SO, DOES JESUS SOMETIMES WANT CHRISTIANS TO KILL THEIR ENEMIES?

That is the basic question I seek to answer carefully in my new book, If  Jesus is Lord: Loving Our Enemies in an Age of  Violence just published by Baker. In two earlier blogs, I gave some background to this book. Here I outline my key arguments.

To understand Jesus’ call to love our enemies, I explain the historical setting and Jesus’ gospel. In Jesus’ day, the Jews were eagerly expecting a Davidic Messiah who would lead in the military overthrow of the Roman imperialists. Josephus ( the Jewish historian of this period)  describes many violent Jewish rebels (some making messianic claims) against Rome at this time. Jesus said he was the expected messiah. But he clearly rejected the widespread expectation of a militaristic messiah.

Jesus’ defined his gospel as the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus said the messianic time was now breaking into history. And Jesus’ gospel had two parts: dramatic forgiveness of sins and a new socio-economic order where   Jesus and his disciples began to live the way Jesus taught.

 The Sermon on the Mount is the largest block of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. There, Jesus fulfills the law in part by clearly setting aside some parts of the Old Testament. The Old Testament clearly commanded the people of Israel to take oaths, but Jesus commanded his followers not to do that at all. Jesus rejected the central principle of Old Testament jurisprudence (an eye for an eye) and called on his disciples to turn the other cheek and love their enemies.

The rest of the New Testament fits with this understanding of Jesus. Romans 12: 14- 21 seems to echo Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The word peace appears at least 99 times in the New Testament.

I devote two chapters to the way Just War Christians challenge pacifists (They  are wimps who fail to defend their neighbors and prefer tyranny to justice). And the way pacifists challenge Just War Christians (Can you love your enemies and kill them? Can you invite them to accept Christ while you are killing them?)

In a theological chapter, I argue that my conclusions only make sense if two core beliefs of  historic Christianity are true: Jesus is not just a great prophet but true God as well as true man; and Jesus rose bodily from the dead on the third day proving that the violent acts of evil persons is not the final word in history. God raised Jesus from the dead, thus reversing the evil actions at the crucifixion. And  God will do the same for Jesus’ followers who die loving their enemies. 

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf says of my new book: “’Jesus intended that his followers should never kill anyone.’  After you read If Jesus Is Lord, you will be able to reject this claim as untenable in the real world, but you will not be able to dispute it. A compelling and challenging volume. “

I invite you to read the book and decide for yourself.

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