Violence (3 of 7) by Christopher Harbin

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Violence (3 of 7)
Series: We Don't Like Jesus
Christopher B. Harbin
Matthew 5:38-48

In the last two parts of this series, we looked at issues we have with Jesus over themes of justice and condemnation. Today we turn to issues of violence. It would seem that our lives are wrapped up in violent themes that do injustice to the Jesus we claim to love and serve as Lord.

Can you picture Jesus sporting a cowboy hat, gun belt, double-holster, six-shooters, a bandolier, and a rifle slung across his back? How about wearing body armor and carrying an assault rifle? Are those mental images jarring? Does they feel sacrilegious or incongruous? They probably should. After all, images of Jesus carrying weapons would be in very stark contrast to the Jesus we find portrayed in the Bible.

We find Jesus in the gospels living in a very violent time period of Roman occupation. The Romans were known for using excessive force as a means to maintain order and quash rebellion. Their penchant for crucifixion was designed to instill fear in the peoples they subjugated. A man hanging on a cross was a sign to the larger population that they needed to behave, or else. A placard was hung with each criminal to describe the crime for which each was being crucified. The notion was deterrence through force. Violence was a weapon and a strategy for dominance.

Mercy, grace, and forgiveness were not high on the list of attributes of Roman occupation. They were not very high on the list for Jewish society, either. While there was visible violence from the hated Romans, there were plenty of other forms of violence in vogue among the rest of Jewish society, as well. Slavery was alive and well. It was a different sort of slavery than we know from the transatlantic slave trade of a couple of centuries back, but it was still a subjugation and dehumanization of others. Rather than based on ethnic racism, it tended to be cast in economic terms. There was also plenty of violence against those deem ...

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