (Isaiah 53:12: “And he was numbered with the transgressors.”). Jesus wanted to get himself arrested, tried and executed, but only the Roman authorities could do this. And since Rome only dealt with political threats, Jesus knew the Jewish leaders would need to hand him over as a political insurrectionist. If they could tell the Romans that Jesus’ followers were carrying swords, it would help make their case.
At the center of the Kingdom is a radical, beautiful call to love and serve enemies and abstain from all violence. It’s the proof Jesus gave that his Kingdom was “not of this world.” It’s still the surest proof that one belongs to the Kingdom. However, non-violence is not only ignored by most Christians today, it’s ridiculed. Sometimes war is even celebrated “in Jesus name.”
Jesus calls us to not only abstain from physical violence, but more importantly, violence in our attitude, thoughts and hearts. The New Testament says we are to purge ourselves of “bitterness, hatred, malice, cursing in heart, judgment, strife, animosity and vengeance.” We are to actively love, bless and pray for our enemies.
In Ephesians 4, Paul instructs us to deal with anger soon as possible and “let it go” instead of holding on to it and letting it turn into bitterness. To “forgive, purge all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, every form of malice.” Those things can be a spiritual cancer that can destroy people.
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