nonviolently resisting God (part 2)

Continuing an essay I'm working on...

Violence was of no use to Jesus. He did not want to coerce people into obeying his teaching; he did not want to force their submission. His teaching and example show us he did not want us to be cowed into subservience to any human being. “You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Jesus called us to serve and obey God. And the service he called us to was voluntary service, our obedience given freely, in love. This free giving of ourselves was what Jesus came to inspire, so violence and coercion had no value for him. And these should also have no value for Jesus' followers. If our purpose is the same as Jesus' purpose, then we also should not try to force the obedience of others, even to make them do good. Even to make them stop doing evil. Jesus challenged and rebuked, offered God's promises and God's warnings, and set the example himself of the good that we are all called to do. But when people refused to hear and follow him, Jesus did not try to force them to do right. He chose to accept suffering because of their bad choices rather than force good ones. In this also Jesus acted to inspire love in them, hoping they could see by the pain they caused that they were wrong, that he had been telling them the truth all along. Violence cannot accomplish this. It can inspire fear or force obedience, but it cannot inspire love.

Many have recognized the limitations of what violence can accomplish, and the methods of nonviolent resistance offer an alternative. But is it the alternative that Jesus offered? The destructiveness of violence, that turns hearts bitter and creates violent enemies, is avoided. A significant good. But nonviolent resistance has achieved its successes through the effective use of other forms of coercive force. Boycotts and strikes apply economic force. Public protests and the use of mass media apply political force, by turning public opinion against the wrongdoer. Combined with appeals to legislators, and the passage of new laws, the power of government is used to bring about change for the better. Violence is avoided. And results are still achieved, in some cases even more effectively than by the use of physical force. Yet this is not quite the inspiration to love that Jesus demonstrated. Force is still applied, nonviolent force, political or economic force that everyone must respect, whether or not they care anything about doing good, or loving God. The usefulness of this nonviolent force is recognized by activists of all kinds. But Jesus' purpose of inspiring love, inspiring a freely given obedience to God—no matter what the cost—is not so widely respected. Jesus' method of accepting suffering rather than forcing people to do right is not nearly so effective. It has been known to often lead to the cross.

Jesus apparently didn't feel he had to control what happens in the world. Good or evil. When a woman was brought to him, accused of adultery and in danger of being stoned, he did not physically intervene. He challenged those who were threatening her, speaking a word to humble them and turn away their wrath, but he did not prevent them from executing her. Jesus rebuked Peter when he struck a man with a sword, but Jesus did not prevent him from doing it. Neither did he prevent his cousin John's imprisonment or execution. As he did not prevent his own execution. Jesus worked always to inspire goodness and love, but it had to be freely given. What happened in the world was not his to control. Jesus trusted his Father to take care of that.