It is almost inconceivable that people who have perpetrated the acts of violence that have plagued the history of the Christian church might think they could find the slightest sanction in the New Testament for their actions.

Efforts have been made to argue that the New Testament is a book of violence. Here is a fairly exhaustive example: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/nt_list.html

The thing that is most notable about this effort is how hard the compilers have to work in order to find suitably violent parts of the New Testament to make up their list. The agenda-driven nature of this argument is clear in the use the authors make of Matthew 5:17. It strains credulity to think that it might be intellectually defensible to leap from Jesus’ statement

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil,’ (Matthew 5:17)

to the conclusion that Jesus,

hasn’t the slightest objection to the cruelties of the Old Testament.

Any fair reading of the New Testament must acknowledge that the New Testament is almost overwhelmingly a book of love and peace. It is virtually impossible to twist the words of the New Testament into any kind of apologetic for the exercise of violence. On almost every page the New Testament extols the virtues that Paul outlined in Galatians when he described what a life of faith looks like in these words:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and inner strength. (Galatians 5:22,23)

No matter how far short I may fall from this vision, Paul’s words in Galatians describe the vision of human life to which I ascribe and to which I am called by the faith I profess. When I fall short of this vision, it is not because this is not the prevailing vision of Christian faith. It is not because the vision is missing from my faith tradition or is contradicted by another dominant voice at the heart of my tradition. It is because I have failed to listen deeply to the teaching of my tradition and have failed to depend upon the grace and love that form the essence of Christian faith.

Historically, when the church has encouraged, justified, and even incited violence, it is not because we have been encouraged in these actions by our sacred texts or the core tenets of our faith. When the church has aligned itself with violence, it has most often done so by compromising, if not contradicting, the heart of Christian faith. There may be times when compromise is necessary in the interests of public safety; but those times are far more rare than have been claimed. If at all, Christians should only ever find themselves supporting the use of violence in the most extreme cases and with the utmost caution. For the most part, our sacred texts and our traditions, encourage us to be people of love and peace.

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Here are a selection from the many texts that could be cited from the New Testament that demonstrate that it is fundamentally a book of love and peace. It really is a worthwhile exercise to read and ponder all of these verses and to feel the force of their orientation towards love and peace:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:7-10)

Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ (Mark 9:50)

Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (Luke 6:30-35)

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. (I Thessalonians 5:15)

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For
‘Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it. (I Peter 3:8-11)

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ esus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ (Mark 12:28-33)

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.(Romans 13:8-10)

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:9-13)

now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:13-17)

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-14)

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:1-13)

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (I Peter 4:8-10)

By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (Luke 1:78,79)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. (John 14:27)

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:9, 10)

a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.(James 3:18)

Pursue peace with everyone. (Hebrews 12:14)

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:38-45)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.(Romans 12:15-18)

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