Friday, March 21, 2008

The Cross and Non-Violence

The popularity of Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ in Christian circles is symptomatic of a widespread misunderstanding about the meaning of atonement. It was never the violence perpetuated upon Jesus that had any redemptive value. We need to remember that Jesus' sacrifice begins with the way that he lived his life and is not just about the way he died.

An over-emphasis on the violence which Jesus suffered means that we can miss the essential point about non-violence which Jesus both taught and lived right up to his death. His advice to 'turn the other cheek' when we are struck is a radical call to stand up to violence without being caught up in retaliation. In the scene of Jesus' arrest in Gethsemane, all of the gospels record an attempt to defend Jesus through violence which initially results in the High Priest's slave losing an ear. Jesus quickly puts a stop to this and in Luke's gospel even heals the ear. Violence can never be a part of Christianity.

Non-violence is not the same as passivity. It does not mean that we accept cruelty and opression but it does mean that we refuse to respond in the same manner and thereby become what we hate in others. Non-violence calls us to be creative in our resistance - knowing that our hope lies in the resurrection which awaits us.

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