Jesus’ 3rd Way by Walter Wink

I have been thinking about the governmental responses in the Middle East which tend to increase not decrease the level of violence. I have also been thinking more about the self-sacrificing love of Jesus response. I was reminded of this article by Walter Wink. Let me know what you think.

Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way
by Walter Wink
[Dr Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in
New York City.  Previously, he was a parish minister and taught at Union Theological Seminary
in New York City.  In 1989-1990 he was a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. This essay is posted with Dr Wink’s permission.]  Walter Wink’s web site is:

The new reality Jesus proclaimed was nonviolent.  That much is clear, not just from the Sermon on the Mount, but his entire life and teaching and, above all, the way he faced his death.  His was not merely a tactical or pragmatic nonviolence seized upon because nothing else would have worked against the Roman empire’s near monopoly on violence.  Rather, he saw nonviolence as a direct corollary of the nature of God and of the new reality emerging in the world from God.  In a verse quoted more than any other from the New Testament during the church’s first four centuries, Jesus taught that God loves everyone, and values all, even those who make themselves God’s enemies.  We are therefore to do likewise (Matt. 5:45; cf. Luke 6:35).  The Reign of God, the peaceable Kingdom, is (despite the monarchical terms) an order in which the inequity, violence, and male supremacy characteristic of dominator societies are
superseded.  Thus nonviolence is not just a means to the Kingdom of God; it is a quality of the
Kingdom itself.  Those who live nonviolently are already manifesting the transformed reality of the divine order now, even under the conditions of what I call the Domination System.

