Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Christmas Warfare

December 19th, 2013 No comments

Christmas Warfare
Every year, I just have to chuckle a little bit about the pundits and pastors weeping and wailing over the so-called “War on Christmas.” Apparently businesses frantically trying to respect their clientele by saying “Happy Holidays” and government sensitivity to religious freedom and the separation of church and state are ruining Christmas for us all. Of course, not even Herod’s bloody War on Christmas was able to destroy Christmas, and the Powers that Be would later kill the Christ but still lose the War on Christmas. I don’t think today’s religious hyper-sensitivity will destroy Christmas, either.

But as I was reading through the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke this year, I was struck that Christmas really has much to do with warfare.

“Fear not, the Lord is with you”
In the Christmas stories, unlikely people are repeatedly given the promise, “Fear not. . . the Lord is with you.”1 In fact, the entire Gospel of Matthew is framed by this promise.2 This is more than mere pious platitude; it is, among other things, traditional holy war language. It is the ancient battle cry of the children of Israel.3 This is the cry with which Moses rallies the people of Israel in the quintessential Old Testament Holy War at the Exodus (Ex. 14:13-14).

Political Intrigue and Subversion
Curiously, both Matthew and Luke make mention of significant political authorities in their birth narratives. What could a baby born into rags have to do with kings and emperors? Matthew’s narrative revolves around the sinister machinations of Herod, Rome’s client “King of the Jews.” Herod became king when, with the backing of Rome, he besieged and captured Jerusalem and ordered the execution of the ruling “King of the Jews,” Antigonus II. The Magi from the east come searching specifically for the child born “King of the Jews.” Herod perceived the child as a rival king and therefore a military, political, and mortal threat. Thus Herod launched the horrific War on Christmas (Mt. 2:16).

Political themes whispered in Matthew are shouted in Luke. It is Caesar Augustus’s census decree that lands Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. Augustus’s birth was hailed as “the beginning of the good tidings [“gospel”] of the world.” Because he established the Roman Peace (Pax Romana/Augusti), he was revered as a shining light, a Savior sent by Providence. Augustus was all too happy to oblige, eagerly claiming the title of “Son of the Divine.”4 Later Caesars would require their subjects to confess them as Lord and God.5 Strikingly, Luke refers to Jesus as Son of God (1:35), Savior, and Lord (2:11).6 His birth is hailed as “good tidings [“gospel”]. . . for all people” (2:10), which marks the “shining” of an age of peace (1:78-79; 2:13).

Mary’s prophetic song (1:46-55) makes all these undertones explicit: proud hearts are scattered; the powerful are dethroned; the lowly are lifted up; the hungry are filled; and the rich leave empty-handed. It is the subversive language of revolution. The true Lord has arrived in the frailty of a tiny newborn, wrapped not in royal robes, but rag cloths; laid not in a bassinet fit for a king’s palace, but in a feed trough because this baby was apparently not considered important enough for more refined accommodations. This, we are told, is the true King.

Often the Christian imagination conjures up images of Precious Moments angel children singing sweetly through the night. But the heavenly host of the Christmas stories are more like God’s battle-hardened soldiers (lit. “army”) who combat the spiritual forces that oppose the purposes of God.7 Their message is not a pious table grace, but a triumphant battle cry. No wonder the shepherds were quaking in their sandals.

Gabriel in particular, whose name means roughly “God is my strength,” is mentioned only in Daniel and Luke. He is of some slightly lower or similar rank to his comrade, the illustrious archangel Michael, “one of the chief princes.” Both Gabriel and Michael join battle with the forces opposed to the purposes of God, identified with worldly kingdoms.8 In Daniel, he is “the man Gabriel” (9:21), “having the appearance of a man” (9:15). The presence of this battle-hardened messenger evokes fear (9:17). When the priest Zechariah dares to question Gabriel, Gabriel thunders indignantly, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the presence of God!” (Luke 1:19). Zechariah was scared speechless! The angels come announcing the very invasion of God into human life. A Savior is at hand, the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God, and Gabriel is the chief recruitment officer of heaven’s armies.

To War!
It would seem to be an incredibly bizarre way to frame the coming of a child born into rags. What could be more commonplace, more frail, more human? What does a baby have to do with battles and bloodshed? Yet this child’s advent is surrounded by a terrible war of cosmic proportion!

Depending on your view of holy war in the trajectory of biblical revelation, the New Testament completely replaces, rejects, redeems, upends, transposes, subverts, and/or fulfills OT holy war traditions. Following the lead lamb-of-godof Zech. 9:9-10, Jesus and his disciples make a pure mockery of military-royal pomposity in the (Anti-)Triumphal Entry. The Pauline writings spiritualize warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph 6:12) and explicitly describe the “gospel of peace” as battle gear (Eph. 6:15)! In Revelation, Jesus’ weapon is his word of truth (19:15), and his robe is dipped in blood prior to battle. As John watches, suddenly the mighty pride fighter Lion shimmers into the Lamb Who Was Slain (5:5ff), the subversively true image of divine power and victory in battle. The faithful conquer by this Lamb’s blood, which they themselves also shed; by the courageous word of their testimony (martyria, 12:11); and by “following the Lamb wherever he goes” (14:4).

The pathos of battle is retained in the mission and identity of God’s people, but its assault is redirected against the “spiritual forces of evil,” “principalities,” and “powers.” Its weaponry is remade into gear forged not of steel, but of truth, justice, gospel-peace, faith, salvation, and God’s Word. Its tactics and strategies are prayer in the Spirit, service, sacrifice, martyrdom, peacemaking, patience, testimony, and obedience.

At any rate, if you want to know what holy warfare truly looks like, Christmas is the place to start. God was invading the world not with the power of coercion, but with the power of grace. Heaven’s army was singing its battle hymn, not of yet more war-making, but of unprecedented peace-making. Its general is a helpless baby clothed in rags squirming in a feed trough in a backwater town. Its heralds are lowly shepherds. Its crushing defeat is its moment of greatest triumph, sealing forever the victory of the Kingdom of God.

God is invading every corner of human life with grace and peace!

