Thoughts from the blog of Tim Suttle:
Why is the Christian peace movement so small? Why are so many Christians willing to engage in a search and destroy mission around issues like homosexuality (upon which Jesus did not comment), or insistent upon adherence to Jesus’s teaching on divorce, and yet so willing to ignore the clear command to “love your enemies,” that is part of the very same chapter of Matthew as the divorce teaching?
For most of us as evangelicals, the faith of our fathers and grandfathers did not include any kind of strict adherence to Jesus’s teaching on violence. Christian non-violence was never mentioned as a possibility in my Southern Baptist upbringing. In fact Matthew 5:38-48 remained indeterminate in all of my discipleship and training until I ran into Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, as well as many of my professors and fellow students at seminary. That Jesus’s teaching on non-violence is so largely ignored or misunderstood in the general culture has to be at least part of the reason Reza Aslan’sZealot could become a best seller. Anyone steeped in the tradition of Christian non-violence would quickly point out the way Aslan completely ignored huge swaths of Jesus’s life and teaching, especially the way that non-violence is essential to a Christian understanding of the gospel.
The obvious exception to this would be the Anabaptists. I often think that God preserved two important doctrines among the Anabaptist people. The first is the gospel of the kingdom of God (as opposed to a gospel of sin management & how to get into heaven when you die). The second is the doctrine of Christian non-violence. The Anabaptists are now powerfully and prophetically teaching the rest of us these essential doctrines to the wider church.
Stanley Hauerwas often says that Christians are not committed to non-violence because they think it will be an effective strategy to rid the world of war. Christians are committed to non-violence because they cannot imagine any other way to live in light of the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I find it ironic, then, that for the most part the opposite is true. Most Christians in our society cannot imagine livingnon-violently in such a violent world. We have no imagination for what it might mean to respond to our dog eat dog world by turning the other cheek, offering our cloak & tunic, and going the extra mile. I had been following Jesus for at least twenty-five years before anyone challenged my thinking in regard to violence and war and Jesus’s teaching on the matter.