Monday, July 20, 2009

JESUS: The Prince of Peace (3 of 4)

The behavior of the first and second century church is relevant because it shows us how the early Christians consistently carried out the practice of radical love and non-violent resistance to persecution and evil in their day. The practice of loving, non-violent behavior originated with Christ and continued under the Apostles. It endured for over 200 years as a defining mark of Christian faith and practice.

Non-violence wasn't an "error" that showed up after the new testament was written. It was not a new teaching that was introduced after the Apostolic Age. No, it was simply a continuation of practice from the founder of the movement. One of the premier characteristics of the church, which was founded on the teaching and example of Jesus, was love. And that love was expressed in humility and peaceful interaction with all men.

Jesus is our blueprint for life in the Kingdom of God. The early Christians understood this. They knew that they were held to a higher standard of love than anyone else on the planet. When Stephen is stoned to death for his faith in Christ, he doesn’t defend himself or retaliate, or even run away. Instead he stands his ground and forgives his killers, even as Jesus did, before giving up his life for Christ.

The New Testament is full of references, both from Jesus and from the Apostles, regarding the expectation of non-violence in response to persecution. Furthermore, we also know that hundreds of followers of Jesus also went to their deaths for their faith and they did not raise a hand in self-defense. They either ran away or they submitted to torture, crucifixion and death. Why? Because of the example of Jesus and out of obedience to His command to love our enemies and endure hardship and persecution.

For anyone serious about following Jesus and learning to be His disciple, non-violence is a critical element of obedience. Jesus set us an example and he expects us to follow it.

The Christian practice of radical non-violence flowed from the example of Jesus and his commands to his disciples regarding love for our enemies. This example and teaching was carried forward by the Apostles and it was further embodied by the early church for over 200 years.

As Shane Claiborne once remarked when asked if he was a Christian: “Go and ask my enemies, or the poor, or my neighbor and if they say I am a Christian then I suppose I’m a Christian.”

Could our enemies affirm that we are followers of Christ? Would the poor in your community testify to your faith in Jesus? Would your neighbors on your street, or your co-workers bear witness to your Christ-like attitude?

What we do matters. How we live is critical. We are the Ambassadors of the Risen Lord. We are the Body of Christ, Incarnate on this Earth.

Let love be our tattoo.


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