The idea of nonviolent resistance was not new.  The Hebrew midwives, the Greek tragedians, and Jainism. Buddhism, Hinduism, Lao-Tzu, and Judaism were all to various degrees conversant with nonviolence as a way of life and, in some cases, even as a tactic of social change.  What was new was the early church’s inference from Jesus’ teaching that nonviolence is the only way, that war itself must be renounced.  The idea of peace and the more general rejection of violence can be found before Christianity and in other cultures, says Peter Brock, but nowhere else do we find practical anti-militarism leading to the refusal of military service.
When, beginning with the emperor Constantine, the Christian church began receiving referential treatment by the empire that it had once so steadfastly opposed, war, which had once seemed so evil, now appeared to many to be a necessity for preserving and propagating the gospel.
Christianity’s weaponless victory over the Roman empire eventuated in the weaponless victory of the empire over the gospel.  No defeat is so well-disguised as victory!  In the year 303, Diocletian forbade any member of the Roman army to be a Christian.  By the year 416, no one could be a member of the Roman army unless he was a Christian.
It fell to Augustine (d. 430) to make the accommodation of Christianity to its new status as a privileged religion in support of the state.  Augustine believed, on the basis of Matt. 5:38-42, that Christians had no right to defend themselves from violence. But he identified a problem which no earlier theologian had faced: what Augustine regarded as the loving obligation to use violence if necessary to defend the innocent against evil.  Drawing on Stoic just war principles, he articulated the position that was to dominate church teaching from that time right up to the present. Ever since, Christians on the left and on the right, in the East and in the West, have found it exceedingly easy to declare as “just” and divinely ordained any wars their governments desired to wage for purely national interests.  As a consequence, the world regards Christians as among the most warlike factions on the face of the earth.  And little wonder; two-thirds of the people killed in the last 500 years died at the hands of fellow-Christians in Europe,  to say nothing of those whom Christians killed in the course of colonizing the rest of the world.
As Gandhi once quipped, “The only people on earth who do not see Christ and His teachings as nonviolent are Christians.”   The time has come to look again to the rock from which we were hewn.  And the key text remains Jesus’ statement about resisting evil.
38You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.   (Matt. 5:38-42 NRSV; see also Luke 6:29-30).
Christians have, on the whole, simply ignored this teaching.  It has seemed impractical, masochistic, suicidal–an invitation to bullies and spouse-batterers to wipe up the floor with their supine Christian victims.  Some who have tried to follow Jesus’ words have understood it to mean non-resistance: let the oppressor perpetrate evil unopposed.  Even scholars have swallowed the eat-humble-pie reading of this text: “It is better to surrender everything and go through life naked than to insist on one’s legal rights,” to cite only one of scores of these commentators from Augustine right up to the present.   Interpreted thus, the passage has become the basis for systematic training in cowardice, as Christians are taught to acquiesce
in evil.
Cowardice is scarcely a term one associates with Jesus.  Either he failed to make himself clear, or we have misunderstood him.  There is plenty of cause to believe the latter.  Jesus is not forbidding self-defense here, only the use of violence.  Nor is he legitimating the abandonment of nonviolence in order to defend the neighbor.  He is rather showing us a way that can be used by individuals or large movements to intervene on behalf of justice for our neighbors–nonviolently.
The classical interpretation of Matt 5:38-42//Luke 6:29-30 suggests two, and only two, possibilities for action in the face of evil: fight or flight. Either we resist evil, or we do not resist it.  Jesus seemingly says that we are not to resist it; so, it would appear, he commands us to be docile, inert, compliant, to abandon all desire for justice, to allow the oppressor to walk all over us.  “Turn the other cheek” is taken to enjoin becoming a doormat for Jesus, to be trampled without protest.  “Give your undergarment as well” has encouraged people to go limp in the face of injustice and hand over the last thing they own.  “Going the second mile” has been turned
into a platitude meaning nothing more than “extend yourself.”  Rather than encourage the oppressed to counteract their oppressors, these revolutionary statements have been transformed into injunctions to collude in one’s own despoiling.
But that interpretation excluded a third alternative: active nonviolent resistance.  The word translated “resist” is itself problematic; what translators have failed to note is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term.  Resistance implies “counteractive aggression,” a response to hostilities initiated by someone else.  Liddell-Scott defines anthistemi as to “set against esp. in battle, withstand.” Ephesians 6:13 is exemplary of its military usage: “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand [antistenai, literally, to draw up battle ranks against the enemy] in the evil day, and having done all, to stand [stenai, literally, to close ranks and continue to fight].”  The term is used in the LXX primarily for armed resistance in military encounters (44 out of 71 times).   Josephus uses anthistemi for violent struggle 15 out of 17 times, Philo 4 out of 10.  Jesus’ answer is set against the backdrop of the burning question of forcible resistance to Rome.  In that context, “resistance” could have only one meaning: lethal violence.
Stasis, the noun form of stenai, means “a stand,” in the military sense of facing off against an enemy.  By extension it came to mean a “party formed for seditious purposes; sedition, revolt.”  The NRSV translates stasis in Mark 15:7 as “insurrection” (so also Luke 23:19, 25), in Acts 19:40 as “rioting,” and in Acts 23:10 as “violent dissension.”
In short, antistenai means more in Matt. 5:39a than simply to “stand against” or “resist.”  It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection.  Jesus is not encouraging submission to evil; that would run counter to everything he did and said.  He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition.  Perhaps most importantly, he cautions us against being made over into the very evil we oppose by adopting its methods and spirit.  He is saying, in effect, Do not mirror evil; do not become the very thing you hate.  The best translation is the Scholars Version: “Don’t react violently against the one who is evil.”
In the three examples that follow in Matthew, Jesus illustrates what he means.
Turn the Other Cheek
“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”  Why the right cheek?  A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent.  An open-handed slap would also strike the left cheek.  To hit the right cheek with a fist would require using the left hand, but in that society the left hand was used only for unclean tasks.  Even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days’ penance.   The only way one could naturally strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand.  We are dealing here with insult, not a fistfight.  The intention is clearly not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place.  One normally did not strike a peer thus, and if one did the fine was exorbitant.  The Mishnaic tractate Baba Qamma specifies the various fines for striking an equal: for slugging with a fist, 4 zuz (a zuz was a day’s wage); for slapping, 200 zuz; but “if [he struck him] with the back of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz.”  But damages for indignity were not paid to slaves who are struck (8:1-7).
A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors.  Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal.  The only normal response would be cowering submission.
