Monday, November 21, 2011

Justice and Peace

Matt Hosier provides a thoughtful post on War and Peace, offering this penetrating question: *Does the pacifist emphasis on peace, love and reconciliation lead to a neglecting of the equally biblical emphasis upon justice? *

I'm quite sure that the NT vision of Justice is not justice by any means, and there is such a thing as passive resistance (ala Ghandi and Jesus). In fact, in Matt 5:39 Jesus specifically instructs disciples not to engage in violent resistance by using a technical term ἀντιστῆναι. Josephus uses the word with the sense of “violent struggle” 15 out of 17 times. Thus, what Jesus is saying here is that disciples are not to follow the way of violent resistance [like many Jews of the period. cf. Shammaite Pharisees and other messianic movements who started several revolutions] but rather, to follow his path of creative non-violent resistance. Thus, as Richard Hays notes, *Only when the church renounces the way of violence will people see what the Gospel means, because then they will see the way of Jesus re-enacted in the church.*

The book of Revelation provides the strongest support for this position. Rather than taking up arms and engaging in violence, they overcome the beast by peaceful protest in worshipping the Lamb, and laying down their lives. The eschatological vision of Revelation is that God's future will bring vindication and ultimate justice. So the question becomes not *is there not something rather perverse in the tolerance of a tyranny compared to which resistance may be a lesser evil?* But rather, do we trust God? Do we trust God enough to lay down our lives in peaceful protest, knowing that God's future will bring justice and vengeance for the oppressed? The NT commands us never to “repay evil with evil” but instead to “overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:17; cf. I Thess 5:15; I Pet 3:9).

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