And the Infant King wants you! Join now the Child of Rags, the Lamb Who Was Slain, in the battle of the age against domination, violence, hatred, oppression, lust, deceit, bondage, Satan, Sin, and Death! Join now the Infant’s piercing cry of defiant hope! Join now invasion of justice, mercy, grace, and love! Join this Christmastide the whole host of the Kingdom of God in Bethlehem’s onslaught of peace and salvation! By the Lamb’s blood flowing in and from our veins will we conquer. By God’s word of truth will we overcome. By the gentle word of our testimony will we gain victory in the Spirit. By following the Lamb wherever he goes will we share his triumph. Do not be afraid! The child is named Immanuel, God with Us!

1 Mt. 1:20, 23; Luke 1:13, 28, 30; 2:10-11
2 Mt. 1:20, 23; 28:5, 10, 20.
3 See, e.g. Deut. 20:1; Joshua 1:5, 9; Judges 6:12; Isa. 7:4, 14; 41:10-13; cf. Gen. 21:22; Num. 14:42-43; Ps. 23:4-5; 27:1; 27; 46; 118:6.
4 Also in reference to his popular posthumous adoptive father, Julius Caesar, who had been divinized by the Senate.
5 Cf. John 20:28; Rom. 10:9.
6 Here Jesus is also called Christ, the title by which the Romans believed the Jews called their rulers.
7 See also Joshua 5:13-15.
8 Dan. 10:13, 21; cf Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7.

Categories: Bible, Essays Tags: , ,

Runaway Prophet

December 14th, 2011 No comments

“Runaway Prophet” (Jonah 1)
by Pastor Peter Goerzen
October 16, 2011, Grace Hill Mennonite Church

Intro. to Jonah
I’m going to be reading a part of the story of Jonah in just a second. We’re going to be telling and hearing the story of Jonah the next four Sundays. And this is a different sort of book. Jonah is included among the books of the prophets in the Old Testament. There are quite a few books of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and Hosea and Amos, and many more. Jonah is a prophet-book too, but it’s different from all the rest.

Usually the prophets will cry out long oracles, long poems that begin something like, “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains,and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it” (Isa. 2:2). Or another will say, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages” (Jer. 22:13). The prophets are filled with stuff like that – long poems – oracles of God about judgment or warning or salvation or deliverance. But not Jonah. Jonah is a narrative, a story.1

You know, today, when we want to discuss some important matter of faith, we call together a conference and have some experts come with PowerPoint slides and handouts to lay out their interpretation of the Bible and their theology. And people will come to the mike and line out their arguments and debate it and maybe write a resolution and probably amend it, and then we’ll pass it by 51% and no one will be too happy, but we’ll all be tired and go home and forget about it. Not so in the ancient world. In the ancient world, often times, you’d tell a story. Maybe you’d tell the story of the Exodus, or of the creation or of Abraham, or maybe you’d tell a story that fills in some of the missing details. You remember what Jesus did when someone asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” He told a story about a wounded man and a good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Or when the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling about Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners, that drew out three stories, including the famous parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15) Or when he wanted to teach about the kingdom, he had a whole slew of stories/parables (too many to cite!).

The gospels themselves are a story we love to tell, as the song goes, about Jesus and his love and his life and his death and his resurrection. Some folks say the Bible is even like one long story about God’s love and saving purposes throughout history and beyond. You learn from stories by telling them, by allowing them to impact your life, by pondering them, by imagining yourself in them, by experiencing the way they move. Jonah is a story. Listen to the first part of the story.

[Read Jonah 1]

Runaway Missionary
Jonah went down to the hold of the ship, lay down, and fell fast asleep when the storm hit. The wind was picking up and a storm was rising, and the boat was thinking it might just break apart, and the sailors were terrified, and there was Jonah, lying down in the hold, trying to escape it all.

Now this might sound a lot like the story of Jesus asleep in the boat with the disciples, but it’s much different. Jesus would calm the storm with the word of his command. Jonah caused the storm because he refused the word of the Lord. Different story. Much, much different.

Jonah was a runaway missionary, a runaway prophet. Now there’s not much of any place to run on a boat, not much of anyway to get away from reality, except to escape it by ignoring it and falling asleep. Jonah was sleeping right through the raging storm.

Now, say what you will about old Jonah, but he was a smart guy. He knew exactly why the storm was picking up. You bet he knew it was all because of him. And he knew why. And he knew what to do about it. But he didn’t want to deal with it any more than he wanted to deal with God’s instructions for him, and he fell asleep, hoping just to forget all about that wretched day. Maybe he’d wake up and it would be better. It wouldn’t have happened. But when the skipper finally found him to wake him up with a few choice words, it was still that same wretched day. . .

Not that the day had started out all that bad. A nice day in Samaria, in Israel. A little chat with God, as usual. “Jonah!” “Yes, Lord?” “Jonah, I have another mission for you!” “Okay, Lord.” “Jonah, this time I want you to go to a foreign country and preach a solemn message.” “Sure thing, Lord. No problem. Where am I going?” “Nineveh.”2

And well, Jonah didn’t say another word. Next thing Jonah did, he took out his map. He found Samaria, where he was living. He found Nineveh, and he hot-footed it off to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. No way was he going to Nineveh. Horrible people in Nineveh. Nasty, violent, awful people in Nineveh. The folks who wiped out the northern kingdom of Israel nasty. Who’d want to go there?

Jonah ran down to the port called Joppa, got himself a ticket for Tarshish, and set sail on the Mediterranean, which means, I think, “No way, Lord. No way am I going to Nineveh. They’re the ones who besiege and terrorize and kill and scatter our people. No way am I going to Nineveh. Find someone else.” Off to Tarshish, off to Spain Jonah went, away from the presence of the Lord.

Now, that’s an odd thing to say, “away from the presence of the Lord.” How can anyone flee the presence of the Lord? It’s kind of like the Psalm from our call to worship today. Where can I flee from your presence, O Lord? It turns out Jonah wasn’t just narrow-minded about the Ninevites; he was also narrow-minded about God.3

Now, I don’t think he really believed that he could escape God’s presence. Jonah was smart. He was a theologian. He knew better. He knew who God is. He just wished God was smaller – too small for Nineveh, too small to find him. Oh yes, he knew better. Most always, we know better; we just don’t do it, and Jonah set sail for Tarshish.

