With regard to violence the New Testament bears a powerful witness that is both univocal and pervasive for it is integrally related to the heart of the kerygma and to God’s fundamental purpose…None of the New Testament witness makes any sense unless the nonviolent, enemy-loving community is to be vindicated by the resurrection of the dead. Death [by violence] does not have the final word. In the resurrection of Jesus the power of God has triumphed over the power of violence and pre-figures the resurrection of all creation. The Church lives in the present time as a sign of the new order God has promised. All the New Testament text dealing with violence must therefore be read in this resurrection perspective.

Paul’s counsel that we should bless our persecutors, eschew vengeance, and give food and drink to our enemies makes sense if and only if it really is true that “night is far gone, the day is near” (Rom. 13:12)—the day when all creation will be set free from bondage (Rom. 8:18-25). To put this in theological shorthand, the New Testament’s ethical teaching must always be situated within the context of this hope. If we fail to read the New Testament texts on violence through the lens of this post-resurrection new creation, we will fall into one of two opposing errors: either we will fall into a foolish utopianism that expects an evil world to receive our nice gestures with friendly smiles, or we will despair of the possibility of living under the “unrealistic” standards exemplified by Jesus. But if we do read the texts through the lens of the new creation, we will see that the Church is called to stand as God’s sign of promise in a dark world. Once we see that, our way, however difficult, will be clear. “The King of kings, the Lord of lords is the Lamb who was slain.” The power of violence is the illusionary power of the Beast, which is unmasked by Jesus’ cross and resurrection and by the faithful testimony of the saints. 

-Richard B Hayes, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Again, therefore the words of Jesus, e.g., ‘Love your enemies,” “Turn the other cheek,” “Put up your sword” (disarmament) etc., cannot be accurately interpreted and put into practice separated from His person—in this instance, His crucified and risen person.

About Author