Part of the confusion surrounding these sayings arises from the failure to ask who Jesus’ audience was.  In all three of the examples in Matt. 5:39b-41, Jesus’ listeners are not those who strike, initiate lawsuits, or impose forced labor, but their victims (“If anyone strikes you…wants to sue you…forces you to go one mile…”).  There are among his hearers people who were subjected to these very indignities, forced to stifle outrage at their dehumanizing treatment by the hierarchical system of caste and class, race and gender, age and status, and as a result of imperial occupation.
Why then does he counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek?  Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate.  The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, “Try again.  Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect.  I deny you the power to humiliate me.  I am a human being just like you.  Your status does not alter that fact.  You cannot demean me.”
Such a response would create enormous difficulties for the striker.  Purely logistically, how would he hit the other cheek now turned to him?  He cannot backhand it with his right hand (one only need try this to see the problem).   If he hits with a fist, he makes the other his equal, acknowledging him as a peer.  But the point of the back of the hand is to reinforce institutionalized inequality.  Even if the superior orders the person flogged for such “cheeky” behavior (this is certainly no way to avoid conflict!), the point has been irrevocably made.  He has been given notice that this underling is in fact a human being.  In that world of honor and shaming, he has been rendered impotent to instill shame in a subordinate.   He has been stripped of his power to dehumanize the other.  As Gandhi taught, “The first principle of nonviolent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating.”
Give the Undergarment
The second example Jesus gives is set in a court of law.  Someone is being sued for his outer garment.  Who would do that, and under what circumstances? The Hebrew Scriptures provide the clues. When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge.  You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you.  And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge; when the sun goes down, you shall restore to him the pledge that he may sleep in his cloak (himatio) and bless you….You shall not…take a widow’s garment (himation) in pledge.  (Deut. 24:10-13, 17; see also Exod. 22:25-27; Amos 2:7-8; Ezek.18:5-9.) Only the poorest of the poor would have nothing but a garment to give as collateral for a loan.  Jewish law strictly required its return every evening at sunset.
Matthew and Luke disagree whether it is the outer garment (Luke) or the undergarment (Matthew) that is being seized.  But the Jewish practice of giving the outer garment as a pledge (it alone would be useful as a blanket for sleeping) makes it clear that Luke’s order is correct, even though he does not preserve the legal setting.  In all Greek usage, according to Liddell-Scott, himation is “always an outer garment…worn above the chiton,” whereas the chiton is a “garment worn next to the skin.” Consistent with this usage, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) reads himation in the passages just cited.  S. Safrai and M. Stern describe normal Jewish dress: an outer garment or cloak of wool and an undergarment or tunic of linen.   To avoid confusion I will simply refer to the “outer garment” and the “undergarment.”
The situation Jesus speaks to is all too familiar to his hearers: the debtor has sunk ever deeper into poverty, the debt cannot be repaid, and his creditor has summoned him to court (krithenai) to exact repayment by legal means.
Indebtedness was endemic in first century Palestine.  Jesus’ parables are full of debtors struggling to salvage their lives.  Heavy debt was not, however, a natural calamity that had overtaken the incompetent.  It was the direct consequence of Roman imperial policy.  Emperors had taxed the wealthy so stringently to fund their wars that the rich began seeking non?liquid investments to secure their wealth.  Land was best, but it was ancestrally owned and passed down over generations, and no peasant would voluntarily relinquish it.  Exorbitant interest, however, could be used to drive landowners ever deeper into debt.  And debt, coupled with the high taxation required by Herod Antipas to pay Rome tribute, created the economic leverage to pry Galilean peasants loose from their land.  By the time of Jesus we see this process already far advanced: large estates owned by absentee landlords, managed by stewards, and
worked by tenant farmers, day laborers, and slaves.  It is no accident that the first act of the Jewish revolutionaries in 66 C.E. was to burn the Temple treasury, where the record of debts was kept.
It is to this situation that Jesus speaks.  His hearers are the poor (“if any one would sue you”).  They share a rankling hatred for a system that subjects them to humiliation by stripping them of their lands, their goods, finally even their outer garments.
Why then does Jesus counsel them to give over their undergarments as well?  This would mean stripping off all their clothing and marching out of court stark naked!  Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked.  There stands the creditor, covered with shame, the poor debtor’s outer garment in the one hand, his undergarment in the other.  The tables have suddenly been turned on the creditor.  The debtor had no hope of winning the case; the law was entirely in the creditor’s favor.  But the poor man has transcended this attempt to humiliate him.  He has risen above shame.  At the same time he has registered a stunning protest against the system that created his debt.  He has said in effect, “You want my robe?  Here, take everything!  Now you’ve got all I have except my body.  Is that what you’ll take next?”
Nakedness was taboo in Judaism, and shame fell less on the naked party than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness (Gen 9:20-27).   By stripping, the debtor has brought the creditor under the same prohibition that led to the curse of Canaan. And much as Isaiah had “walked naked and barefoot for three years” as a prophetic sign (Isa. 20:1-6), so the debtor parades his nakedness in prophetic protest against a system that has deliberately rendered him destitute.  Imagine him leaving the court, naked: his friends and neighbors, aghast, inquire what happened.  He explains.  They join his growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade.  The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked.  The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution, and abasement.  This unmasking is not simply
punitive, therefore; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his
life, what his practices cause, and to repent.
The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity.  Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning.   By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible.  This message, far from being a counsel to perfection unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed, and it is being lived out all over the world today by powerless people ready to take their history into their own hands.
Jesus provides here a hint of how to take on the entire system by unmasking its essential cruelty and burlesquing its pretensions to justice.  Here is a poor man who will no longer be treated as a sponge to be squeezed dry by the rich.  He accepts the laws as they stand, pushes them to absurdity, and reveals them for what they have become.  He strips naked, walks out before his fellows, and leaves this creditor, and the whole economic edifice which he represents, stark naked.
Go the Second Mile