No sooner did the port drop off the horizon, than a huge storm kicked up. A huge storm. The sailors were scared out of their wits, because they’d never seen a storm like this before, and it just kicked up out of nowhere. The sailors, they started praying like they’d never prayed before, each to his own deity.

Meanwhile, Jonah went down to the hold of the ship and fell fast asleep. Now how about that? It’s the pagan folks who are praying, while the holy Israelite is sleeping through faith! Jonah’s the one with all the right theology, but they’re the ones who pray first, and then get to work. Can you imagine that? They’re the ones who are at least trying to practice religion, while Jonah sleeps.

Gandhi in the Boat
Unfortunately, it’s not too difficult to imagine. Gandhi was a famous leader of the struggle for independence and justice in India, using peaceful means. Gandhi studied and put into practice the teachings of Jesus in this movement in which he found himself to be a leader, but he never became a “Christian.” From time to time, people – especially missionaries – would ask him about this. They’d say, “We see you studying the Bible and following the teachings of Christ, yet you don’t want to become a Christian. Why do you reject Christ?”

And Gandhi would reply, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. . . If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today,” he said.

One day in Gandhi’s younger years, you see, he was thinking of becoming a “Christian” because he was moved by the story of Jesus, and he decided to go to church on Sunday. He happened to be in South Africa, and he went to a church there, and he was met at the door, and one of the members asked him, “Where do you think you’re going?” And Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” And the elder hissed at him, “There’s no room for [your kind] in this church. Get out of here.”

Gandhi, you see, didn’t have the right color of skin to worship there, and he was never again interested in the church or becoming Christian. The church knew the teachings of Jesus. They knew the gospels. No doubt. How sadly ironic that Gandhi, a non-“Christian,” who didn’t know terribly much about “Christian” faith, was the one who was interested in following Christ’s teachings, while the “Christians” we folding their arms and shutting their doors.

Sailors Respond to Yahweh
Jonah was the Hebrew. He was the one who knew all about God, but he left the pagan sailors to do the praying. He left them to deal with his God. They held a lottery to see who was responsible, and guess who won! They wake Jonah up and urge him to pray to his God, but there’s no way Jonah’s talking to God again. No way.

“Who are you anyway?” The sailors ask urgently. “What is your religion? Where are you from?”

“I am a Hebrew,” Jonah says. “I worship Yahweh, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” See? Jonah knows. He knows he can’t run from God – God is God of heaven and the sea and the dry land. He knows. But no way is he going to pray.

“Fine, then, what do we have to do to get the sea to quiet down?” “Cast me overboard.”

Well, with most folks, that would have been it. He would have splashing at sea in no time, but not these sailors. These sailors don’t know anything about Jonah, except that the storm’s his fault, but they still don’t want to abandon him at sea. These sailors are different. They don’t want to compromise their morals. They start rowing for land, but the storm just gets mightier and mightier. Worse and worse.

And you know who prays to God now? Not Jonah, but the sailors. Granted it’s a “Lord, forgive us for what we are about to do” sort of prayer, but it’s a prayer. How about that? A bunch of pagan sailors, who hardly know a thing about God, start praying to God, while the prophet of the one true God just sits there. So, they finally cast this runaway prophet to the waves, and the storm stops, and they start to worship God.

I don’t want to believe it! A Hebrew prophet cast to the waves for not acknowledging God or responding to God’s call, while a bunch of theologically ignorant sailors are worshiping the one true God.

Sure, they don’t know much of anything about God. They don’t know about Abraham and Sarah, or Jacob’s family, or the Exodus, or the kings or prophets, or the Law or how to worship. But these religiously ignorant sailors, they’re the ones who actually respond to God – the whole time, while Jonah just sits there, while the storm rages, while Jonah more or less sleeps in the belly of the ship.

Jonah sleeps through faith
And you know what Jonah’s problem is? You know why he’s asleep in the hold of the boat? You know why he’s running from God and finally cast overboard? Well, it isn’t because he’s got the wrong theology – no way. His theology is as good, Hebrew, orthodox as it gets.

That man, that prophet Jonah, he had all the right answers about God. Why I bet he could quote just about anything from the Scriptures by memory. I bet he could could have been a star on the theological lecture circuit, with brilliant articles published in Christianity Today and The Journal of Theological Studies.

No, theology wasn’t his problem. He had all the right answers about God. That wasn’t his problem. His problem was that all he had was the right answers. You know one of the reasons why he fled (and this is a spoiler alert)? It’s because he knew, he knew that God is gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing. And he wanted no part of that for those wicked, awful, violent Ninevites. He knew all that, and that’s why he fled and got caught in the storm. He knew.

Jonah knew that God created the heavens and the earth and the sea — he had that right, but he still tried to flee God and ignore God’s will. He knew that it was the one true God who had authority over the seas, but he wasn’t about to pray. No sir, he’d rather go overboard than talk to God, not after what happened the last time he’d talked to God.

But even then, even then, he knew if he’d be off the boat, the storm would relent and everyone would be saved. He knew that too. He was right.

Now he could have walked right off that boat, and it would have been done. But he wouldn’t even do that himself. He knew, but he wouldn’t do anything about it. The sailors, the foreigners, the pagans with their mistaken understandings of deity had to do it — they had to cast him overboard, and they did it.

Jonah knew. He knew. Jonah had all the right theology, all the right answers, even to calm the storm. The prophet Jonah, unlike so many of us, even had the added advantage of knowing precisely what God’s will was for him. Some of us go a lifetime trying to figure out the specifics of God’s calling for us; not Jonah. He knew exactly what God wanted him to do. He knew.

Jonah had the knowledge, all the right theology. That wasn’t his problem. His problem was that’s all he had. He didn’t have the faith to go with it. He didn’t have the faithful obedience to follow through. He didn’t put what was up here – all that knowledge – into action.

Is knowledge all we have?
If you look at our office at home, you’ll see book after book after book lined up along the bookshelf — troves of knowledge and theological insight and doctrinal arguments and ethics commentary and biblical commentary and pastoral theology and worship theology on those bookshelves.

And boy, do we love our books. Some people have a weakness for cars or electronics or food; we have a weakness for books, and now you can get ’em on your computer, which makes it even worse. But guess what, those books and all the knowledge, they aren’t worth a thing if I’m not following Jesus in life.

