Cross-like Love and Non-Violence

Olympia Port Militarization Protest - November 10th, 2007

Cosmo Spacely via Compfight

Though it seems to have been forgotten by many today, the cross wasn’t simply something God did for us. According to the NT, it was also an example God calls us to follow. Hence, after John defined love by pointing us to Jesus’ death on the cross on our behalf, he immediately added: “And we ought to lay down our lives for one another“ (1 Jn 3:16). This and a multitude of other passages make it evident that God’s will is for the cruciform love that defines his own, eternal, triune nature to be received by us and to transform us in order to flow through us so that this same love can transform and ultimately flow through others.

Paul makes the same point when he commands us to imitate (mimetai) the example given to us by God, in Christ, by walking “in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Notice that for this author, to imitate God simply means one imitates and reflects the self-sacrificial love displayed on Calvary. According to Paul, the command to reflect this kind of love is to be placed “above” every other command.

It’s evident that for Paul, the centrality of the cross in defining God is reflected in the centrality of the cross in defining life in the kingdom, which should not be surprising given that our call is to simply reflect God’s character in all we do. This is simply what it means to be Christ-like or godly.

Amazingly, there isn’t one exception clause to any of the NT’s instructions about loving and serving enemies or about the refusal to resort to violence in response to aggressors. To the contrary, far from allowing for “justified” exceptions, Jesus strongly emphasized that his followers were to love indiscriminately – the way God loves and blesses the just and unjust by causing his sun to shine and his rain to fall on everyone, without any regard to whether they did or didn’t deserve it.

Even more remarkably, Jesus went so far as to claim that loving enemies was a precondition for being considered a child of God. “[L]ove your enemies,” he taught, “that you may be children of your Father…” (Mt. 5:44-45). And again, “love your enemies, do good to them…Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High…” (Lk 6:35).

The logic behind Jesus’ astonishing teaching is that, since God’s nature is reflected in his indiscriminate, self-sacrificial, non-violent, servant love toward enemies – the kind of love that would soon be unambiguously displayed in Jesus’ crucifixion — then only those who replicated this kind of cruciform love in their own lives could be considered to look like this God, and in this sense be considered the children of this God.

In this light, it’s hardly coincidental that the definitive proof Jesus offered Pilate that his kingdom was “not of this world” was that, if his kingdom had been of this world, he says, “my servants would fight to prevent my arrest…” (Jn 18:36). Jesus remark to Pilate thus suggests that a distinctive characteristic of all who belong to his kingdom, and that distinguishes his kingdom from the kingdoms of this world, is that they do not fight, even when they would be considered justified to do so.

In this light, it should be clear that, contrary to the way most Christians today view the matter, the call to manifest God’s indiscriminate, self-sacrificial love and to unconditionally refrain from violence cannot be considered an optional aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. Rather, as cruciform love is the most definitive distinguishing characteristic of God’s nature, so manifesting cruciform love must be considered the sine qua non feature of all who are the children of this God.

Related Reading

The Cruciform Trinity

As paradoxical as it sounds, if God is supremely revealed when he stoops to the infinite extremity of becoming his own antithesis on the cross, then we must conclude that stooping to this extremity out of love must, in some sense, be intrinsic to who God eternally is. And rendering this coherent necessitates that we…

Topics:

Does the Doctrine of the Trinity Matter?

Jesus reveals the greatest, most beautiful, and mysterious aspect of God when he, despite being himself God Incarnate, relates to God as his “Father” and refers to God as “the Holy Spirit.” There is, of course, only one God (1 Cor 8:6). Yet Jesus reveals that God somehow exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.…

Topics:

How God Judges Sin

In his third sermon covering material from his book Crucifixion of the Warrior God, Greg explores the topic of judgment. In this clip, Greg suggests that while God certainly does judge sin, how he judges is very different than we might expect. You can view the entire sermon here on the Woodland Hills Church site. You can find the…

Warfare and Sickness

Is sickness something we should come against as spiritual warfare or is sickness just something that is part of our life until the Kingdom of God comes? Greg deals with the answer to this question.

What Is The Warfare Worldview?

Greg has written extensively on something he calls the Warfare Worldview. Many today believe that everything that takes place in the world is ultimately part of a divine blueprint and contributes in some way to the glory of God. As opposed to this view, Greg argues that wills other than God’s are responsible for evil…

What About the Arizona Anti-Gay Bill?

HumanSeeHumanDo via Compfight The recent anti-gay bill in Arizona which was passed last week by the state’s Legislature and now sits on the desk of the Governor, would allow companies to deny service to or discriminate against gay people based on the religious beliefs of the business owner. In response, Greg has tweeted: “The governor…