Jesus’ third example, the one about going the second mile, is drawn from the relatively enlightened practice of limiting the amount of forced or impressed labor (angareia) that Roman soldiers could levy on subject peoples to a single mile.   The term angareia is probably Persian, and became a loan?word in Aramaic, Greek and Latin.  Josephus mentions it in reference to the Seleucid ruler, Demetrius who, in order to enlist Jewish support for his bid to be king, promised, among other things, that “the Jews’ beasts of burden shall not be requisitioned (angareuesthai) for our army” (Ant. 13.52).  We are more familiar with its use in the Passion Narrative, where the soldiers “compel” (angareuousin) Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21//Matt. 27:32). Such forced service was a constant feature in Palestine from Persian to late Roman times, and whoever was found on the street could be compelled into service. Most cases of impressment involved the need of the postal service for animals and the need of soldiers for civilians to help carry their packs.  The situation in Matthew is clearly the latter.  It is not a matter of equisitioning animals but people themselves.
This forced labor was a source of bitter resentment by all Roman subjects.  “Angareia is like death,” complains one source.   The sheer frequency, even into the late empire, of legislation proscribing the misuse of the angareia shows how regularly the practice was used and its regulations violated.  An inscription of 49 C.E. from Egypt orders that Roman “soldiers of any degree when passing through the several districts are not to make any requisitions or to employ forced transport (angareia) unless they have the prefect’s written authority” –a rescript clearly made necessary by soldiers abusing their privileges.  Another decree from Egypt from 133-137 C.E. documents this abuse: “Many soldiers without written requisition are travelling about in the country, demanding ships, beasts of burden, and men, beyond anything authorized, sometimes seizing things by force…to the point of showing abuse and threats to private citizens, the result is that the military is associated with arrogance and injustice.”   In order to minimize resentment in the conquered lands, at least some effort was made by Rome to punish violators of the laws regarding impressment.
The Theodosian Code devotes an entire section to angareia.   Among its ordinances are these: If any person while making a journey should consider that he may abstract an ox that is not assigned to the public post but dedicated to the plow, he shall be  arrested with due force by the rural police…and he shall be haled before the judge [normally the governor] (8.5.1, 315 C.E.). By this interdict We forbid that any person should deem that they may request packanimals and supplementary posthorses.  But if any person should rashly act so presumptuously, he shall be punished very severely (8.5.6, 354 C.E., ital. added). When any legion is proceeding to its destination, it shall not hereafter attempt to appropriate more than two posthorses (angariae), and only for the sake of any who are sick (8.5.11, 360 C.E.).
Late as these regulations are, they reflect a situation that had changed little since the time of the Persians.  Armies had to be moved through countries with dispatch.  Some legionnaires bought their own slaves to help carry their packs of sixty to eighty?five pounds (not including weapons).   The majority of the rank and file, however, had to depend on impressed civilians.  There are vivid accounts of whole villages fleeing to avoid being forced to carry soldiers’ baggage, and of richer towns prepared to pay large sums to escape having Roman soldiers billeted on them for winter.
With few exceptions, the commanding general of a legion personally administered justice in serious cases, and all other cases were left to the disciplinary control of his subordinates.  Centurions had almost limitless authority in dealing with routine cases of discipline.  This accounts for the curious fact that there is very little codified military law, and that late.  Roman military historians are agreed, however, that military law changed very little in its essential character throughout the imperial period.   No account survives to us today of the penalties to be meted out to soldiers for forcing a civilian to carry his pack more than the permitted mile, but there are at least hints.  “If in winter quarters, in camp, or on the march, either an officer or a soldier does injury to a civilian, and does not fully repair the same, he shall pay the damage twofold.”   This is about as mild a penalty, however, as one can find.  Josephus’ comment is surely exaggerated, even if it states the popular impression: Roman military forces “have laws which punish with death not merely desertion of the ranks, but even a slight neglect of duty” (J.W. 3.102-8).  Between these extremes there was deprivation of pay, a ration of barley instead of wheat, reduction in rank, dishonorable discharge, being forced to camp outside the fortifications, or to stand all day before the general’s tent holding a clod in one’s hands, or to stand barefoot in public places.  But the most frequent punishment by far was flogging.
The frequency with which decrees were issued to curb misuse of the angareia indicates how lax discipline on this point was.  Perhaps the soldier might receive only a rebuke.  But the point is that the soldier does not know what will happen.
It is in this context of Roman military occupation that Jesus speaks.   He does not counsel revolt.  One does not “befriend” the soldier, draw him aside and drive a knife into his ribs.  Jesus was surely aware of the futility of armed insurrection against Roman imperial might; he certainly did nothing to encourage those whose hatred of Rome was near to flaming into violence.
But why carry his pack a second mile?  Is this not to rebound to the opposite extreme of aiding and abetting the enemy?   Not at all.  The question here, as in  the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed.  The rules are Caesar’s, but how one responds to the rules is God’s, and Caesar has no power over that.
Imagine then the soldier’s surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, “Oh no, let me carry it another mile.”  Why would he want to do that?  What is he up to?  Normally, soldiers have to coerce people to carry their packs, but this Jew does so cheerfully, and will not stop!  Is this a provocation?  Is he insulting the legionnaire’s strength?  Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to violate the rules of impressment?  Will this civilian file a complaint?  Create trouble?
From a situation of servile impressment, the oppressed have once more seized the initiative.  They have taken back the power of choice.  The soldier is thrown off balance by being deprived of the predictability of his victim’s response.  He has never dealt with such a problem before.  Now he has been forced into making a decision for which nothing in his previous experience has prepared him.  If he has enjoyed feeling superior to the vanquished, he will not enjoy it today.  Imagine the situation of a  Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew to give back his pack!  The humor of this scene may have escaped us, but it could scarcely have been lost on Jesus’ hearers, who must have been regaled at the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors. Jesus does not encourage Jews to walk a second mile in order to build up merit in heaven, or to exercise a supererogatory piety, or to kill the soldier with kindness.  He is helping an oppressed people find a way to protest and neutralize an onerous practice despised throughout the empire.  He is not giving a non-political message of spiritual  world-transcendence.  He is formulating a worldly spirituality in which  the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity.
One could easily misuse Jesus’ advice vindictively; that is why it must not be separated from the command to love enemies integrally connected with it in both Matthew and Luke.  But love is not averse to taking the law and using its oppressive momentum to throw the soldier into a region of uncertainty and anxiety where he has never been before. Such tactics can seldom be repeated.  One can imagine that within days after the incidents that Jesus sought to provoke, the Powers That Be would pass new laws: penalties for nakedness in court, flogging for carrying a pack more than a mile!  One must be creative, improvising new tactics to keep the opponent off balance.