Why, that’s just as tragically ridiculous as trying to run away from God! Hiding behind knowledge, that’s like sleeping through life! That’s like sleeping through faith! Jonah, the great theologian, sleeping through faith in the boat.

You know who were the folks who were widely considered to be the best theologians in the 1800s and 1900s? You know where you’d go learn theology, and people would say, “Ah, now that, that is a fine place to study.” You’d go to Goettingen. You’d go to Muenster. You’d go to Bonn or Tuebingen or Berlin. You’d go to Germany.

German theologians produced troves and troves of brilliant theological insight that continues to be a great gift to the world.

But the great and ironic tragedy is that, with a few very important and heroic exceptions, the church had entered Jonah’s deep and indifferent sleep during the great storm of the 1930s and 1940s, during the Holocaust. The church, I believe, in its heart of hearts, knew the will of God, but fled from it. Knowledge wasn’t the problem.

There was plenty of knowledge, but that’s all there was. Where was the costly discipleship (to paraphrase one German theologian who did have more than just knowledge)?

And it’s not just German churches in the ’30s and ’40s. History is tragically full of Jonahs, who have all the right knowledge, but that’s all they have. How many “good Christian people” have taken up arms and killed other “good Christian people”?

How many Sunday School-attending, Bible-quoting Christians have forced natives off their land and enslaved other races? Worship attendance isn’t the problem. Studying the Bible isn’t the problem. That isn’t the problem. They have all that, but it seems that’s all they have.

This isn’t a new story. Jesus was familiar with it too, and he warned all of us would-be Jonahs who hide behind the right words and the right theology, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Lots of people have the right words. It’s easy to learn to say, “Lord, Lord.” It’s not really that difficult to get a handle on theology. Jonah had all the right words but that’s all he had. He wasn’t about to do do the will of God. He knew God’s will, and he was fleeing from it.

He tried escaping by running. He tried escaping by sailing. He tried escaping by sleeping. He even tried escaping by being cast overboard!

It’s almost as if Jonah would rather die than follow God! He’d rather be in the deep, cold sea than anywhere near Nineveh, where God wanted him!

Now, you know, I doubt if Jonah really thought he’d die, just like I think he knew that he couldn’t escape God. Jonah was a good theologian. He knew that, and I think he knew that God wouldn’t let him off the hook even if he were cast into the sea. No way as God through with Jonah yet. Jonah had a job to do, and you better believe God was gonna see to it that it was done.

Now, this is one of those stories that reminds us of God’s sense of humor. You know, God could have appointed a raft to come by, or at least a life preserver. Instead, God appointed a great fish. Now you could translate that “ordained.” I like that. God ordained a great fish to swallow Jonah up, and that’s where we’ll leave him until next Sunday.

Knowing and following Jesus
What about us this Sunday, though? We live in a time when Christians are better-educated than any other period in history, with the possible exception of those who knew Jesus personally. We have the scriptures, and unlike most Christians throughout history, most of us own at least one personal copy of the Bible, and most of us can read it and study it for ourselves.

We have tremendous knowledge, and we’ve learned so much about the Bible that to our Western minds, sometimes it seems like we know more even than the authors themselves knew (and maybe we do)! But how odd is it that more ink has been spilled over theological arguments about whether Jonah is a parable or a historical account or a satire or an allegory, or whatever, instead of focusing our energies on trying to live obedient lives before God; pointing theological/ideological fingers at each other instead of encouraging and helping one another to joyfully say “yes” to God’s call. The same could be said of a whole host of issues. Jonah’s problem wasn’t biblical interpretation. It was saying “yes” to God’s call. It’s just so much easier to debate theology than it is to follow Christ. That’s the problem.

Look, knowledge isn’t the problem. Knowledge is good. Knowledge is important. Sunday School is vital to keeping up our spiritual vitality. We need to be constant learners and seekers. We need knowledge. But if that’s all we have, then we’re going to find ourselves lost at sea. Maybe that’s a little bit of what James meant when he wrote to the early church, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

Jonah had the knowledge. He knew all about God. He even knew exactly what God wanted him to do, but his faith was dead. He was sleeping right through it. Most of us are kind of like the sailors. We don’t have the benefit of that special knowledge of exactly where to go and what to do. Most of us don’t wake up in the morning and hear God say to us, “Okay, today I want you to go to such and such a place and say such and such a thing.” It would be nice if that would happen, but it doesn’t all that often.

But friends, we have something Jonah didn’t have. We have the words of Jesus. We have his call, “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17, etc.). We have his commission. We have the sermon on the mount and the sermon on the plain and the parables and the stories of Jesus. Jonah had a commission from God. We have a commission from Jesus. It might not be as specific as Jonah’s, but we have our standing calling, as it were.

There are lots of commissions in the gospels. “Love one another” (John 15:12, etc.). “Heal the sick. Proclaim the kingdom” (Luke 9:2, etc.). “Take up your cross” (Mark 8:34, etc.). A whole lot of instructions in the Sermon on the Mount. We have a commission, a calling. We have what God wants us to do not just today, but every day.

We heard another part of that commission this morning already: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:29-20).

We’re supposed to be making followers – not just expert theologians, but followers. We’re not just supposed to learn about God, but learn to obey our Lord’s command. That’s what we’re supposed to learn and to teach.

As we grow in knowledge, may we learn and teach others to respond to and to obey the word of the Lord, who says to each of us, “Come and follow me.” Let’s follow joyfully along. It’ll be worth the effort. I guarantee it. Thanks be to God.

1 See Eugene Lowry, “One Whale of a Chance” (, 1.
2 Paraphrased from the telling in Lowry, 4.
3 Lowry, 4.

Categories: Essays Tags:

Ethical discernment in full-color

October 1st, 2010 No comments

A recent posting at Sojourner’s about an email exchange between Jim Brenneman and Shane Claiborne got me thinking again about Goshen College’s decision regarding the playing of the national anthem. I’ve been following the Goshen College national anthem decision and the surrounding debate (also here)for a while with a moderate level of interest, especially since Goshen is one of the colleges affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Yet I’ve only been on Goshen’s campus a couple of times, so I lack both the emotional commitment to the institution and the nuanced wisdom and insight of the Goshen community.

