Imagine you are an alien. You have been sent to Earth to survey the human race and to report on all its dealings.
Now imagine trying to explain human war. It might go something like this:
“Every now and again, certain humans decide that other humans no longer have the right to go on living. When asked why, humans use words like “security” and “defense,” “liberation” and “God,” “freedom” and “protection.”
“But all the words are odd; none seem to explain what is really happening.
“Very quickly, a group of humans create the artificial environment needed to kill other humans with efficiency. They use instruments with no other purpose but to kill living things. Little pieces of metal are projected through the air at extremely high velocities. They strike other humans, ripping with ease and precision through flesh and bone.
“Other larger instruments travel through the air, or in the water, dropping or launching large projectiles that explode massively, incinerating all living things in their blast radius.
“Eventually, when one group of humans has killed enough of the other group, all the madness ceases. The group that loses gives up some piece of land reluctantly.
“This is human war.”
War is an ugly manifestation of human violence-the ugliest. Surveying violence from an outsider’s perspective gives chilling clarity to the subject. It is truly mad.
Just because there is war in the Bible does not mean God likes it or wants us to go about using violence to accomplish our ends.
One might say, “But God told his people at various points to engage in war and even genocide in the Old Testament.” True. God instructed the Israelites to use violence as a means to an end. But what about today?
Let’s get something straight: I don’t care what Augustine said, or George Bush for that matter. No nation today is “God’s nation,” and God no longer uses nations and war to accomplish his purpose.
Why? The answer is Jesus.
God chose the Israelites to bring about eternal redemption from things like violence and war, not to give us an excuse to embrace them. I believe that Jesus’ life and words call us, explicitly, to a life of nonviolence.
Jesus lived under a brutal Roman dictatorship. There were thousands of rambunctious Jewish zealots ready to take up arms, embrace violence and “free” the Jews from Roman oppression.
Jesus could have done this, but he chose not to. He knew that freedom through violence was no freedom worth having.
Jesus taught freedom through love. He taught nonviolence. “Love your enemy,” he said.
Earlier I asked you to imagine you were an alien. Well, you are–at least if you claim to be a follower of Jesus. You are an alien on a violence-crazed planet, called to love radically.
Martin Luther King’s suggestion still resonates today, simple but profound:
“Don’t know ’bout you, I aint gonna study war…no more.”