By Jon Kauffman
Ephesians 6 discusses spiritual warfare. In the spiritual war we Christians are called to fight, our spiritual battles make the physical warfare of World War II and the Cold War look like insignificant skirmishes.
Jesus used nonviolent warfare to defeat sin, disease and death on the cross. He asks us to take up our cross and follow him.
How did Jesus fight? Jesus used spiritual warfare.
Yes, Jesus fought spiritual warfare by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God. But Jesus also taught that through spiritual warfare we fight earthly violence and injustice through nonviolence by turning the other check.
Ron Sider has shown that nonviolent action can defeat great armies, brutal dictators, and unjust governments. His book is “Nonviolent Action, What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried” By Ronald J. Sider, Brazo Books, 2015
Jesus witnessed nonviolent action defeating evil. Shortly before his ministry began Jesus saw Jews defeating Pilate nonviolently. Jesus certainly heard of this incident. It is possible that he witnessed the incident or perhaps he also participated.
Dr. Sider says, “In AD 26, Pontius Pilate, the new Roman governor of Judea, outraged the Jews by bringing into Jerusalem military standards emblazoned with the emperor’s image. Since the military standards with Caesar’s image violated Jewish teaching, the religious leaders begged Pilate to remove the ensigns from the holy city. What happened is best told by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus:
‘Hastening after Pilate to Caesarea, the Jews implored him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to uphold the laws of their ancestors. When Pilate refused, they fell prostrate around his house and for five whole days and nights in the great stadium, and summoning the multitude, with apparent intention of answering them, gave the arranged signal to his armed soldiers to surround the Jews. Finding themselves in a ring of troops, three deep, the Jews were struck dumb at this unexpected sight. Pilate after threatening to cut them down, if they refused to admit Caesar’s images, signaled to the soldiers to draw their swords. Thereupon the Jews, as by concerted action, flung themselves in a body on the ground, extended their necks, and exclaimed that they were ready rather to die than to transgress the law. Overcome with astonishment at such intense religious zeal, Pilate gave orders for the immediate removal of the standards from Jerusalem.’” Sider, Page 4.
Examples of Nonviolent Action
Ron Sider gives example after example of nonviolence resistance defeating evil and tyranny.
One of the earliest examples of nonviolent resistance occurred in Egypt 3000 years ago. When pharaoh demanded the death of all baby boys, the midwives refused to follow orders.
According to Edward Gibbon, Pope Leo the 1st confronted and defeated Attila the Hun. Leo the Great was involved in successful nonviolent negotiations with Attila the Hun.
Before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means.
In 1861, after a successful nonviolent campaign of Hungarian citizens against Austria, the London Times said, “Passive resistance can be so organized as to become more troublesome than armed rebellion.”
Leaders of nonviolent resistance include America’s Martin Luther King, Jr, India’s Mahatma Gandhi, Poland’s Lech Walesa, Philippines’ Cory Aquino, and Brazil’s Colonel Candido Rondon.
Professor Sider reviews the nonviolent revolution in India the changed the attitude of the people of India and 16 years later lead to the end of British rule in India.
“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Sider discusses how Martin Luther King fought racism and bigotry to fight segregation, Jim Crow and injustice against the black community in America.
Many wanted to rebel violently but King continually preached nonviolence. When discussing the oppressed use of violence King said, ”The shores of History are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that chose violence.”
During World War II Norway, Sweden and Denmark used nonviolent resistance against Hitler.
Nonviolence toppled two dictators in Central America in 1944.
Mahatma Gandhi used nonviolence resistance over 15 years to give independence to India from Great Britain.
Witness for Peace Teams (WFP) accompanied poor Nicaraguans and reported torture and atrocities committed by the Contras in 1985. WFP volunteers worked attempting to bring about a peaceful resolution between Contras and Sandinistas and to stop the flow of arms to the country. WFP volunteers stayed in villages where the Contras were using American weopons to attack and torture citizens. The Contras would not attack when Americans were present for fear of losing the supply of weapons from the United States. When the Contras changed their strategy and began murdering farmers living in the countryside, WFP volunteers visited the sites, documented the violence, and sent reports to the American media.
Dr. Sider discusses many cases of nonviolent resistance by the citizens of Eastern Europe; Poland and East Germany, that helped bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union.
In Liberia the women of the country used nonviolent resistance to bring about the fall of a brutal dictator and bring an end to years of fighting.
Even Muslims know true followers of Jesus fight nonviolently. Christian nonviolent protesters fought side by side with Muslim nonviolent protesters in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
“The Muslim Brotherhood’s well-disciplined members and organizational structure helped to sustain the revolution. The most inspiring show of cooperation and national solidarity occurred between Christians and Muslims, who often have clashed in lethal violence. When security forces attacked Muslims with water cannons during prayer, Christians encircled them to protect them. An imam is reported as saying, ‘Look around you; do you see it is the Christians who are protecting us: Do you know why they do this? They are following the teaching of Jesus. It is because they have Jesus in their hearts.’ Muslims also protected Christians as they celebrated Mass in the square.” Sider, Page 137.
Fighting non-violently is not for fools or cowards. It can be very dangerous and many have died through non-violent resistance.
Several colleges are teaching tactics to win nonviolent battles. This education needs to greatly increase.
Several organizations are sending out volunteers to fight nonviolently today.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently sending teams to Columbia accompanying farmers and miners caught in the crossfire of decades of war.
In Iraqi Kurdistan CPT is partnering with mountain village and shepherd communities that peacefully resist displacement and destruction caused by cross-border military operations.
CPT volunteers are supporting Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it. Documenting human rights violations in occupied Palestine. Partnering with local Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers and educating the international community to help create a space for justice and peace.
Peace Brigades International is currently maintaining a presence of volunteers in Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia and Nepal.
Witness for Peace (WFP) works primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean countries with a mission to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.
Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) is a Muslim organized using Christian Peacemaker Teams as an example. They work especially in Iraq and seek to demonstrate nonviolence in practice by doing such things as physically interposing themselves between warring parties, but also by acting as intermediates and negotiators.
What if thousands nonviolent Christian volunteers showed up whenever violence and injustice take place? What if 10,000,000 Christian volunteers were willing to go anywhere in the world and fight as Jesus fights? Anyone can use nonviolence to fight injustice. 10 year old children and 90 year old men can participate.
These peacemaking organisations are looking for volunteers to participate in peacemaking activities.
Christians, Muslims and Hindus can all work together to bring about peace and justice nonviolently.
Why would Christians use Violence?
Why would any Christian fight in a US military that killed 1.2 million innocent Japanese in World War II and used drones to kill children in Pakistan during the war on terror? Especially when nonviolent battle to bring about peace and justice is much more effective and much less expensive in life and coin?
Why would Christians use the world’s violent ways when Jesus taught a way of peace and nonviolence?
Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:25 and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.
Purchase Ron Sider’s Book, “Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried.
See reasons that others have given to support violence by Christians: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate
Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.