Jesus, Swords, and a Non-Violent Ethic

Jesus, Swords, and Non-Violence

Jesus held a consistent ethic of non-violence. 

“But wait!” You may say. What about when Jesus tells his followers to buy a bunch of swords? How can you possibly say Jesus has an ethic of non-violence?”

Great question, so let’s look at that passage together. 

 “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.” Lk. 22:36

Swords are tools of violence, and Jesus wants his followers to have them. Case closed, right? Not really, because check out what Jesus says a few verses later. 

They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.” Lk. 22:38

Which brings us to the next question: could Jesus count? Because he just said that everyone needed a sword, and there were eleven disciples. So two isn’t enough.

I don’t know why Jesus said 2 out of 11 was enough for everyone. But two pieces of compelling evidence suggest that Jesus’ followers knew the swords weren’t meant for violence. 

1. Peter used one of the swords to chop a guy’s ear off, and Jesus wasn’t happy. So he heals the man and tells Peter to put away the sword. 

2. All of the disciples became victims of violence later in their lives. But we don’t have a record of them putting up a fight. 

So what were these swords for? Opening mail? Cutting the grass? I have no idea. But it’s a looonnnnnggg stretch to say this is Jesus’ call to arms. 

So how can we justify violence against our neighbors that we’re called to love and forgive? One way is to mutilate Bible passages to fit our agenda. Another is to ignore the way of Jesus altogether. But it’s almost impossible to embrace Jesus and violence at the same time.

So let’s choose to embrace Jesus lifestyle of non-violent resistance together. 

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