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Passage Insight: Creative Nonviolence

Watch a short, animated video that explains how Jesus dealt with injustice in the world and examples of how he invites his followers to do the same.

Insights May 22, 2024


How does Jesus want us to pursue justice?

In the Bible, justice is when everyone is treated with fairness and dignity. But how do you achieve that justice?

The Torah says “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”1 The wisdom of this ancient law is that people should be fairly compensated if they’ve been wronged—but not more than what is fair. This puts a limit on repayment so that things don’t escalate into never-ending cycles of revenge.

Okay, that sounds fine in theory. But what if someone refuses to acknowledge that what they did was unjust in the first place? What if entire groups are preventing justice?

When things get too unjust, violent revolt seems to be the only recourse for those looking for justice.

But Jesus invites us to a different way. He calls his followers to publicly expose injustice by challenging it in creative and nonviolent ways.

This is what he means by “turn the other cheek.” 2 In the ancient world, a slap to your right cheek meant a backhanded slap, aimed at shaming you and putting you in a lower social rank. Offering your other cheek would require the offender to slap you with their open palm, like they would slap someone of equal rank.

This is also what Jesus means by “go the extra mile.” 3 In the 1st century, Roman soldiers were allowed to force people to carry their gear for one mile but not more. So kindly offering to go another mile is a bold statement that requires the soldier to stop viewing you as a pack animal and accept your help like they would from a friend.

Jesus wants us to strive for justice with suffering love and to expose injustice to public view in a way that opens up a path to relationship and reconciliation.

And Jesus lived what he taught. He did not fight his enemies, but, instead, he gave up his life for them.4

Creative nonviolence won’t always change things in the short term, and it always comes with a cost. But followers of Jesus trust that God is the final judge,5 and that the ultimate challenge to injustice comes not through violence but through courageous and creative acts of love.

1. See Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21.
2. Matthew 5:39
3. Matthew 5:41
4. See Luke 23:32-34; Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:14-18
5. See Matthew 7:1; Romans 12:18-20; 1 Corinthians 4:3-4; James 4:11-12
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