Rewarding Selfless Non-Violence

Last week I wrote about Rev. Emil Kapaun and I wanted to explore something a little more that I mentioned in passing. As I was writing last weeks post I realized this idea merited its own post.

What struck me as I was writing about Emil Kapaun was that he was receiving the military’s highest honor as a Chaplain. From the account I read, he never picked up a gun and never fought back with violence. He resisted peacefully as a minister although he was surrounded by violence. This forced me to ask the question…

How often do we choose to resist violence even when it seems like the only option?

In the Gospels, Jesus seems to always choose the non-violent path. However, there is an odd point in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus seems to tell his disciples to bring a sword with them.

Then he said to them, “But now, whoever has a wallet must take it, and likewise a bag. And those who don’t own a sword must sell their clothes and buy one. I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in relation to me: And he was counted among criminals . Indeed, what’s written about me is nearing completion.” They said to him, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “Enough of that!”
Luke 22:36-38 (CEB)

Then, to make matters more confusing, when Jesus is arrested a few verses later, somebody uses the sword Jesus told them to carry. They cut off the ear of one of the guards. However, Jesus does not join in the violence. Instead…

When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we fight with our swords?” One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.
Luke 22:49-51 (CEB)

Jesus rebukes the use of the sword and proceeds to heal the injury to one of his captors. Then, as you may know, unspeakable violence is performed against Jesus as he is beaten and crucified.

So, let’s review. Jesus tells his disciples to bring a sword. When one of them uses it, Jesus rebukes them and heals the damage.  Shortly thereafter, Jesus is violently beaten, violently crucified and dies. He does not resist, does not fight back and does not speak ill of his attackers. Rather than lashing out violently, or encouraging his disciples to do so, Jesus resisted violence and was met with death.

Rev. Emil Kapaun also resisted violence and met with death.

Would the situation have been any different if they had chosen violent means?  My guess is probably not.

Again, the question I was asking myself…

How often do we choose to resist violence even when it seems like the only option?

Too often it feels like we choose to use violence to prevent violence. We fear that otherwise someone might be injured or die. This is pretty status quo for the whole of human history. It was probably no surprise to the disciples when Jesus asked them to bring a sword. Heck, they already had two with them. What is the surprise then is when Jesus rebukes the use of it. The surprise then is when a Chaplain refuses violence and instead resists as a “Good Thief” standing up against the status quo.  Violent means usually lead to violent ends.  Non-violent means leads to something completely different and often surprising.

New life.

We always have a choice between violence and non-violence. We always carry a “sword” with us the question is how will we use it? Sometimes our “sword” is a legitimate weapon and we can lash out violently and with great harm. Sometimes our weapons are more emotional. A biting critique, a racial or sexist insult, along with fear, worry and doubt can all injure just as much as a physical weapon. Jesus tells his disciples to bring a sword maybe not so much hoping that they will use it, but to challenge them with how to use it? Violent outbursts and attacks are condemned by Jesus. Whether we carry an actual weapon or not, our actions and words can cause wounds just as deep if not deeper. We have the option, but Jesus seems to constantly tell us to choose the stance of non-violence. Though we carry a “sword” with us, the sword should not be used with the excuse to “bring life” because it can’t, weapons can never bring life. Instead, make the choice to resist violence, and help protect, restore and bring a new life into reality.

Jesus resisted the temptation of violence and he was killed…but he was resurrected.

Emil Kapaun resisted the temptation of violence and he was killed…but he encouraged and saved the lives of many around him and he was given the Medal of Honor. But, even better, he has the expectation of a greater reward. The promise of resurrection demonstrated in Jesus.


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