“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They 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.” Isaiah 2:4
There has been a lot of violence in America lately. Police officer shootings that suspiciously look race related, and retaliation over these sad circumstances with more violence – many ask, “when will it ever end?” (For information on these recent set of events, go here.)
The ultimate question we all must ask is:
“What does God really want from us?”
1. God’s Dream is for a Non-Violent Humanity and Creation
What is the essence of non-violence, what does it really mean? According to Matthew 5:44 Bible commentary, Mathew Henry depicts it as love:
“It is impossible to love the conduct of a person who curses and reviles us, who injures our person or property, or who violates all the laws of God; but, though we may hate his conduct, and suffer keenly when we are affected by it, yet we may still wish well to the person; we may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him and to him; we may return good for evil; we may aid him in the time of trial; we may seek to do him good here and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter.
This seems to be what is meant by loving our enemies; and this is a special law of Christianity, and the highest possible test of piety, and probably the most difficult of all duties to be performed.”
From the beginning, God wanted to be our leader. We are in the mess we are in because we have not made him Lord in our own personal lives, nor have we done so collectively. What has happened in the recent shootings in the article link above is typical of the violence in a world that refuses to trust God to be our leader and focus on being a people who decide to set violence aside and find other alternatives to all our conflicts with one another, including issues we have with stewardship of the earth and animal kingdom.
I am hearing people from all walks of life saying the equivalent of, “Can’t we all just get along?” Or in regards to violence towards creation, “Can’t people see animals are a part of the sanctity of life?” There is a universal desire for peace, we all sense it. We all are growing weary of the warring done with each other or the violence against creation and the earth – worldwide.
Universal peace, the kind God desires, does not stop with the human species. His includes the animal kingdom and the earth; his is for the created order to be restored that is depicted in Genesis before the fall – a peaceful Garden oasis where all creation live together in Shalom. In the “twinkling of an eye” the Bible says (1 Corinthians 15:52), we will all be changed in that day (Jesus’ return) to the peaceful creation we were meant to be – including the animal kingdom, where they will no longer harm one another, but lie down together in peace. Isaiah 11:6 depicts the total creation in peace:
“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.“
What I love about the scripture verse that starts off this article is the promise in it that exists not only for humankind but also for all creation. Not only is God going to “judge between the nations,” he is going to “settle disputes for many peoples,” including disputes we have over proper shepherding of the creation. For now, we have a certain amount of responsibility in cultivating non-violence. It seems wise to learn as much about what this means for each of us. There are several articles listed at the end of this post for further exploration.
2. The Teachings and Life of Jesus are About Non-Violence
What is non-violence according to Jesus? This article puts what he says in one place. I highly recommend that the reader take a few minutes to read it.
“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 whose persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Matthew 5.43-46
3. Article Links for Further Study
Non-violence is not about pacifism, it is about love which includes (for both humans and animals):
A. Advocating for the downtrodden and marginalized
B. Finding creative alternatives to responding to violence with violence
C. Stepping alongside those that are wounded and need healing
D. Aiding the sick and poor; meeting their needs for food, shelter, clothing
E. Rescuing those who are chained; speaking up for the exploited and abused
What does God Want?…. For us to be his hands and feet, for people and for creation!
Besides the links throughout this post, here are a few that come highly recommended:
- Jesus’ Third Way, by Walter Wink: In it, Wink argues that the Matthew 5:43-46 verse above is, “one of the most revolutionary political statements ever uttered.” The article will shed light on what we have come to think of as pacifism when we think of non-violence and thoughts on “turning the other cheek” and “going the extra mile.” Pacifism as we know it today is not at all what Jesus meant!
- Does the Bible Teach Non-Violence? by Greg Boyd on ReKnew.org. In this insightful article you will learn about God’s dream for a non-violent humanity in the Old and New Testaments.
- Common Objections & Misunderstandings on Christian Nonviolence, by Benjamin L. Corey. Excellent read for all who are wondering what Jesus truly meant when he told his disciples to go buy swords, what his seemingly violent act in the Temple was all about, explains OT violence and more. This article will especially help persons of faith respond to the violence of our day, such as the recent violence in Texas that begins the discussion for this post.
- Anti-War Bible Passages, by Marty Troyer. Some excellent reflections including Educating for Life Without War and Imagining Our Peaceable Kingdom.
- An Eternal Triblinka, this blogs own writing on the incredible violence mankind unleashes upon the animal kingdom and the church’s call to merciful stewardship.
- A Brief, Scriptural Defense of the Non-Violent Message of Jesus, and the three articles following this one, by Nathan R. Hale. He provides a scriptural argument for non-violence, explains more about seeming pacifism in the Bible, the disciples buying swords, and commentary on Hitler’s violence – excellent reading.
Thank you for reading and following our blog; we pray you are blessed by it and will share it widely with others! ~Kathy