To those whose lifelong pattern has been to cringe before their masters, Jesus offers a way to liberate themselves from servile actions and a servile mentality. And he asserts that they can do this before there is a revolution.  There is no need to wait until Rome has been defeated, or peasants are landed and slaves freed.  They can  begin to behave with dignity and recovered humanity now, even under the unchanged conditions of the old order.  Jesus’ sense of divine immediacy has social implications. The reign of God is already breaking into the world, and it comes, not as an imposition from on high, but as the leaven slowly causing the dough to rise (Matt.13:33//Luke 13:20-21).  Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence is thus of a piece with his proclamation of the dawning of the reign of God.
In the conditions of first-century Palestine, a political revolution against the Romans could only be catastrophic, as the events of 66-73 C.E. would prove. Jesus does not propose armed revolution.  But he does lay the foundations for a social revolution, as Richard A. Horsley has pointed out.  And a social revolution becomes political when it reaches a critical threshold of acceptance; this in fact did happen to the Roman empire as the Christian church overcame it from below.
Nor were peasants and slaves in a position to transform the economic system by frontal assault.  But they could begin to act from an already recovered dignity and freedom, and the ultimate consequences of such acts could only be revolutionary.  To that end, Jesus spoke repeatedly of a voluntary remission of debts.
It is entirely appropriate, then, that the saying on debts in Matt. 5:42//Luke 6:30//Gos. Thom. 95 has been added to this saying-block.  Jesus counsels his hearers not just to practice alms and to lend money, even to bad-risks, but to lend without expecting interest or even the return of the principal.  Such radical egalitarian sharing would be necessary to rescue impoverished Palestinian peasants from their plight; one need not posit an imminent end of history as the cause for such astonishing generosity.  And yet none of this is new; Jesus is merely issuing a prophetic summons to Israel to observe the commandments pertaining to the sabbatical year
enshrined in Torah, adapted to a new situation.
Such radical sharing would be necessary in order to restore true community.  For the risky defiance of the Powers that Jesus advocates would inevitably issue in punitive economic sanctions and physical punishment against individuals.  They would need economic support; Matthew’s “Give to everyone who asks (aitounti–not necessarily begs) of you” may simply refer to this need for mutual sustenance. Staggering interest and taxes isolated peasants, who went under one by one.  This was a standard tactic of imperial “divide and rule” strategy. Jesus’ solution was neither utopian nor apocalyptic.  It was simple realism.  Nothing less could halt or reverse the economic decline of Jewish peasants than a complete suspension of usury and debt and a restoration of economic equality through outright grants, a pattern actually  mplemented in the earliest Christian community, according to the Book of Acts.
Jesus’ Third Way
Jesus’ alternative to both fight and flight can be graphically presented by a chart:
Jesus’ Third Way Seize the moral initiative
Find a creative alternative to violence
Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
Meet force with ridicule or humor
Break the cycle of humiliation
Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position
Expose the injustice of the system
Take control of the power dynamic
Shame the oppressor into repentance
Stand your ground
Make the Powers make decisions for which they are not   prepared
Recognize your own power
Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
Force the oppressor to see you in a new light
Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force   is effective
Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
Die to fear of the old order and its rules
Seek the oppressor’s transformation
Flight                        Fight
Submission              Armed revolt
Passivity                   Violent rebellion
Withdrawal               Direct retaliation
Surrender                 Revenge
Gandhi insisted that no one join him who was not willing to take up arms to fight for independence.  They could not freely renounce what they had not entertained.  One cannot pass directly from “Flight” to “Jesus’ Third Way.”  One needs to pass through the “Fight” stage, if only to discover one’s own inner strength and capacity for violence.  We need to learn to love justice and truth enough to die for them, by violence if nothing else.
Jesus, in short, abhors both passivity and violence.  He articulates, out of the history of his own people’s struggles, a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored, the oppressor resisted without being emulated, and the enemy neutralized without being destroyed.  Those who have lived by Jesus’ words–Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, César Chavez, Adolpho Pérez Esquivel–point us to a new way of confronting evil whose potential for personal and social transformation we are only beginning to grasp today. Beyond Just War and Pacifism
Just war theory was founded in part on a misinterpretation of “Resist not evil” (Matt. 5:39), which Augustine regarded as an absolute command to non-resistance of evil. No Christian, he argued, can take up arms in self-defense, therefore, but must submit passively even to death.  Nor can Christians defend themselves against injustice, but must willingly collaborate in their own ruin.  But what, asked Augustine, if my neighbors are being thus treated?  Then the
love commandment requires me to take up arms if necessary to defend them.
But Jesus did not teach non-resistance.  Rather, he disavowed violent resistance in favor of nonviolent resistance.  Of course Christians must resist evil!  No decent human being could conceivably stand by and watch innocents suffer without trying to do, or at least wishing to do, something to save them.  The question is simply one of means.  Likewise Christians are not forbidden by Jesus to engage in self-defense.  But they are to do so nonviolently.  Jesus did not teach supine passivity in the face of evil.  That was precisely what he was attempting to overcome!
Pacifism, in its Christian forms, was often based on the same misinterpretation of Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5:38-42.  It too understood Jesus to be commanding non-resistance.  Consequently, some pacifists refuse to engage in nonviolent direct action or civil disobedience, on the ground that such actions are coercive.  Non-resistance, they believe, only licenses passive resistance.  Hence the confusion between “pacifism” and “passivism” has not been completely unfounded.
Jesus’ third way is coercive, insofar as it forces oppressors to make choices they would rather not make.  But it is non-lethal, the great advantage of which is that, if we have chosen a mistaken course, our opponents are still alive to benefit from our apologies.  The same exegesis that undermines the Scriptural ground from traditional just war theory also erodes the foundation of non-resistant pacifism.  Jesus’ teaching carries us beyond just war and pacifism, to a militant nonviolence that actualizes already in the present the ethos of God’s domination-free future.
Out of the heart of the prophetic tradition, Jesus engaged the Domination System in both its outer and spiritual manifestations.  His teaching on nonviolence forms the charter for a way of being in the world that breaks the spiral of violence.  Jesus here reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight.  It is a way–the only way possible–of not becoming what we hate. “Do not counter evil in kind”–this insight is the distilled essence, stated with sublime simplicity, of the meaning of the cross.  It is time the church stops limping between just war theory and nonresistant pacifism and follows Jesus on his
nonviolent way.
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About the Book