Some Mennonite colleges play the anthem; some don’t, though I think it’s a fair statement that the peace witness of all the colleges has a rich tradition that continues to express itself in beautiful ways. Because I seek to worship God alone, I always felt a little awkward when my own alma mater, Bethel College, played the anthem at sporting events (though having it accompanied by a prayer for peace made it more comfortable – Goshen will be doing the this, I understand).

As a pastor, it continues to be a struggle for me when I go to community sporting events as an obvious representative of my congregation and faith tradition. Is it idolatrous to stand and remove my hat for the anthem when I don’t necessarily do so for prayer? Is it a participation in the religion of nationalism? Is it worshiping the idol of the nation or the flag? Is it unfaithful to my calling as a witness to the Gospel of the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ to stand for the triumphalism of the Lord Caesar (cf. Rev. 13)? The Bible is, after all, unmistakable on the point: for followers of Christ, any action that worships (bows down to/pledges allegiance to/puts faith in) anything or anyone other than the one God is blasphemous and idolatrous (to state it strongly!).

Or, on the other hand, would sitting for the anthem unintentionally communicate the unjustified, uninformed, and sinfully arrogant message, “I think you’re just plain wrong, your actions are sinful, America is bad, and I don’t want a relationship with you”? Is standing for the anthem a faithful act of hospitality as a witness to the Gospel? Is it even an act of peacemaking that says, “I don’t agree with you, but I will honor and respect your convictions”? The Bible is, after all, unmistakable on the point: as followers of Christ, we are ambassadors of Christ’s reconciliation; anything less is blasphemous to the cross (to state it strongly!).

But I don’t think we’re caught between two perhaps-over-stated blasphemies (that of worshiping the Beast vs. that of proclaiming the cross apart from the reconciliation it has effected). Nor is it a question of choosing between two modes of faithfulness (worship vs. reconciliation). The real question is: is either action (standing or not standing) really a witness to the Gospel if it goes unexplained? Perhaps I should wear a T-Shirt with Mt. 5:39, Acts 10:36, Rom. 12:20, 1 Cor. 1:25, Eph. 2:14-17, Eph. 6:15, Phil. 3:20, Col. 1:20, Heb. 7:2, James 3:18, 1 Peter 3:8-16, Rev. 13:9-10, or some other such verse on it, so people could ask me about it. Then maybe it would be a witness.

This is part of the difficulty of doing ethical discernment. What is black and white on the basic convictions or principles level (God is love, Jesus made peace in the cross, we are to entice others into God’s kingdom, Jesus taught and embodied peace and reconciliation, our citizenship is in heaven, only God is worthy of our worship, Jesus is Lord – not Caesar, etc., etc.), becomes brilliantly colorful on the immediate judgment or rules level (anthem or no anthem, stand or don’t stand). Unlike the black-and-white discernment at the foundational levels, reasoning on the particular/contextual level becomes more nuanced, and we may become tempted to forsake certain basic convictions for others.

A similar example: right now, our national assembly (Mennonite Church USA) is deciding whether or not to host a convention in Phoenix, given the recent passing of SB 1070. Many members of our churches are immigrants, and many are “undocumented.” All of us espouse the same basic convictions and principles of extending hospitality, seeking racial justice and healing, affirming the church’s prophetic voice, etc., but there is significant disagreement when it comes to the particular implementation of those convictions and principles when making this particular decision. Do we go and witness? Do we go out of solidarity? Do we go elsewhere in witness and solidarity? The basic convictions are clean-cut and clear; the particularities are more nuanced.

When we make the anthem issue or the convention issue to be black-and-white, we may indeed have given much thought to basic convictions and principles, but we have not paused to enjoy the beautiful colors of the nuance of the particular, immediate context. When we do engage these particularities, and Jim and Shane have modeled, that is where true witness happens. Basic convictions and principles are vitally important, but if we never account for the intersection of those convictions with particular contexts, we are left as mere self-righteous protesters. However, when that intersection does happen, we become, as Shane Claiborne puts it, “protestifiers” to the Gospel.

Christians – liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between and beyond – tend to be people who look at our basic convictions and say “no” a lot. We’re known all too well for what we’re against. We Mennonites in the U.S. have been pretty good with our self-righteous “no’s” – no to war, no to the death penalty, no to flags, no to anthems, no to alcohol and tobacco, no to infant baptism, no to. . . [fill in the blank here]. The inherent self-righteousness isn’t enticing. In my own community, we Mennonites are often looked down upon as disrespectful of the nation or military, or self-righteous, or just clueless.

While the “no” – the mere declaration that an alternative reality is both desirable and justified – is good news to some extent, its message is lost to vagary and cynicism without a clear “yes” to go along with it. Certainly in some cases “yes” requires an accompanying “no,” but “no” alone is hardly good news. But there’s lots of good news in saying “yes” to God’s kingdom, “yes” to the hope for peace that we have in Jesus Christ, “yes” to pledging our allegiance (worship) to our Creator! When our basic convictions start intersecting with our contexts, we become witnesses to the Gospel. Our struggles with the national anthem or the flag or the pledge of allegiance or the military-industrial complex don’t become confined to exclusivist self-righteous pietistic expression, but rather flourish as proclamations of the enticing Good News, the alternative reign of God.

After all, it’s good news that Jesus has broken down the dividing walls between us and has made peace possible, and has even revealed the way – what tremendous hope! It’s exciting that we have a standing invitation to God’s kingdom – good news, considering the brokenness of earthly empires and their emperors! It’s good news that we’re citizens of heaven, a union spanning the borders of culture, geography, politics, and even time! It’s good news that we worship God alone, that our worship liberates us from the chains of oppression, hatred, Sin, violence, and death, and that God draws us into the divine mission and purposes for setting the world to rights! This is a much different witness than the protest of “no.” I wonder how my community would respond – they’d probably still think us a little clueless (1 Cor. 1:18ff), but it doesn’t carry the baggage of self-righteousness or disrespect; to the contrary, it leaves room for affirmation of nation and respect and honor of the conviction and courage of those with whom we may disagree.

