Nonviolence 101 – Concluding Thoughts and Exhortations (part 9)

The following is part of a fairly long series on the theology and practice of nonviolence.  If you would like to read all of the posts, you can do so here.


Convinced of the theology of nonviolence, I have embraced the essence of my Anabaptist roots.  It would be arrogant to assume that my tradition is the only one with a peaceful witness, as it is exciting to see how many Christians of varying denominations are choosing the dusty road of subversive discipleship.  For the person who reads this and is not ready to buy into the argument presented, I have nothing but respect for you.  I do not believe that the Bible sanctions any combination of Christianity and violence, but I also do not stand in judgment over-against those with whom I disagree.  We serve a God who has always accommodated to incarnate his love and care for humanity, even at the expense of allowing us to live with flawed patterns of belief and practice.  This side of the renewal of creation at the return of Christ–when we “will beat… swords into plowshares and… spears into pruning hooks” (Micah 4.3)–may we choose to love each other in spite of our disagreements.

Finally, I want to give a last word to those of you who have read this exposition of nonviolent resistance and are convinced of the biblical teaching.  The journey ahead will be a difficult one.  Choosing to be an advocate of nonviolence is not popular in our American Christian culture as the two myths are still alive in the consciousness of the majority of believers.  The temptation for you is going to be to judge and condemn rather than to love and accept.  My prayer is that the teaching of nonviolence will penetrate deep within our hearts, causing all forms of condemnation to fade.  Not only so, but I hope that the church of Jesus Christ in the United States and beyond, will begin to break free from the captivity of our lack of imagination.  As the world around us witnesses grass-roots-Jesus-followers seeking to make peace in our communities and world, my dream is that many will be drawn toward Jesus.  May we become a signpost of hope for our world that a day is coming when all violence will cease (Rev. 21-22), a day when heaven will beautifully collide into earth, and the peaceful kingdom of God will emerge for all eternity.

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  • A wonderful conclusion to an exemplary series.

  • Shirley Cunningham

    Beautifully said… I will read all the posts soon.

  • Enjoyed the series, Kurt.

    I would challenge you and your readers to think about how Christians who've been convicted by Jesus' nonviolent teachings, appropriately bear witness to that larger portion of Christendom who has not yet received that message. While we need to bear witness to the nonviolent truth of Jesus, I believe we American Christians should also call those in our fellowships who aren't at that point, to at least hold their government to their own standard. That is, if you claim to hold to Augustine's "just war" criteria, then seriously, and critically, hold our wars to those criteria. If you're being objective, they don't fare too well…

    Beyond that, and this is a subject that gets far less attention, I think we need to engage with those who sanction Christians serving in the military, on the issue of personal accountability for our actions and their consequences, even if ordered by a "superior". I addressed this subject in my own series on war & peace a couple of years ago, and for those who want more detail I suggest this post as a starting point. As I said then: I propose that no Christian has the freedom–ever–to yield to another person the right to determine that an otherwise-sinful action is, after all, moral. We are accountable for our own actions, and Romans 13 does not give us a pass when the state commands otherwise.

  • I too look forward to the day when we only have plowshares and pruning hooks. Amen.

    Good work, Kurt.

  • Two easy to find resources that may be of interest on this subject: The classic by C. John Cadoux, The Early Christian Attitude to War is free, here online:

    [That was the first book that John Howard Yoder recommended to me.]

    And now available in Nook and Kindle, Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way,

    Note no Kindle or Nook is required:  you can download and read on PC with free app. but you can read my own story there on amazon with their “Look Inside” feature.

  • Lhelmuth

    Great stuff. I am a bit less ‘kind’ / accepting of just war embracers, although most Christians who go to are clueless of the just war ‘theory.’  I see that Christians who participate in the military, although  sincere, the participation in warfare diverts from the true message and testimony of Jesus, and is a gross affront to the great commission, for one cannot love and evangelize, and at the same time destroy those to whom the great commission is directed. The issue is not a benign one.