Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
Reflection: Without imposing one text or one view on the whole picture of Jesus, the third way interpretation is a way of accounting for a prophetic and nonviolent life that threatened both the Roman and Temple authorities. It does not deny the violent imagery in some of his parables. It presents a Jesus of inner power who, when a Samaritan village refused to host him, refuses his disciples’ idea that he ask God “to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them.” (In contemporary terms, they could have been calling for a missile or divine airstrike to take out that village.) Jesus rebukes them, saying, “You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them” (Luke 9:51–62, esp. 55–56, NASB). Even when Jesus demonstrated his strong passion for justice and the integrity of God’s sacred house by cleansing the Temple, overturning the tables of the money changers and driving them out, he stopped short of violence against persons.
When Jesus was about to be arrested, one of his disciples struck a slave of the high priest with a sword and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched the slave’s ear and healed him. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Jesus didn’t resort to violence to protect his life or legacy. Instead of taking up the sword, he chose to endure the suffering of the cross with words of forgiveness on his lips: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Question for discernment: How do we respond to the example of Jesus and the nonviolent church of the first three centuries after 17 centuries of trying to restrain violence through just war categories? Is there a third way between fight and flight?
Prayer: Divine Judge, forgive us for speaking evil against others and judging others. Like Jesus’ early disciples, we want to call down your wrath on those who have hurt us. We want to act as judge, jury, and executioner. But in Luke 9, Jesus reminds us that he did not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them. Give us the strength and humility to follow in that spirit.