It has been exciting to hear how helpful the current sermon series Peculiar has been for many at Blainsport. I think we are being challenged to live by the Spirit and value what Christ claimed was important. For some, the idea of Biblical non-resistance was new. Really, this is not a new idea at all. In the early church, then again during the Reformation, believers looked to Jesus to discover the ways to live the abundant life. What they found was that Christ calls His followers to love God and live differently. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that He empowers His followers through the Holy Spirit to live transformed, different, holy lives (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Concerning Biblical non-resistance, see what the early church fathers and reformers had to say:
Ignatius (AD 35-107), the bishop of Antioch and martyr for the faith, taught that Christians “should not seek revenge on those who injure them…Rather, we are to imitate the Lord, who when He was reviled, did not use abusive language; when He was crucified, He answered not; when He suffered, He threatened not, but prayed for His enemies.”
Polycarp (AD 69-155), the bishop of Smyrna and martyr for the faith, instructed believers to follow Christ, “not returning evil for evil, nor scolding for scolding.”
Justin Martyr (AD 100-165), a Christian apologist and martyr for the faith, taught that “we were filled with war—have changed our warlike weapons—our swords into plowshares and our spears into farming implements” (Note: Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the great German reformer, in 1520 said when opposed by Dr. John Eck, “You say that I would give room to the peace-breakers and murderers because I have taught that a Christian should abstain from violence and should not fight to recover his belongings of which he was robbed. Why do you not rebuke Christ who has taught this?”
Ulrich Zwingli (AD 1484-1531), the great Swiss Reformer, detested war and boldly proclaimed in 1522, “Considered from the Christian point of view it is by no means right to have a part in war. According to Christ’s teaching we should pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us, and if an aggressor smites us on the right cheek (we should) turn to him the other also.”
John Calvin (AD 1509-1564), the Reformed leader of Geneva, Switzerland says concerning Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:45, “When he expressly declares that no one man will be a child of God unless he love those who hate him, who shall dare to say that we are not bound to observe this doctrine? The statement amounts to this, ‘Whoever shall wish to be accounted a Christian, let him love his enemies.’ It is truly horrible and monstrous that the world should have been covered with such thick darkness for three or four centuries as not to see that it is an express command, and that everyone who neglects it is struck out of the number of the children of God.”
Menno Simons (AD 1496-1561), the Anabaptist Reformer, said and wrote many things concerning non-resistance. Here is but one, “True Christians know not vengeance, no matter how they are maltreated; in patience they possess their souls, Luke 21:18; and do not break their peace, even, if they should be tempted by bondage, torture, poverty, and, besides, by the sword and fire. They do not cry for vengeance as do the world; but, with Christ, they supplicate and pray: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”
I feel privileged to walk in the footsteps of these men of faith. This is only a modicum of those who directed us to place our faith in the Sovereign God, trusting that His way was better than the world’s way.
Instructions and examples of non-resistance run through the New Testament. In it, believers find the mandate to participate in spiritual warfare. The Apostle Paul uses military imagery in Ephesians 6:13-18, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Followers of Christ are in spiritual war! Our enemy is not other people, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT). We can effectively do battle when we take up God’s armor, which means living with purpose—practicing truth, righteousness, and proclaiming the good news of peace. Believers must have faith, live the message of salvation, and invest time in the Word of God. Through prayer, God’s people can actively and boldly spread the gospel on earth, so that as many people as possible can become part of God’s kingdom (Ephesians 6:19–20). Powers of evil will oppose this effort, but we find victory in Christ.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.