Opinion is sharply divided among some believers on whether Jesus consistently promoted acceptance, peace, and love toward others or whether he sometimes demonstrated judgment, threats, and violence.
This leads some to consistently support peace, love, and compassion while others accept the validity of our judging others, using violence, and being revengeful. Some believers are very inclusive while others are very ‘us against our enemies–whoever they might be.
Both groups point to Jesus as their guide.
I think this is an extremely important issue, and I readily admit that I embrace nonviolence and loving all others with empathy, compassion, and care. But in this series I will try to be objective as we examine passages used to portray Jesus as judgmental, threatening, and violent.
Keep me honest, please.
Jesus as Consistently Accepting and Nonviolent
Those who believe Jesus opposes judgment and violence embrace a number of passages in which Jesus demonstrates non-judgmental acceptance, compassion, and non-violence in both his teaching and example.
They emphasize Jesus’ statements that we ‘love our neighbor’, forgive others, and his specifically nonviolent instructions on how believers are to interact with oppressors. They call Jesus’ own example into play as he associates with ‘sinners and tax collectors’ and shows compassion for marginalized people—including adulterers and prostitutes—who do not live up to the holiness standards of the religious leaders of the day.
Jesus as Judgmental, Threatening, and Sometimes Violent
Those who see Jesus having a judgmental and threatening side point to his threats of hell and destruction. In terms of violence they refer to his clearing the temple of merchants and their animal stock and money tables.
They remind us that Jesus says he brings not peace but a sword, that he said on the eve of his arrest that two swords were enough for his little group, and that he also said his followers should sell their coats and buy swords. Does he not seem to be a leader prepared for his followers to do battle?
These believers contend that we must sometimes use violence for the cause of Jesus.
What is Your Opinion?
Which of these perspectives do you think is correct? Or are they somehow compatible with each other? If they are compatible, then how so?
In this series we will examine gospel texts to discover whether Jesus was judgmental, threatening, or violent. I am sure we have readers who represent both perspectives, so feel free to describe your thoughts in comments below. There may also be those who want to be sure we consider particular passages in the coming posts. I would really like for you to include those passages in comments as well; by doing so you will help shape the series.
If you have friends who have opinions either way, you may share this post with them so they can get involved if they wish.
Next time we begin with the first gospel passage—Jesus clearing the temple. I hope to see you there!