Jim and Shane published their email conversation as a witness to the ways the Spirit empowers us to agree and disagree in love. I’ll leave you with some excerpts from Jim and Shane’s conversation.

. . . People have grown so tired of militarism, and are sensing the myopia of nationalism, and are questioning the patterns of the American dream (at least according to Wall Street). The Anabaptist witness and tradition is uniquely poised to bear witness in powerful and relevant way, and has a credibility that many of us evangelical types long for. . .

Perhaps there is a way to be creative in all of this, to make sure folks see a unique witness — of creating a new song or pledge that says, “We love the people of the U.S.A., but our love does not stop at any border… our Bible does not say God so loves America, but God so loves the world.” Even having flags from Iraq or Afghanistan next to the U.S. flag raises these healthy tensions. I love your desire to move beyond “no” — the time for yes is indeed here, a time of moving beyond protest to protestifying… committing not to tear down without building up something better. For too long, we Christians have been known more by what we are against than by what we are for. I want you to know I am continuing to pray for you. . .

Greetings in Christ. As I have engaged with persons about our recent decision regarding the national anthem, I have been thinking a lot about your words and carrying them with me. . .

I couldn’t agree with you more that the moment is ripe — perhaps, especially so among young Evangelicals — to hear a strong Christian (Mennonite) voice calling into question unbridled militarism, materialism, and nationalism. My hope is to continue to keep Goshen College in the center of that conversation, alongside you and many others. There is much work to do in that arena — with this country involved in two wars and the national debate continually more uncivil — and we can’t do it alone.

I am also committed as president of Goshen College to an honest evaluation of who our neighbors are, which I believe is also an outgrowth of our Christ-centered core values of compassionate peacemaking, global citizenship, servant leadership, and passionate learning. . . In an odd way, Goshen College has been quite receptive to “Samaritans” far away, while tending to remain more distant to those right next door and down the street whose religious and political perspectives significantly differ from those more readily found here on campus. I believe Jesus invites us to live in the particularity of our “neighborhoods” — as you in The Simple Way community have done so admirably in a different way — even to the point of accommodation to some degree if it opens doors to common ground and true community, rather than closes them prematurely.

The playing of the anthem is a gesture of welcome to our immediate neighbors. . . many of whom are new immigrants who see the anthem as affirming of their hard won citizenship or other long-time citizens of our community who have no difficulty sequencing their loyalty to God over their loyalty to the nation. We make this gesture — incomplete and insufficient on its own — as a largely (Mennonite) Christian community that is saturated. . . with explicit core values and years of ardent peacemaking commitments. . . such that any student who comes to this college will have no difficulty understanding our greater allegiances and divinely peculiar practices as Anabaptist/Mennonite followers of Jesus.

I suppose the question that is always before us — whether we are a Mennonite campus wanting to be seekers sensitive to U.S. patriots or a mega-church wanting to be seekers sensitive to un-churched non-believers — in this: How do we remain unapologetically uncompromising in our convictions, while allowing others who may not share those convictions to feel included and welcome. . .

This is a timely conversation. The Mennonite witness of simplicity and non-violence is increasingly relevant and fascinating to our world that has felt the emptiness of materialism, come to question the unsustainable patterns of “progress”, and has grown tired of militarism and war. What strikes me is that this intrigue is coming at the very time when many traditional Anabaptists are questioning their “relevancy” and their cultural engagement. . . [beginning] to make steps to rethink or even compromise some of their rigorous convictions at the very moment when folks are beginning to listen and to pay attention to those convictions.

We must ask, could this national anthem riddled not be an obstacle to Christ rather than an invitation towards Christ? The god of the national anthem may be the god that we called upon when we took this land from natives and developed it with kidnapped Africans, but it is not the God I know or that I see in Jesus.

It strikes me as such a contrast to the beautiful words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount commending us to love our enemies, the beatitudes blessing the peacemakers and the meek and the merciful, the prayer of our Lord teaching us to forgive as we want to be forgiven, and the fruits of the Spirit that include things like gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

I would dare say that we even struggle with some forms of arrested development because of this [legacy of separation of church and state], having never developed an Anabaptist articulation of positive civic engagement. For some Mennonites, the practice of playing the anthem even in this narrowly proscribed way, has offered a liberation of sorts. For still other Mennonite believers, playing the anthem has never been an issue. So there you have it: peace-loving Mennonites are not completely united on this practice either.

I’m sometimes baffled, but increasingly gratified, by how inclusive God’s embrace of others can be who disagree with what I believe to be Christ’s take on peace. For a pacifist like me, the account of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10 is amazing. The author Luke could easily have let slide the fact that Cornelius was a Centurion in the Imperial Roman empire. . . He didn’t. Ironically, we have used this story as an interpretative lens for almost every other effort to expand the Christian church to include other groups or people shut out. And yet, we seem to overlook the fact that the central character in the story being filled by God’s Spirit was a Roman military person in one of the most oppressive occupying forces in Judea’s history. Unbelievable! And yet that’s what happened. So, I’m simply inviting us, perhaps, especially Mennonites, to come to terms with this text in welcoming others, trusting our core values to help transform them and us by studying, learning, and being together.

I can say with confidence that there is no way an attendee at one of our games could confuse the way we have implemented this practice with the way the national anthem is played in some other settings. In contrast to fighter jets flying over and military bands playing, we first share words about the college’s core values and commitments to diversity and hospitality, a beautiful instrumental version of the song is then played. . . and then the powerful Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is read. I believe this provides just the kind of neighborly witness GC can give without compromising our deepest values of being compassionate peacemakers. . .

I share your desire for the church to be socially and politically engaged, not simply withdraw into our own little world. . . I also know that the real question we have to ask is not “are we political” but “how are we political”… and Christians at their best have always been peculiar in how we engage the world, nations, politics, and powers of the empires around us. We don’t settle for political camps, but transcend them as Christ did. . .

I think the terrible shortcoming of patriotism is that we begin to think that our nation’s people or our family’s lives are more valuable than the lives of folks somewhere else. . . We protect our family or our nation with an idolatrous fervor (I once heard someone say an idol is something you would kill for and sacrifice your children for… which I would say is precisely the language of nationalism and the nature of flags). I would also suggest this is exactly what Jesus is hinting at when he tells the disciples they must forsake (even hate) their own family in order to be his disciple. We must have a love that is far bigger than the myopic love of biology, tribe, ethnicity, or nation. Moreover, when we mesh God and country we face the grave danger of taking Gods name in vain as we print it on money. . . and what becomes at stake is not just the reputation of America, but the reputation of Jesus and the gospel. . .

