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Passive Pacifism or Creative Non-Violence ?

By Rodney Curpanen
Translation Louise Thunin
Was Jesus violent ? Yes, according to certain critics. Jesus whipped the merchants at the temple, brought a sword to Earth, created division in families. Even though he said, « Love your enemies », he was aggressive towards the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus did not accomplish Isaiah 53.
If we look more closely at different Gosepl texts, we see no mention of people being whipped. Overturning the tables was a symbol of overturning the system of exploitation and injustice. Was Jesus violent or do we project our violence onto him ? Don’t we have a tendency to to read Jesus and his message through our own view of the world ?
Let’s reflect on the words « God’s anger,» absent from many ancient versions but introduced to support our efforts to evangelize others and our missionary theology.
Romans 5 : 9 reads, Since therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. » The expressison « wrath of God, added by translators, is not in the original Greek.
In Romans 12 : 19, « Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… » (« of God » was added on by translators).
The two hundred last years of evangelization, sometimes aggressive, in order to reach « the pagans » have forced translations into evangelical molds, such as « Repent ! You are a sinner, on the way to hell, God’s wrath awaits you. »
Let us look at Matthew 22, 1-12. A king is celebrating his son’s marriage. The guests refuse to attend and kill the messsengers. The king burns down their city. The second group of guests responds to the invitation. One of the guests doesn’t have the appropriate outfit and therefore is thrown out.
Traditional sermons and commentaries interpret the king as God, the son as Jesus. The one who hasn’t the proper clothing is I, who reject Jesus and his salvation. The parable depicts a violent God who burns cities, kills their inhabitants and punishes guests who don’t have the correct wedding apparel. Such an interpretation calls on our translations and our interpretations.
There may be another approach to this text. Here is my version from verse 2 in the original Greek : « The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man, a king, who has organized his son’s wedding. » In other parables, Jesus says, « The kingdom of God is like… » In this one, we read, « has been compared to. » Who has done the comparing ?
Take note of the double identification « a king » or «a man, a king ». Why emphasize the fact that the king is a man ? Perhaps because this man is not God the Father. For those who were listening to Jesus, this king resembled Herod. They remembered Herod’s cruelty, his invitations to gain favor with the Jews. The kingdom of the Father cannot be like this empire, even with feasts and invitations to dine and enjoy oneself freely.
Traditionally, the guest without the proper clothing is I, is you. My suggestion is that it is Jesus himself. It’s he who entered our world but refused the evil empire. Like Isaiah, he kept silent in the face of accusations. He was chased away and and crucified. His resurrection overturns our violent sacrifices. The victim of our realm of violence resisted and won.
When Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to pray for one’s enemy he was proposing creative non-violence, giving the other person an opportunity to revise his attitude and acts.
Throughout the ages, certain people have chosen non-violent responses to the violence exercised on them. Think of the Cherokees and the their forced walk along the Way of Tears ; the Resistance of the white rose, the salt march of the Mahatma ; Montgomery’s boycott, Tienanmen ; the orange Revolution. In such situations, the partisans of non-violent solutions arose, let their voices be heard in many cases, and transformed their part of the world—inspired by the Spirit of the Risen One and his creative non-violence.

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a été pasteur à Amsterdam et en Région parisienne. Il s’est toujours intéressé à la présence de l’Évangile aux marges de l’Église. Il anime depuis 17 ans le site Internet Protestants dans la ville.

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