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A challenging four-session study on what the Bible can teach Christians about ■violence. Is violence ever an effective tool for addressing conflict?
Did Jesus Always Preach Nonviolence?
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Adult Study, Adult Study
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What does Jesus preach about the use of violence? And how can we apply his lessons to our world today? There's no question that we live in a very different social, religious, political, and economic climate from that of Jesus and his contemporaries. And if we assume that Jesus and the people to whom he spoke saw the world in exactly the same way as we do, we are likely to go astray. But there are most certainly lessons to be learned from the Bible--lessons we must learn to effectively address the issue of violence in our culture.

Session one of this four-session study introduces the general topic of sayings and actions of Jesus that seem to support his use and support of violence and provides guidance for properly interpreting these examples. This session includes a lighthearted activity designed to help participants understand the importance of reading biblical passages within their proper context.

In Session two, participants will consider the story of Jesus' "cleansing" of the temple, which suggests that Jesus, in a fit of anger, brandished a whip to rid the temple of moneychangers and other merchants. It is worth recalling that this is the most violent act attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. If this is as much violence as Jesus ever used, what does that say about contemporary Christians advocating violence by taking up guns, bombs, and missiles to settle conflict?

Session three addresses the challenges we face when mixing religion and politics in contemporary society; clearly the two are thoroughly mixed in the Gospels and other biblical texts. The story of Jesus healing the centurion's servant is considered in light of Jesus' teaching on loving our enemies.

Finally, Session four considers Jesus' saying that "the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one" and explores whether it is meant literally and, if not, what its real meaning may be in relationship to being a disciple of Jesus.

This four-part study is particularly relevant given the contentious nature of the political climate we're living in today.

David Rensberger is Professor of New Testament at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia and author of several publications on the New Testament, including Johannine Faith and Liberating Community.

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