If you’ve read the Gospels in the New Testament, you are aware of the narrative where Jesus drove the currency scalpers out of the Court of Gentiles.
The story goes Jesus bundled some cords together and used it like a whip. He overturned the coin exchange tables, along with a few other stalls run by the Bazaars of the Sons of Annas. This was a scandalous business licensed by the High Priest, Annas. His boys would pay a high franchise fee, but would then be protected from competition. Folks coming from outside the country would carry differing currencies and pay well above the official exchange rate because the Temple Tax could be paid only in the Judean shekel. The official reason was the sort of images stamped into the coins; human faces were considered pagan and defiling.
Another wicked practice was selling animals which were “pre-inspected” and already acceptable as offerings in the Temple. The price was considerably higher than animals bought in any other market place. Nobody in their right mind would try to transport their own live animal offerings, since the priestly inspection process was rigged to reject most animals on the various flimsy pretexts.
Worse, all of this was conducted in the Court of Gentiles. This meant Gentiles unwilling to go through circumcision and all the other rituals of conversion to Judaism had no place in the Temple grounds to gather during the high festivals. Jesus cried out as He tore the place apart how wrong it was to block this court, since God’s Temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations, not just Jews.
Along with this was the understanding not obvious to us today: This “cleansing of the Temple” was itself a common prophetic act. It was a symbolic ritual. So the Temple guards and priests on hand asked Jesus what message He proclaimed, so they could decide whether to arrest Him for interfering with the licensed businesses.
Are we to suppose Jesus didn’t actually hit anyone? On the one hand, the best guess we have regarding His whip of cords actually didn’t amount to much of a physical threat. Apparently it was braided, so it could sting if He struck exposed skin, but serious injury was unlikely. But it was violent nonetheless. It was also the single example of Jesus getting violent.
We can’t possibly know, arguing from silence, whether He ever got violent on any other occasion. The Apostle John notes it was not possible, and implies it was inadvisable, to record everything Jesus said and did during His ministry. Given what we do have recorded of His words and deeds, it’s safe to say He was mostly against violence, particularly with such teachings as “turn the other cheek.” We can reasonably deduce He made rare exceptions, such as His zeal for the purpose of God’s Temple. There are some things which cannot be done any other way. This is what I have taught since before starting this blog.
Oddly, I find myself over the years stumbling close to the Mennonite position on most things. That is, I had no intention of being like any particular group, but followed best I could the leading of the Holy Spirit. I realize I teach a lot of things Mennonites don’t teach, and the foregoing discussion shows I can’t quite accept a total ban on violence. At the same time, I do teach violence is wrong in almost every context I’ve experienced. Defending your children from oppressive government, and particularly any so-called Child Protective Services is an example of when I say violence may be godly. Of course, it’s better if you can with godly wisdom discern when they are likely to come after your kids and simply not be there to victimize. I also teach it’s okay to resist sexual assault with violence. But in every case, you, and you alone, can decide what God wants from you in the moment, and sometimes non-resistance may be His desire even in those cases.
I certainly teach you should never serve in the military nor police, since those are today completely given over to state-sponsored violent oppression. Indeed, you should avoid all government service. I don’t care much for formalized theology, but prefer to emphasize biblical theology and obedience to Christ in conduct. I certainly recognize two domains and often post here about how things ought to be handled in the lower, worldly domain. On the other hand, I teach a strong element of ancient Hebraic mysticism. Still, for those who would like to have a handy label for what I believe, I suspect I’m closer to Mennonites than anything else.