About the Book. Check out our Bring Your Eyes and See Blog by Steve and Marie Goode

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The right to a Healthy Community

The Kingdom is Here!
June 22, 2009

The Right to a Healthy Community
by G. Stephen Goode
Some Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He answered, “God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see. There is no use saying, `Look! Here it is’ or `Look! There it is.’ God’s kingdom is here with you.” Luke 17:20-21
What do the values of the Kingdom of God look like in a country where freedom of religion is restricted… with a government that is Communist… where the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) reports that 17.7 % of the population of 86 million people live on less than 1 US dollar per day … or where women have less education, little voice and fewer opportunities than men despite bearing heavy responsibilities?
YWAM team leader JR meets regularly with government leaders and local families in the Southeast Asia nation where she serves. Their goal is to assess the needs of the community, with the people who live in the community, and to empower them to pursue solutions. This is what Kingdom living looks like there…
…Animal excrement flowed openly through the village in one of the most polluted communes I have ever seen. JR and her team showed families how to turn this awful situation around through the use of more than 800 bio-gas units. Clean stalls for animals prevent disease and provide free methane gas for cooking. Other villages are learning from them as women and children save hours every day by not having to cut and transport wood.
…The team is also committed to influencing local families through early child care and development, whether their children are in school or not. The local preschool teachers organise concerts about early childhood care where the whole community takes part. Most of the village turned up for a recent concert where humour was used in songs, skits and dances to address difficult issues affecting families in the area. JR was delighted when the teachers came on stage in their beautiful national dress, singing, “YWAM is investing in our future. YWAM is helping us care for our children!”
…In a rubbish-strewn village which seemed to be beyond help, it was the village drunk who had a solution. He shared about his dream of making this village a clean village. I simply encouraged him in his dream while JR and the team facilitated a model of waste management which turned this into the cleanest village in the area, profiled on national TV. The village drunk is now a respected man who has shown the power of a dream being fulfilled.
JR recently had lunch with high government leaders from her nation and the nation in Southeast Asia where she serves. Their conversation was about the poor, women and children and the vulnerable and about what JR and YWAM are accomplishing as they champion the dreams and ideas of local people to help alleviate poverty in this country.
When I visit JR and her team, when I meet with government officials and community leaders who want to help their nations, I see the Kingdom of God has come and is coming. Through Kingdom living people feel valuable and empowered and they become a part of the process of improving their own lives. A simple idea but one that Jesus modeled.
Steve Goode is YWAM’s International Director for Mercy Ministries.

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How Big is your Gospel by David Westlake

How big is your gospel?

How big is your gospel?

A few months ago I wrote about an encounter in Thailand with a prostitute while I was at a conference for pioneer missionaries. It went like this:

Last night I went with some friends for a meal in the centre of town. We were in the tourist area and I was browsing the market for some gifts to take home. As I walked by one of the many massage parlours a young woman called out to me ‘You want a massage?’ Her clothes, body language and expression made it clear that she was selling more than a massage. I smiled with perfect English embarrassment, shook my head and walked on by. But God doesn’t walk on by.
It reminded me of a time about six years ago in the same city when I was walking with a friend down a similar street not far from the one I was in last night. A girl I later discovered to be 14 walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to have sex. Her opening price was £7. I shudder to think what I could have bartered her down to. I declined politely and kept walking. She could not walk away because her ‘owner’ kept her working that street. But God does not walk on by.
The girl at the massage parlour has haunted me today. She was in her late teens or early twenties. How did she get to be sitting in a street offering sex to older men for money? What is her story? Her hopes, fears, dreams? What has the gospel got to say to her?
And hers is the face that I will have in mind as I teach this conference of pioneer missionaries. Because we have made the gospel too small.

The pressure to make the gospel too small is all around us. We limit God to the arena of personal redemption and healing while we walk through a world crying out with pain. I was shocked at how many christian voices endorsed military action in Syria without wondering how we could be peacemakers. I am dismayed that in a time of austerity, welfare reform and ever increasing inequality there is so little Christian imagination for what the Kingdom of God might look like. I get angry at the sermons and articles on workplace discipleship that ignore the injustices in supply chains while concentrating on personal morality and individual fulfilment, destiny and calling. What about the ones left behind?

I am constantly amazed and am utterly dependent of God’s grace and love in my life. I am desperately in need of forgiveness and love the One who loved me to death. But God has more to say than simply our personal salvation. We have made our gospel too small.

Reinhold Niebuhr expresses how small gospel cannot speak redemption to a complex world.

“A Christian pessimism which becomes a temptation to irresponsibility toward all those social tasks which constantly confront the life of men and nations, tasks of ordering the productive labor or men, of adjudicating their conflicts, of arbitrating their divergent desires, of raising the level of their social imaginations and increasing the range of their social sympathies—such pessimism cannot speak redemptively to a world constantly threatened by anarchy and suffering from injustice. The Christian gospel which transcends all particular and contemporary social situations can be preached with power only by a church which bears its share of the burdens of establishing peace, of achieving justice, and perfecting justice in the spirit of love. Thus is the Kingdom of God which is not of this world made relevant to every problem of the world. ”
— Reinhold Niebuhr

And yet I am encouraged by all the Christians I know who are making themselves bigger. Who don’t turn away from the complexities of all ‘those social tasks’. Who refuse the lie that our only hope is an escape to a disembodied eternity but instead embrace the tough places and tough people. These are the Christians who work hard, think hard, pray hard and suffer hard. They are collaborators with God’s purpose to ‘perfect justice in the spirit of love’.

I still think of the girl at the massage parlour in Thailand. She still haunts me. So what has the gospel got to say to her?

