4.3 The rejection of violence in the New Testament
Every day we witness behavior characterized by conflict and violence. Man is constantly trying to dominate and impose his ideas, or change situations using force, disregarding any concept of freedom.
In the teachings of Christ in the New Testament we find the rejection of
any form of violence. Two incidents from Jesus’ life reveal in practice his
attitude toward violence; an attitude that contrasts with violent behavior
suggested even by his own Disciples.
So, we read in the Gospel according to Luke:
A. Shortly before the passion of Christ
51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village. (Lk. 9:51-56, NRSV)
B. During the arrest of Jesus
47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Lk. 22:47-51, NRSV)
1. In the above biblical texts, find the words and actions of the Disciples which show violent behavior, and then find the response of Jesus.
2. Jesus advises us to avoid responding to violence with violence. Is this suggestion helpful for breaking the vicious circle of violence? Justify your
Let us remember again the words of Jesus that we heard in the video: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” These words urge us to stop the vicious circle of enforcement and retaliation. But this attitude raises the question which is often expressed: Does the rejection of violence lead us to passivity and submission to the evil that happens around us?
The following text gives us the answer to the above question:
We need to be aware that this attitude (the rejection of violence) does not mean
passivity* and fatalism*. On the contrary, it is an active attitude; it is a choice
and an action. The witness [the Christian] does not legitimize evil. He clashes
with it and refuses to obey those who serve it. Christ himself, during his trial
by the high priest, asked the guard who had hit him to explain the reason: “If I
have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do
you strike me?” (John 18:23). In fact, at some point before his arrest, when he
saw that the temple precinct had been turned into a trading post, he made a
rough whip out of ropes, pulled people and animals out, threw down the money
and turned over the benches. “Take these things out of here! Stop making my
Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:16). It is noteworthy that even at this
particular moment, Christ did not hit people.
(Ath. N. Papathanasiou – M. Koukounaras-Liagkis Topics of Christian Ethics, Athens: Educational Policy Institute, 2020 p.83)
Based on the text, formulate your conclusions in your own words.