The story that has developed over centuries among Christians, particularly in the West, is a strange and violent twist on the gospel, which literally means “good news.” This modern gospel is that God is willing to save some people and abandon the rest. And since we are all sinful, depraved, and prone to violence anyway, God is just in his violent retribution because he is holy and righteous. Those whom he saves, he saves through the violent act of the murder of his Son on the cross, to satisfy his own wrath toward sinful human beings. Those who believe this message are saved by grace through faith. And those who don’t believe are violently cast into a lake of fire to consciously experience torment forever with no further opportunity to repent and believe. We might want to ask: is Jesus nonviolent?
So… much… violence. And then there is Jesus. Who seems to be so… nonviolent.
Is Jesus Nonviolent?
Other than flipping over the tables in the Temple, which had become a place of oppression and marginalization of the poor, we don’t see Jesus doing anything violent in the scriptures at all. He teaches and heals. He helps and serves. He washes feet.
He tells his disciples to love and to pray for their enemies, not just their friends. Jesus tells stories that involve Samaritans helping victims of random violence. He invites Simon the Zealot, a violent terrorist of sorts, to learn about a different kind of revolution.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Peter lops an ear off a soldier, Jesus tells him to put away his sword. Then he surrenders to the Temple police. When the Roman soldiers whip him, then pin him to a cross and begin to swing their hammers, driving nails through his wrists and feet, Jesus prays that God would forgive them because they are acting rather violently, but in ignorance concerning what is really going on.