Who woulda thunk of an instrumental version of the national anthem followed up by the prayer of St. Francis!!! Hahahaha. It does seem to have a certain “peculiar” charm about it. It is a peculiar way of doing a sports event. It has the dazzle of the “third way” of Jesus that carves out a new path amid poles. The national anthem seems like a funny opening band but I think it may work, brother. . .

It also seems clear that the primary work of Goshen (and of all Christians) is to woo people to God and God’s kingdom. That does not happen through force, but through fascination. It happens as we get outside of ourselves, stop preaching to the choir… and allow the distinctiveness and peculiarity of the Christian logic and witness to interact with the world around us. I pray that your decision(s) there at Goshen do just that… invite new people into a relationship with God and God’s Kingdom. . .

Not only is it an important conversation, but I feel like what has been just as important as what we have talked about is HOW we have talked about it. Our ability to have civil discourse, even amid disagreeing, is a healthy witness to folks who may listen in at some point. . . It seems that healthy dialogues like this one are in danger of extinction.

I’m writing to you on the eve of 9/11. . . What a tragedy. Can Christ really break down the walls that led to such evil? Can Christ break down walls that separate a Muslim from a Christian? One Christian particularity from another? A Democrat from a Republican? Can Christ break down the walls that separate us by racial, ethnic and cultural prejudices? Can Christ break down walls of separation between people from different social classes and philosophical persuasions as well? Can Christ break down walls that divide an anthem-singing citizen from a citizen who does not? If we cannot learn to agree and disagree in love, especially on what seems to be lesser matters of distinction, then what hope is there for true reconciliation to happen, ever? That’s why I find this exchange so heartening because it is a sign, a foretaste, that the answer to all the looming questions above is a resounding, “Yes! And Amen!”

Shane, I have truly appreciated this opportunity to dialog with you these past months by letter. I look forward to those opportunities we will again have to sit across the table face to face, breaking bread, drinking the fruit of the vine, sometimes agreeing and other times disagreeing, but always doing so under the Lordship and loveship of Christ.

Categories: Essays, Theology Tags: , ,

Nonresistance? Nonviolence? Pacifism? Another Look at Matthew 5:39

July 7th, 2010 No comments

This post is part of the “Gospel of Peace” series. The series grows out of conversations and concerns of congregation and community members. It is not a comprehensive statement on peace, but rather and occasional engagement with peace in light of Jesus Christ. The series is outlined below. Feel free to suggest additional topics. I suspect that each installment will evolve as the project rolls along, so readers may want to check back for updates to each essay. Thank you for your interest, and may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ abound in your life and witness!


  1. Peace Conversations
  2. Vocabulary: Nonresistance? Nonviolence? Pacifism? Another Look at Matthew 5:39
  3. Peace and Eschatology

  4. Peace and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
  5. Peace and the Coming Fullness of God’s Reign.
  6. What about. . .

  7. The Old Testament: A journey of Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics)
  8. The New Testament: The Lordship of Christ in conversation with “difficult” NT texts
  9. If someone threatened your family: The “what would you do?” question
  10. Hitler: The problem of structural/institutional evil
  11. Living the Call

  12. Just Peace Initiatives
  13. Peace and Witness/Evangelism
  14. Peace and the Redeemed Community: A Theology of the Church through a Peace Lens

Nonresistance? Nonviolence? Pacifism? Another Look at Matthew 5:39

The vocabulary we use to talk about peace is important and often leads to confusion. When speaking of a “Peace Church,” the very use of the qualifier “peace” at least implies some sort of deviation from the norm of “church” – that peace is a distinctive of a certain tradition but not necessarily intrinsic to “church.” Similarly, to speak of a “nonresistant Christian” at least implies that being nonresistant is a particular minority flavor of being Christian – that nonresistance is an optional add-on to the core of Christian faith. Indeed, previous confessional language speaking of “Anabaptist distinctives” has perpetuated these notions of optionality over centrality (a distinctive is something optional). Future essays will address such issues. For now, I’d like to focus specifically on more particular peace vocabulary: nonresistance, pacifism, and nonviolence, and certain liabilities inherent to each.

I recently had a conversation with someone who had attended two Mennonite colleges. One he characterized as advocating nonresistance (which he could tolerate); the other pacifism (which embodied everything wrong with the college in question). To him, nonresistance indicated a biblical opposition to war, while pacifism meant a humanistic opposition to war. While I believe the distinction between the two colleges on the matter is doubtful, the distinction of vocabulary follows traditional Mennonite thought of the past several decades.


In the pre-English days, Anabaptists would often speak of Gewaltlosigkeit, meaning abstaining from violence or force. In Anabaptist usage, it came to indicate a refusal of violence and rejection of military service.1 Vocabulary of nonresistance was used in the early 1800s by some abolitionists. Apparently, the contradiction in terms was not an issue,2 or resistance was clearly understood to mean violent resistance. Mennonites in the U.S. began using the term at least as early as the Civil War. In Mennonite writing and theology, the term indicated a refusal of military service, violence, or force to further personal or social ends.

Nonresistance comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. . .” (Matthew 5:39). Did Jesus mean we are to be completely passive, not resisting evil? Are Christians supposed to be doormats to the evil charging through our world? Judging by his numerous confrontations with the devil, demons, corrupt authorities, and the evil of the human heart, Jesus must have had something else in mind. Jesus himself frequently resisted both evil and evildoers. Mennonite have long recognized this, speaking of how we can resist (nonresistantly!) – by loving the enemy, etc. (Mt. 5:44; Romans 12:14-21), as opposed to carnal warfare or similar means. The term nonresistance thus either communicates, at least implicitly, an acquiescence to evil, or a severe contradiction in terms (resisting nonresistantly). Neither is desirable!

