The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Jesus Commanded Non-Resistance

I’ve read all that you’ve posted by Tolstoi, as well as the much longer piece you linked to some time ago, and have received some benefit from it.
Still, I cannot fault a Christian, or anyone for that matter, that is convinced that a large portion of showing love for neighbor or family is, in fact, defending them from harm. The quote above says clearly that the ONLY way a Christian shows ‘the truth’ is by NOT defending self or others; am I reading that correctly? That a Christian really is NOT a follower of Christ if he defends his family or neighbor from an aggressor? Surely that must be articulated more clearly to allow for basic human love, for prudence, for order?

So do you thereby consider Jesus to have been mistaken by commanding non-resistance to evil people?

I’m discussing Tolstoi, actually, and disagreeing with his take on the subject - specifically, inferring that it is sub-Christian to show love by defending others. Which, I think, is nonsense.

Then how you regard Jesus’ instructions for non-resistance? Either Jesus was mistaken, or else He was applying non-resistance in a limited way, such as to those who might strike you or your neighbour, but not to those who might kill you or your neighbour.

I’m not sure that your either-or is a valid objection. I’m sure he was not mistaken; I’m not so sure we understand what he said then and there.
And I don’t think we can divide who is a Christian and who isn’t on the basis of that verse - do you?

Paidion, you know I believe God does not kill people, or want anyone else to kill people, either.

But I don’t believe that “following in the footsteps of Jesus” includes passively allowing ourselves or our loved ones to be murdered or violated. After all, in the divine exchange at the cross, JESUS was already rejected, defrauded, and killed on our behalf, so that WE could be accepted, blessed, and privileged with abundant life.

So yes, I believe the non-resistance Jesus spoke of had a limited application: we are not to seek vengeance.

Regarding divine protection available to us today: we may remember, for example, the prophet Elisha, who supernaturally knew of coming ambush attempts against the life of the king of Israel (by the king of Aram), and would warn his king. These failed attempts frustrated and angered the king of Aram, who was told it was because of the supernatural warnings provided by Elisha. Nevertheless, the king of Aram foolishly believed he could get Elisha out of the way by sending his army to surround him at Dothan, somehow taking the prophet by surprise(!):

…And no one had to die. Also, Psalm 91 has great promises to be invoked regarding divine and angelic protection.

Believing as I do now about God’s true nature, I can no longer endorse Christians going into the military to possibly kill and be killed. Nevertheless, the prophet John the Baptist’s instruction to kingdom-seeking soldiers regarding repentance included nothing about them leaving the military:

Luke 3:14
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

And Peter had no exhortation to the godly centurion Cornelius to repent of the military (Acts 10)–whereas slaves were exhorted by Paul to leave that state and gain their freedom if they could (1 Cor. 7:21).

You’ve made some good observations there, Hermano.

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Those ARE good points. What would Jesus say, Don?

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Interesting discussion! An instruction not to resist evil folk sounds just like the kind of language the Anabaptist interpretation would rest on. OTOH it sounds to most of us as nonsense for violating reasonable love toward others more innocent, and it’s not clear whether such words are meant to apply to every context. Plus there is not much clear addressing of the later assumption of Christian roles in differing spheres wherein participation in lethal violence would be appropriate in some contexts.

OTOH the whole corpus of Jesus and the apostles lacks much support for any call to respond to evil people with bodily assault. It’s most explicit about preferring the witness of martyrdom to striking back. And it’s as least striking that it appears the centuries of the church nearest to these texts widely read them as calling for consistent non-violence.

The only often touted exception is Jesus’ words about his ministry coming to a point where swords would be the need. But with the offering of numerous non-literal interpretations of this saying (and Jesus explicit rebuke when swords were used, or any other kind of violence was affirmed by his disciples), it’s hard for me to feel that the possible implication here that Jesus is saying to actually use swords in their defense is enough to outweigh the consistently clear and profoundly challenging call to respond to the wicked and enemies with love that would explicitly follow his model of laying down his life, rather than assert their own rights to preservation.

I.e. I sense Jesus’ words push me in one direction, while my own ‘moral reasoning’ pushes me in the other.

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It could be that those were not Jesus’ words. Moral cunundrem solved! :grinning:

BUT, <insert: waiting for Don to invalidate your points>…

It is in fact that simple… in all my years of study it wasn’t until I came to this universalist forum that such as this and related options never existed for consideration — but they fix so much :wink:

As a non-fundamentalist, my tension is not that I feel bound by the text’s account of words. It is that
I sense that my ego’s own self-preserving instinctive ‘reasoning’ may need to be challenged by the Gospel’s portrait of Jesus’ example and his apparent call to replace my inclination to justify lex talionis with a commitment to a more sacrificial peacemaking.

You don’t trust your own judgement? I have been there, but don’t operate from that mode any longer. I am willing to hear all sides, but I decide what is right. And, sure, I might be wrong, but I could be wrong just as much by not trusting my own judgment on the matter and instead look to a book, text, person, etc…

No, while I do think my judgment is plenty fallible, you aren’t seeming to recognize that my statement
that I think my more egotistic instincts need to be challenged IS precisely & entirely my own judgment.

You didn’t come to a conclusion though. Are you fence sitting on this one?

I think we should recognize Jesus sometimes used hyperbole to emphasize a point like if your hand causes you to sin the cut it off! Didn’t Paul qualify this statement by speaking about a similar topic but saying “to the extent possible” in referring to living in peace? Also IMO we do not have a right to sacrifice the lives of others in the quest of being a martyr. By loving our neighbor and family we should defend them if necessary against harm. If a financial swindler wanted to trick our neighbor into giving him their house should we warn our neighbor about this or not help? Is physical violence against our neighbor or family less important?


Well, I did conclude that my ego can use challenging. But if you mean, did I express seeing both sides of the debate about justifying violence, yes that’s what I reflected. I don’t always have total certainty about when it’s good to wage war, or that a person is justified in using deadly force against another, etc.

I be believe the Anabaptist emphasis on finding ways to pursue peacemaking is valuable rather than so instinctively resorting to force and violence, but I’m not convinced of a consistently pacifist posture. Do you always feel dogmatic about such things, and see those who straddle any fences as weak?

I do feel dogmatic that our judgment is sufficient. But I do not feel that you are weak for not deciding. I am a fence sitter on many things, so if that makes you weak, then I guess I am weak too!