If Jesus Is Lord
Loving Our Enemies in an Age of Violence
What does Jesus have to say about violence, just war, and killing? Does Jesus ever want his disciples to kill in order to resist evil and promote peace and justice?
This book by noted theologian and bestselling author Ronald J. Sider provides a career capstone statement on biblical peacemaking. Sider makes a strong case for the view that Jesus calls his disciples to love, and never kill, their enemies. He explains that there are never only two options: to kill or to do nothing in the face of tyranny and brutality. There is always a third possibility: vigorous, nonviolent resistance. If we believe that Jesus is Lord, then we disobey him when we set aside what he taught about killing and ignore his command to love our enemies.
This thorough, comprehensive treatment of a topic of perennial concern vigorously engages with the just war tradition and issues a challenge to all Christians, especially evangelicals, to engage in biblical peacemaking. The book includes a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas.
Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas
1. Jesus's Gospel
2. Jesus's Actions
3. Jesus's Teaching in the Sermon on the Mount
4. Other Teachings of Jesus
5. Peace in the Rest of the New Testament
6. But What About . . . ?
7. Foundational Theological Issues
8. Problems with Pacifism
9. Problems with Just War Thinking
10. Jesus and Killing in the Old Testament
11. What If Most (or All) Christians Became Pacifists?
12. Nonviolence and the Atonement
13. Christians and Killing in Church History
14. If Jesus Is Lord
"'Jesus intended that his followers should never kill anyone!' After you read If Jesus Is Lord, you will be able to reject this claim as unworkable in the real world, but you will not be able to dispute it. This compelling and challenging volume is the lifework of an impressive Christian 'resistance pacifist'!"
Miroslav Volf, Yale Divinity School, director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and author of For the Life of the World: Theology That Makes a Difference
"Ron Sider is a rare bird among biblical interpreters: he combines well-grounded scholarly attentiveness with a lively, practical passion for a world of just peace. He has, moreover, been at it for a long, grace-filled lifetime. It is no surprise then that this book comes at just the right moment for us. It is a moment in which American Christians, across the theological spectrum, are recognizing that our widely shared historical accommodation to cultural religion is a shameful failure and that we must return to Jesus's radical core claims. Sider's exposition of transformative pacifism is based on the cruciality of Jesus, his teaching, and the witness of his life. Many Christians will want to take a deep (spirit-filled!) breath with this book and embrace new resolve about being faithfully present in the world alongside Jesus. Our long-term debt to Sider is deep and beyond calculation. This book is a summons to discipleship in a way that matters."
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
"Ron Sider's new book, If Jesus Is Lord, is excellent and extremely helpful thinking for our Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. It challenges us to replace simplistic ideas about nonviolent action as naive with more accurate, expanded, and evidence-based information about effective nonviolent tools as an option for resisting evil that could help humanity actually build a more peaceful world. From civil resistance to diplomacy, trauma healing to restorative justice, nonviolent civilian protection to nonviolent communication, the possibilities are legion and largely underdeveloped. Thank you, Ron Sider!"
Marie Dennis, copresident, Pax Christi International
"This book is not merely a case for living as nonviolent Christians; it is a deep and spiritually formative Bible study centered on the life of Jesus. I found it intellectually expansive and emotionally compelling. No one tackles the tough issues like Ron Sider. You just can't go on with your life as before. This book helped me draw closer to Jesus as Lord."
Joel C. Hunter, faith community organizer; former senior pastor, Northland Church
"Ron Sider has long been an authoritative, faithful, and prophetic voice on issues of Christian faithfulness. If Jesus Is Lord creates a timely and compelling challenge to all Christians. His explication of Christian nonviolence, for both individuals and society, is one of the strongest I have seen and draws a clear picture of what it means to truly follow Jesus's beatitude 'blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.' To live this, one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus, is central to what it means to believe and follow Christ in our time."
Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine
"Christian pacifism has no better biblical and theological apologist than Ron Sider. In If Jesus Is Lord, Sider has presented the most insightful and persuasive treatise for Christian peacemaking. Whatever your posture on war and peace, this insightful tome is a must-read!"
Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; pastor, Calvario City Church, Orlando, Florida
"Ron Sider's book offers an excellent biblically grounded support for Christian peacemaking while also examining differing points of view. It is a great resource for evangelicals today who are seeking to understand the complexities of Jesus's calling to loving one's enemies in an age of violence. In every chapter, Sider presents a compelling invitation to follow Jesus's example of nonviolent and radical love. This book is important reading for all Christians committed to peacemaking."
Mayra G. Picos Lee, board president, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America~Bautistas por la Paz; senior lecturer in counseling and director of the MTS in Latino/a ministries, Palmer Theological Seminary
"Over and over lone voices, the most significant being Ron Sider's, have been calling Christians to think again, probe more deeply, and become more faithful to the paradigm of the cross. But that cross emerged from the teachings and life of Jesus. From Jesus's opening sermon in Nazareth to the cross there is a consistent vision--pacifist to the core--that needs to become our vision all over again. A consistent follower of Jesus is a pacifist, and Ron Sider has demonstrated this one more time. I have been reading Sider for forty years, and this is his best case yet."
Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
"Ronald J. Sider has spent a lifetime shaking up the religious establishment, blurring the lines of Right and Left with his 'dirty fingernails' theology about peace and social justice. If Jesus Is Lord is yet another bold burr in the ethical saddle of the evangelical world. In this provocative and invitational examination of Jesus-centered actions for peace and reconciliation, Sider implores pacifists to be responsive to the range of legitimate critiques against them (you're naive, simplistic, utopian), challenges just war Christians to consider that there are more than two options (kill or do nothing) to defend neighbors, and suggests with bountiful biblical and historical evidence that making peace is less costly than making war. Eminently readable, Sider's book is a biblically based exegesis and a grace-inspired 'third-way' anthem for affirming a justice and Jesus-centered Christianity. Be prepared to be challenged and affirmed at every turn. Sider explores eye-opening 'if' questions about what it means to call ourselves Christians. He begins with, 'If Jesus is Lord, what does it mean to embrace the full, biblical, nonviolent Christ?' He ends with the question, 'What if most Christians became pacifists?' This book is relevant and impactful for Jesus followers across the spectrum who want to make a difference by reconciling beauty and brokenness in our world today."
Susan Schultz Huxman, president and professor, Eastern Mennonite University
"Ron Sider has offered a faithful, Christ-centered moral witness over his long and fruitful career. This new book gives his crowning statement: a thoughtful pacifist perspective, deeply rooted in Jesus Christ."
David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University
"Sider's sophisticated and coherent case for Christian pacifism magnifies its intellectual as well as existential appeal. War, like sin, may never be abolished. But, as Sider so eloquently argues, nonviolent resistance in the name of Jesus Christ can instigate change by enlivening the gospel with grace and power against the violence of our times."
Lisa Sowle Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College
"In trademark fashion, Ron Sider once again invites Christians to consider what they say they believe. If Jesus Is Lord is a comprehensive examination of whether Jesus really meant that we should not kill. Focused on the life and teachings of Jesus, but ranging throughout Scripture, church history, and theological tradition, Sider systematically examines the arguments for and against pacifism. He concludes that nonviolent resistance, understood not as a passive alternative to just war theory but as a proactive and creative third way, is the best interpretation of biblical teaching on how to respond to violence in our world. Sider invites readers to imagine the powerful impact of Jesus's teaching in a world where Christians truly practiced this third way, not as a response to an occasional moral dilemma in times of armed conflict but as a way of life. This book is for everyone. You will be a deeper, more creative pacifist or a more thoughtful and compassionate just war theorist after reading If Jesus Is Lord."
Shirley A. Mullen, president, Houghton College
"If Jesus Is Lord is not a flimsy book of admonitions. Ron Sider takes oft glibly quoted commands, such as 'love your enemies,' and turns them on their head. His writing is challenging and biblically, historically, and theologically grounded. This is Ron Sider at his best. He has been speaking prophetically for a half century and living it out with the grace and love of Jesus."
Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church
"Ron Sider meticulously and convincingly explores the meaning of Jesus's message of love for all and the biblical basis for renouncing violence and war. Essential reading for those who call themselves Christians and for all who seek a world of justice and peace."
David Cortright, director of policy studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
"A fine contribution on Jesus's gospel of peace in relation to the Old Testament, views of the atonement, and the early church's stance against killing. Vintage Sider!"
Willard Swartley, professor emeritus of New Testament, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
"One of the most important books of the year, if not of the decade. It is, in a way, one of Ron's great legacies, a life's work, a magnum opus. . . . If Jesus Is Lord: Loving Our Enemies in an Age of Violence is a gift to the church, a call to faithfulness, and a very, very, important volume. Highly recommended."
Hearts and Minds Books (named a Best Book of 2019)
"Sider has spent his career as an academic and Christian leader at the intersection of injustice and nonviolence. . . . If Jesus Is Lord is a masterful defense of pacifism as the only faithful option for followers of Christ."
Evangelicals for Social Action
"A helpful defense of Christian pacifism from a biblical, Christological perspective by a longtime, articulate advocate of nonviolence."
"Ron Sider, in If Jesus is Lord, examines the Sermon on the Mount and its implications for violence, war, and pacifism. I consider Jesus' teachings to be the most significant location for this entire discussion. . . . The most natural interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount seems to confirm that Christians in the first three centuries were right in thinking that Jesus intended to teach his followers never to kill."
Jesus Creed blog
"A timely and ultimately inspiring study for our troubled times, If Jesus Is Lord: Loving Our Enemies in an Age of Violence is unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community. . . . Especially recommended for community, church, seminary, college, and university library collections."
Midwest Book Review
"Reading this book is a disturbing experience--at least it should be for anyone trying to follow Jesus Christ today. . . . [Sider] sets out the case for Christian pacifism, doing so in a way that demands our attention and response, even those of us who have not been convinced up to now. Challengingly, Sider makes his case on the basis of a wide-ranging, informed exploration of the Bible, particularly focusing on the person, teaching, and actions of Jesus."
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