Monday, May 11, 2015

I've Reached Non-Violence, But Not Non-Resistance

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the issues of non-violence and non-resistance. Having grown up in American evangelicalism, this has been a struggle for me. After much searching of scripture and analyzing of my own assumptions and motives, I've finally reached a point of embracing complete non-violence. I'm determined to respond to all of life's circumstances, no matter what, in a non-violent manner. No exceptions.

I believe we followers of Christ must take our Lord's teachings seriously. Jesus says some extremely straightforward and earthshaking things in Matthew 5:38-42:

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Christ continues in 5:43-48:

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I'll be honest: the above verses make me uncomfortable. I don't particularly like them. A large part of me wishes they weren't in the bible. However, we don't get to pick and choose. Based on Jesus' life and teachings, it is clear that he expects non-violence from his followers.

When I talk about non-violence, I'm not speaking about politics. I don't care to be part of some sort of flower child, peace sign, pot smoking club. I have no intention of taking Christians to task who are part of the military (although that issue does raise some significant questions). I'm not going to start rebuking Christians for having guns. The list goes on.

This is more about what I'm for than what I'm against. I'm for living a life where every interaction with other people is a peaceful one. This will not always mean agreement. I will no doubt have different thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. about all sorts of issues than others will. However, this does not mean that things have to get violent. Additionally, just because someone else is violent toward me does not mean I have to respond in kind.

I believe in a sovereign God who oversees all circumstances. This includes violence toward me and my family. I trust him to protect me as he sees fit. When it comes to protecting my own family, I trust God with that as well. Would I respond violently if someone was attacking my family? At this point I do not know what I would do. The husband and father in me says "Yes I would," but I struggle to defend that scripturally.

My goal is to live in a non-violent manner at all times.

As for non-resistance, I'm not so sure. I have an easier time (at least in my mind) defining non-violence than non-resistance. While non-violence seems fairly clear cut, non-resistance feels murkier. When we look at the life of Christ we see Jesus at some times not resisting, but at other times he did. For example, when he cleansed the temple (not a violent act by the way), he was certainly resisting the status quo of the day. When the Pharisees put their traditions in front of biblical truth, Jesus rejected them forcefully. In fact, he resisted anyone who was teaching against God's truth. As for his disciples, Christ consistently resisted their lack of understanding and faulty assumptions about what the Messiah should be.

I'll be pondering non-resistance quite a bit in the days ahead. I've got to come to a clearer understanding and definition of what it means and does not mean. That being said, I do think Christ's call to non-violence is clear. Although it flies in the face of our Republican-loving, gun-toting American Christian subculture, it is what Jesus calls us to do. Will we do it?

Count me in for non-violence.


Arthur Sido said...

The is a great chapter on the topic of non-resistance in a cool book called Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity. I think you can buy it from Amazon.

Eric said...

Hmmmmm. I might have to read that one.

Jeremy Myers said...


I love this post, and I'm with you 100%!

So often, when people hear "non-violence" they equate it with pacifism.

As you point out, it is not the same thing at all. As followers of Jesus, one can (and should) non-violently resist evil and injustice in this world.

Eric said...

Thanks Jeremy!

I agree that much evil exists in this world. We can help others by resisting this in a peaceful manner. I found it very interesting in Preston Sprinkle's book where he pointed out just how effective peaceful resistance often is. I wish more Christians would embrace this concept.

Aussie John said...


Check this out:

Joshua Rodd said...

Read James A. Goering's "Nonresistance or Pacifism". I'd be happy to send you a copy.

Joshua Rodd said...

Check out James A. Goering's "Nonresistance or Pacifism" or John Coblentz's "Love and Nonresistance".

For a more in depth look, read David Bercot's "The Kingdom That Turned The World Upside Down" or Dean Taylor's "A Change of Allegiance".

Eric said...

Thanks John!

Eric said...


Thank you for the suggestions. It is certainly a topic I need to study more. I'm excited about it!