Yes she needs to hear that Christ died for her and accepts her and washes her clean and gives her a fresh start.

Yes she needs to hear that he can heal the pain and the wounds that she has suffered.

And yes, she needs to hear that Jesus can deliver her from the choices that she has made or that have been made for her.

But that is not enough.

Christ came to set the captives free not to see them continue in slavery. What does the good news look like for her?

Yes it is all the things that i have just said- but it is more:

It’s got to include safety from the men and women who control her.

It must mean different opportunities for earning a living.

And it needs to include a welcoming community of grace and acceptance where she can know that she belongs and is intrinsically valued. That she is more than a pimps commodity or a church’s project.

In Matthew 11 John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the real thing. Jesus didn’t answer him directly but told Johns friends to report to John what they saw Jesus doing: the lame, blind and poor were being blessed. Their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs were being met. And in recording this encounter Matthew shows us how we can recognise authentic Christian mission. When the gospel is being proclaimed the last, the least and the lost are blessed. We can be confident that real Christian mission is taking place when the poor receive good news. This is how we know what is orthodox, what is authentic, what is Christ’s work. Good news for the hungry has got to include food. Good news for the lonely has got to include community. And good news for a young woman in a massage parlour has got to include more than the four spiritual laws and a prayer of commitment. The good news of Jesus applies all the reality of God to the entire reality of our experience.

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A tribute to Wa by Iven and Kashmira

At 4:00am on May 2, 2556 Jiraporn Kamjan died of completions related to Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease at Rongpayaban Klang (Bangkok General Hospital). He was 40 years old, homeless and alone in the eyes of this world.

We met “Luung Wa” a little over 4 years earlier. He was serving as a security guard for the red-shirt protests in Sanam Luang, and Steve Goode (YWAM International Mercy Ministries Director) introduced us to him a few days following a YWAM Outreach event in our neighborhood.

Our introduction involved sharing a homemade birthday cake with Wa on Valentine’s day, his unofficial birthday (his ID card says he was born on 17 Feb, but Wa told us it just took a few days for his mom to report the birth!) When Steve and Wa met, Wa opened up about the tragic loss of his wife, daughter, business and all of the fingers on his right hand during the Tsunami of 2004. Steve just couldn’t let that go and upon learning that Wa’s birthday was coming up, something just had to be done! A cake was baked, friends were recruited and a Valentine’s Day street-side surprise party ensued!


Wa’s favorite topic of conversation was always food – his cravings would shift from day to day, but often they would hearken back to some obscure dish he’d enjoyed in a childhood spent travelling around with his family. At one point he was writing a recipe book of Southern Thai cuisine. Khao Mok Gai. Bami. Gaeng Som. Kuaytieaw Pbet.

He loved museums, history and ancient things. I remember picking Wa up from a medical visit one time and walking together back from Rongpayaban Klang past the central Bangkok prison museum. He’d been there many times, but wanted to share with me, so we stopped and wandered through. This museum is attached to the park that we have dubbed the “nearby slide park” because it has the nicest playground equipment in our corner of the city.

Outgoing and unashamed Wa would often greet new people by saying hello and shaking their hand – always watching to see how people would respond to his missing fingers.

More than anything Wa was a friend to us. We remember the year he borrowed money to sell squirt guns during Thailand’s national water fight (he made enough money to pay us back and eat well for several days!) He was also a mentor. Studying scripture with Him his response was always honest: “That is too good. No one should be that good”. Learning about life on the streets, or negotiating the social service world of ID Cards, Bat Khon Pikan, Patient Rights, or what-not Wa was most often a patient co-learner.  Generous with our children, we remember multiple street-side toys (and one stuffed carrot!) that “Uncle Wa” passed on to his “niece and nephew”.

Not a stranger to pain, Wa grew up all over Thailand, travelling about with his communist father and mostly unspoken-of mother until his dad died when Wa was about 12. His mom remarried and had several children with Wa’s stepdad. Estrangement ensued. Wa dropped out of school.

The story gets sketchy at this point, but one way or another Wa ended up in Southern Thailand, Krabi Provence. From Rot Tu (mini-bus) driving, to construction, tour-guiding, to running an internet café, we know Wa fully embraced Southern Living. He married, and became a father.

On 26 December 2004 Wa’s life came to a crashing halt when the Tsunami which rocked the Indian Ocean swept his wife, young daughter, and businesses out to sea. Digging through the rubble on Phi Phi Island, trying to find any trace of his family, Wa’s fingers on his right hand were infected, and after refusing treatment for some time eventually they were amputated.

Sometime later Wa vagabonded his way North, spending an extended stay in a hospital with a very kind doctor near Pai. After some colorful journeys Wa found himself at Hualampong Railway Station in Bangkok, not sure where to go next. Approached by someone offering work, Wa wound up “working” on a fishing-boat in the gulf of Thailand, a common statistic in the annals of modern human trafficking. The story isn’t entirely clear but one way or another he managed to escape and eventually return to Bangkok.

Coming from Southern Thailand (or was it Central? Wa’s stories always had a bit more going on than meets the eye…) Wa found himself in Bangkok, living as our neighbor, following a series of tragedies and injuries. When we first met Wa he had a tent, a job guarding the red-shirt stage, and some real energy. He’d shower in the Chao Praya river, eat with other protesters and generally make himself useful. But, as is often the case, one day all of his belongings went missing when he was out and about, and not too long after that everyone got kicked out of Sanam Luang.

