Tuesday, December 08, 2015
After a terrorist attack, or a mass shooting, people often ask “How could Christian non-violence have stopped that?”
What they mean is: “I’d like to see your strategy for handling a guy with a rifle shooting into the crowd”, and to be fair they have a very good point. Christian Non-Violence isn’t strong enough to stop a guy with a high-powered rifle who is in the act of mass murder. But, honestly, it’s not designed to do that.
Christian Non-Violence, which I prefer to call “Proactive Love” or “Preemptive Agape”, is designed to transform people – like this person with the high-powered rifle – into a person who also loves everyone [even his enemies].
In other words, the way we stop mass murderers with guns is we show them the love of Christ before they pick up their weapons and we wait for the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts from the inside out.
That’s how Christian Non-Violence [or “Proactive Love”] stops mass killers - It changes them on the inside before they become mass killers.
So, it’s not true that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” There’s another way. You can stop the bad guy with a gun by transforming his heart with the Gospel of Christ.
The real problem, as I see it, is that so many Christians either disagree with this idea – and some of them disagree violently – or they essentially deny that this is possible, or practical.
Typically, Christians who are pro-violence will usually adopt a “Yeah, but” posture where they say, “Yes, yes, we can preach the Gospel to people. Sure. But at the same time we need to carry a loaded weapon so we can kill them if/when they start trying to kill us.”
This is not Christ-like. It’s also not what any follower of Jesus would have ever said or done prior to the Third Century after Christ formed the Church.
What we see throughout early Christian history [up until the time of Constantine] is a uniform agreement among believers that following Jesus meant love for enemies in the face of certain death.
Those earliest disciples of Jesus went rejoicing to their deaths, singing praises to God and celebrating the honor of sharing in the sufferings of Christ as they prayed for the forgiveness of those who were killing them.
I’ve posted a lot here on my blog about what those early Christians had to say when it comes to violence, carrying weapons, or serving in the military or government. You can read some of that HERE and HERE.
The bottom line is this: Jesus was very clear about the fact that he wanted his disciples to be known for their love. He wanted that love to start with one another and spiral outward to include the outcast, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee, and yes, even our enemies. These verses from the lips of Jesus are not difficult to parse. He could not be clearer than he was on the Sermon on the Mount, and he ended his message about love by saying, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, lord’ and do not do what I say?”
Is Jesus really your Lord? Prove it by putting his commands into practice.
Do you love Jesus? Make it clear by obeying what He told you to do.
Will it be inconvenient? Yes.
Will it be challenging? You bet.
Will it be impossible apart from abiding totally in Christ? Absolutely.
Following Jesus will get you in trouble. It may even get you killed. This is why Jesus declared that no one could start following Him without first laying down their life, denying themselves, and taking up their own cross.
The plan is simple: Jesus wants to change the world with love. We are His ambassadors. He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He has called us to be peacemakers. He has commanded us to be known for our love – even love that extends to the enemy who may be holding a high-powered rifle.
If we are successful, no one will want to pick up a weapon to kill anyone else because Jesus will have transformed their hearts. If we fail, we might be “counted as sheep to be slaughtered.” [See Romans 8:36]
Regardless of the outcome, nothing can stop us. Nothing can stop the advance of Christ’s Kingdom. When we are weak, He is strong.
"Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness." - James 3:18
“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” – Revelation 11:15
We have to abandon the myth that if we could just kill enough people we could make the world a better place. We have to admit that killing to protect others is in the same category as “Loving those who love you in return.”
Jesus calls us to something greater; something audacious and extraordinary. He calls us to love dangerously. To lay down our lives so that others may have the opportunity to know the transformative love of Christ that has turned us inside out and made us brand new.
The way we prevent evil is to pour out the unmerited love of Christ upon everyone we meet.
This mission is not for the faint of heart. We must count the cost. We must decide in advance that our lives are already lost for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom.
Are you ready to change the world?