Jesus and non-violence

Vision refreshedThere is a cost to being opposed to violence. The cross stands out as the ultimate price of non-violence. Jesus allowed men of violence to nail him to that cross and apparently triumph over him. But the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the ultimate triumph of love over violence.

Violence is the actions of men or women against other men and women, involving physical or psychological force, in an attempt to gain power over other people.

  • In children it results in bullying
  • In evil men it results in criminality
  • In despots it results in oppression
  • In nations it results in war.

Violence in the Bible

God revealed himself gradually to mankind throughout the Old Testament. In a violent age, God often seemed to be a violent God as he instructed the Israelites to defeat their enemies. This has caused many people to doubt the goodness of God, and has produced Christians who still, today, want to achieve their aims through the use of force.

But towards the end, in the era of the prophets, God was revealed as a God who did not use violence to achieve his aims.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. (Isaiah 60:18 NIV)

Throughout the Old Testament we see only glimpses of what God is really like. It is only with the coming of Jesus, that we get to learn what God is really like.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:8-10 NIV)

Jesus and non-violence

Jesus did not say a lot about non-violence but he certainly taught us by example. The best teaching come from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:38-45 NIV)

Teaching through example

The ideas of “turning the other cheek” and “loving your enemies” are extremely radical, difficult and often the subject of ridicule. Jesus could be accused of hypocrisy, if these concepts were not proved by his life. Throughout his life he refused to gain power over people by using violence. This non-violent approach really reached all limits at the end of his earthly ministry.

When he was subjected to scorn by the roman soldiers, was beaten and thorns were pressed into his head, he did nothing to defend himself, though he had the power to respond to violence with violence. When nails were hammered into his hands and his feet, he did not object, though he could have done so. When he was taunted with “Come down from the cross and save yourself!”, he could have called an army of angels to defeat the Romans and the Jewish authorities, but he willingly gave up his own life in the ultimate act of faith.


But Jesus had a much better way of defeating violence and the world’s way of doing things. Two or three days later he defeated death (the ultimate violence) and came alive again! Death was defeated and along with death, violence was overthrown and shown to be a powerless and futile attempt at using force to dominate man-kind. Love had won; peace had won and meeting violence with meekness had won.

It is not easy for us to “turn the other cheek” and to love those who treat us as enemies, but the hope of resurrection makes it all possible. We are challenged by those who are murdered by ISIS and others. But just as we hear stories of martyrs and their families forgiving those who abuse them, so we too must be ready to love and forgive those who kill our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the end, wars will cease, using violence as a way of power will be shown to be useless. In the end LOVE WINS!

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

5 thoughts on “Jesus and non-violence”

  1. Old Testament, God of Wrath, God of Violence, genocide not only condoned, but demanded, kill every man woman and child.

    It is a myth that Jesus was non-violent, or that Gandhi was non-violent.

    Jesus used violence to drive the money changers out of the Temple, he kicked over the tables, whipped the money changers.

    Gandhi was in favour of peaceful, non-violent direct action, but he did not rule out the use of violence.

    The problem with violence is that violence begets violence, revenge leads to revenge.

    An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

    We regard this as very bad, justice should not be meted out in this way.

    But we have to see it at the time, it was actually an improvement on what had gone before, to exact no more than had been done to thee.

    Similar taking the wives of the defeated enemy. Had they not been taken, the alternative would be to starve to death or be sold into slavery.


  2. George, great post. On an individual level, we have the power to choose if we should be offended. We should not give that power away. I like the example of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” where he bravely chooses not to react with violence to a man who spit in his face. As for nations and large groups, we have far too many resorting to violence to eliminate others who disagree. Yet, it is the young and disenfranchised who bear the brunt. Thanks, BTG


  3. I thought your first four dot points (on how violence works its way out in us and in society) were very well said. Thanks.


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