Wa next found himself sleeping on our street, Thanon Bunsiri, down near the 7-11 and Thanon Tanow. When that didn’t work out he disappeared for a bit and then reappeared on the other end of Bunsiri, sleeping out in front of one of our neighbor’s food carts, P’ Naam Peung. A pretty good set-up (he had food included!) Wa stayed there for some weeks, and we’d see him often. I remember him sharing some of his more personal stories and often crying as he shared during this season. This was the first time we learned about his twenty year old son (whom he hadn’t contacted in maybe a decade). This was also the first place we saw Wa drinking, and eventually he was told he’d need to stop getting drunk if he wanted to stay in front of the food cart, and off he went.

The next long-term stop was on the side of the Thanon Buranasat, near Rachadamneon Avenue. He set up quite a camp there, and spent more than a year in that spot. It was while living there that his liver disease first got bad enough to send him to the hospital. While living there Wa and I were able to replace his ID card, successfully apply for disabled status, and that was his home during the only business venture he ever undertook during our friendship – selling squirt-guns.

This was Wa’s home during our team-mate Leigh’s time in the neighborhood, living in a house just around the corner from Wa. Wa was still there when a team of young women from InterVarsity’s Global Urban Trek were staying in Leigh’s old room. Wa provided countless hours of conversation, laughter and encouragement to each of these friends as they were first adjusting to life in Thailand.

When he was healthy Wa helped the vans which parked in front of his squat get into the parking spaces, often receiving a small tip as compensation. He liked that work. When he had less energy he’d beg. Begging paid better.

When Buranasat ceased to be a healthy place Wa relocated up the road right on to Rachadamneon avenue, where he could rent a mat for 20baht a night, right next to one of his more common places to ask for coins. Some of his other haunts were Pra Atit Road, Wang Burapha (where he stayed for almost a year) and Talad Dok Mor.

Wa was ever-welcoming and quick to respond to opportunities to share his experiences and wisdom with short-term teams, friends, interviewers and later even on TV when Chan Rak Muang Thai came to video our family. As we were nearing the birth of our first child Wa enjoyed telling me the tale of driving his wife 25 kilometers in heavy labor on the back of his motorcycle over bumpy roads in the middle of the night!

Though always friendly, Wa had few friends on the streets. Luung Tia and he shared a mat for as long as 4 months, but Wa said he couldn’t take Tia’s drinking and it ended poorly. There was a guy who fixed and sold “Phra” in the old Wang Burapa movie theater whom Wa would often stop and talk with. He was the only neighbor I ever knew to go and visit Wa in the hospital who wasn’t connected to YWAM (he visited Wa twice to my knowledge – during one of Wa’s many hospital admissions).

I don’t remember much about the first few times I took Wa to the hospital, I know we went to Siriraj once in the beginning, but it was a long wait, with a very disdaining doctor. I do recall that the first time they admitted him at Rongpayaban Klang, Wa mustered enough strength to make a joke about checking in to Rongraem Klang (a play on words due to the similarity in Thai between “Hospital” and “Hotel”).

Much time during Wa’s last few years was spent in and out of the hospital, especially the 11thand 14th floors. We both got to know the staff, social workers, nurses and doctors better than either of us hoped. I’d often try to visit him every day at first, then eventually every other day, and sometimes less often towards his final few admissions. Diarrhea, swelling, pain in his legs, weakness, it all came back to his drinking.

When Wa died most all of the neighbors in his regular places wanted to know what happened. Their universal response was variations on the theme of “He’s in a better place, finally free, doesn’t have to drink anymore!”

I didn’t know that Wa was dying when he died – sure big picture it was coming, but the last few times I’d visited him it looked like he was maybe, just maybe getting better. The kids brought him some finger paintings. Steve Goode and I had scheduled some time to go visit Wa in the hospital that week – but it was too late – and it ended up being a chance to pay last respects and say goodbye in a different way than anticipated.

That morning, as I’ve written elsewhere, after receiving the phone call, I sat on the couch downstairs and cried. I cried because I missed my friend. I cried for what could have been. I had so many hopes for Wa’s life still. I cried for what I wasn’t able to do for him. I cried because in the end I had been powerless to stop Wa’s disease. I asked God if He had anything to tell me and He said this, “Psalm 103:4.” I looked it up: He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. That is my final prayer, and God’s final promise, over Wa.

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Why millennials are leaving the church….

Why millennials are leaving the church

By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN)  At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates  edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions  Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

Their answers might surprise you.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of “Evolving in Monkey Town” and “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” She blogs at The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.

 – CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • evangelicals • Faith Now • Opinion

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Leadership begins with self-leadership

The Jesuits and leadership…..

Matthew's Journal

I’m half way through a very unusual book on leadership. Unusual because it proposes a very counter-cultural model of leadership based on the life of Ignatius Loyola and the 450 year old organisation he founded – the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits.

Chris Lowney (author of ‘Heroic Leadership’) writes: “Founded in 1540 by ten men with no capital and no business plan, the Jesuits built, within little more than a generation, the world’s most influential company of its kind. As confidants to European monarchs, China’s Ming emperor, the Japanese shogun, and the Mughal emperor in India, they boasted a Rolodex unmatched by that of any commercial, religious, or government entity.”

Jesuits dismissed flashy leadership to focus instead on engendering four unique values, according to Lowney: self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism. In other words, Jesuits equipped their recruits to succeed by molding them into leaders who:

  1. understood their strengths, weaknesses…

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