I turned on the T.V. today and saw the horrible news: They’ve kidnapped Jesus at gunpoint.

Not terrorists or Atheists or Muslims or career criminals — but American Christians. The image on the screen is heart-wrenching and horrible to witness. They’ve got guns in their hands and Scriptures on their lips, and they’re violently twisting his words until I can’t even recognize them anymore.

They’re wearing holsters and crosses, bullets and Bibles. They stand there, surrounding him, claiming to speak for him.

They yell a lot about freedom, but it doesn’t sound at all like the kind he spoke about, at least not from the stories his friends wrote about him.

They shout and beat their chests, they raise their barrels to the sky in proud defiance, saying we’ll have to pry them from their “cold dead hands” — and tell us that Jesus is good with it all.

And the whole time, he just sits there. All the while they bluster and spit, he does nothing. He just takes it. He doesn’t defend himself. I think that’s what infuriates me the most. I know who he is. He could wave his hand and put them all in their places. He could speak a word and level every one of them. He could silence his captors in a heartbeat; drop them where they stand and simply get up and walk out of that room.

Then I’m reminded of him in the Garden of Gethsemene, refusing to fight back. I’m reminded that escaping pain was never his style. Nor was forcing those who disagreed with him to comply. Or retribution, revenge, or even self-defense. He didn’t go for power plays or displays of toughness or acts of aggression or retaliatory strikes.

No, his way was never with might — but with mercy.

You see, as much as I want to, I can’t get angry at Jesus for not meeting their violence with more violence, because I remember. I remember what he taught me; what he taught the multitudes on that hillside. He was the one who spoke of turning the other cheek. He was the one who warned not to resist an evil person.

He talked of the blessedness of those who make peace, of praying for those who would damage you, of sacrificially laying down one’s life, of fearing not the one who can destroy the body—but the one who can destroy the soul.

The Jesus I remember didn’t seek soldiers; he called loving followers. The Jesus I remember didn’t come to build an army, but to bring a way of living abundantly. The Jesus I remember, stepped onto the planet and showed us the sacredness of the least and the last and the low.

He made it clear that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, would leave us all only blind and toothless; helpless and disfigured—ever darkened and groping vainly for the path. He chastised the one who used the sword in his defense, even though doing so would take him to a place of unearned horror, undeserved agony, unnecessary torture.

Yet for all the ways that he preached these things, he spoke most loudly through his choices. He chose to serve. He chose to humble himself. He chose to sacrifice. He chose The Cross. Jesus’ power was always most beautifully visible in restraint. His strength most clearly shown, in submission. His glory brightest, when he allowed it to be buried.

I realize that for him to do anything else now to these gunslingers commandeering his name would be proving them right, it would be blessing further aggression. It would take everything he stood for, and turn it to ashes in a shotgun blast instant of justifiable force. And so, while it tears me up to see them hijack his name and hold his words hostage—I will not be overcome with sadness.

I will not lose heart and I will not relent. I will simply follow his nonviolent benevolent lead. I will love those who are difficult to love, even those who claim to speak for him in a tongue I do not recognize as his.

I will pray for those who would trust in chariots and swords. I will fight those swords with his words. I will respond to force with forgiveness. I will choose to remember that ours is not a battle with flesh and blood, it is the fight to hold on to our souls—and those require very different weapons.

And I will face the fears and dangers of this life, armed with only faith, hope and love… and trust that they are enough.

John Pavlovitz

Originally published on johnpavlovitz.com as Kidnapping Jesus at Gunpoint

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.