Objection can also come from the appropriateness of the translation of Matthew 5:39. The phrase in question is antistēnai tō ponērō, literally “to resist the evil (one).” First, antistēnai, alternately translated “retaliate,” is generally used as a military term.3 Meaning literally “stand against,” in common usage it comes to mean “to draw up battle ranks against the enemy.”4 Furthermore, tō ponērō in Greek grammar, can be translated as a dative instrumental: “by evil means.”5 Hence, “Do not resist by evil means” is a perfectly legitimate literal translation. Considering the semantic field of antistēnai, we are left with “Do not retaliate or resist violently, by evil means,” together with connotations of rebellion and insurrection (two historical realities of Jesus’ time).

And what might those retaliative, violent evil means be? Perhaps we need look no further than the immediate context of the lex talionis: repaying “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.”6 The examples that follow (the cheek, the cloak, the second mile, giving) describe situations where retaliation would be a common response. If a bully hits you, you hit him back, after all. If you don’t, you’ll come across weak, and he’ll think he can get a way with it – and more.

Often this is how “turning the other cheek” is viewed: let the bully (personal or social) pummel you until he tires of it (nonresistance in the full sense of the word). However, there are ways of reading the text wherein the action functions redemptively, rather than acquiescently. Walter Wink’s historical reading has gained significant support and has broken into the popular setting. According to Wink, a backhand slap to the right cheek was a sign of domination. To turn the left cheek was to say, “If you are going to strike me, strike me as an equal.”7 Similarly, one could offer a garment as collateral against a loan.8 People were often forced into these loans by unjust economic conditions. To give up both coat and cloak was to become completely naked, which in Jewish piety brought shame not on the naked person but on all who looked on him. Finally, Roman soldiers were permitted to force locals to carry their packs for one mile; no more. To go the second mile was to make the Roman soldier liable for breaking the law.9 The idea, of course, isn’t that these are supposed to be timeless rules, but rather creative examples of peaceful resistance. As we will see in a later article, such creative response invites the transformation of the Spirit and can even lead to reconciliation. Of course, it is not guaranteed to “work” every time (neither is a violent response).

For some, Wink’s interpretation comes too close to violating the principle of enemy-love. They prefer to read Matthew 5:38-42 more along the lines of Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is right in the sight of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. By doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

These actions become acts of prophetic judgment, exhortation, or proclamation of God’s sovereignty through enemy-love, “heaping coals of fire on their heads.” The function, however, remains similar to Wink’s interpretation: opening the door to transformation and reconciliation. Even in this interpretation it is still resistance: overcoming evil with good.

Is the use of non-lethal force ever an appropriate expression of enemy-love? Most agree that the use of force is acceptable in some situations (to protect our enemies from their own violence, necessary restraint, etc.). The question is where the line is drawn. We need vocabulary that allows us to ask this important question. Nonresistance limits the discussion significantly.

Finally, using the term nonresistance defines discipleship in terms of what we do not do. Peace in biblical terms is much broader than something we do not do. For all of these reasons, I find nonresistance to be an insufficient term for the Christian call to peacemaking and enemy-love.


The term pacifism comes from the Latin for peacemaking and is derived from Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers. . .” As such, its meaning in the Christian context is close to nonresistance. This is generally a good term for describing the Christian life of peacemaking, with noteworthy liabilities: First, pacifism is often confused with passivism – that is, doing nothing about evil in the world. As discussed above, this misses the point of Christian peacemaking and resistance to evil (Mt. 5:9, 39).

Second, Christian pacifism often becomes conflated with secular forms of pacifism. Secular forms of pacifism tend to see peace as an end in itself, fail to take seriously the reality of the power of Sin, are anthropocentric/humanistic, and tend to rely too heavily on the state to create and enforce peace.10 My conversation partner mentioned at the beginning of this essay was really not objecting to Christian pacifism, as much as its conflation with secular pacifism.


Nonviolence is a similar term to nonresistance, though it captures some of the essence of Matthew 5:39 in a more satisfactory way (see above). The main problem with this term is that, like nonresistance, it describes what one does not do.11 Stanley Hauerwas’s observation here is salient:

. . . pacifists cannot let their understanding of Christian nonviolence be determined by what we are against. . . The very phrase “Christian nonviolence” cannot help but suggest that peace is “not violence.” Yet a peace that is no more than “not violence” surely cannot be the peace that is ours in Christ.12

Additionally, nonviolence or derivative forms like nonviolent resistance describe reactive action, rather than the gospel call to proactive peacemaking. Nonviolence also carries some of the secular association common to pacifism.


When I hear the terms nonresistance, pacifism, or nonviolence used, I generally assume they mean mostly the same thing. Though I’m not terribly fond of any of the terms, I usually favor pacifism, then nonviolence, and then nonresistance. I generally prefer to speak of the “peace position,” or even better, of peace, peacemaking, or peace witness. These terms help to move away from rigid doctrinalism and into the the lived experience of faith and calling to discipleship. It is one thing to be intellectually opposed to war (which doesn’t necessarily require any action); it is quite another to be an active witness to peace with one’s life, making peace at home, at church, at work, at school, and with enemies across the seas. May the dawn from on high break upon us to guide our feet into the ways of peace.


1 Guy F. Hershberger, Ernst Crous and John R. Burkholder, “Nonresistance,” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, The following also comes from GAMEO.
2 Abolitionism is necessarily a resistance to something; hence the contradiction with nonresistance.
3 E.g. Ephesians 6:13, also major military use in Josephesus and Philo.
4 Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, 185.
5 Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, 138.
6 It is interesting that Jesus truncated the “life for life” clause. Of course, he also leaves off other things like hands and feet. See Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:19-21, Deuteronomy 19:21. My guess is that Jesus was quoting a common shorthand summary of the lex talionis.
7 Turning the left cheek requires a forehand offense used between equals. The left hand was considered unclean and would not have been used (Wink, 176).
8 See, for example, Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13; Ezekiel 18:5-9; Amos 2:7-8.
9 Wink, 176-182.
10 Though he did not distinguish between Christian pacifism and secular pacifism, these objections come from Guy F. Hershberger, “Pacifism,” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, His objections come from a conflation of the two. Hershberger held a very nonpolitical portrait of Jesus – a perspective which has since faded.
11 Willard M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace, 6.
12 Quoted in Swartley, 6.