Jesus with a Whip: How is THAT nonviolence?

I was asked a great question this week. Is the nonviolent Jesus I'm talking about the same one who drove out people and animals from the temple with a whip?


How? The story in John chapter 2 goes something like this:

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for passover. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all the animals from the temple, flipped the cash drawer and turned the tables. Jesus says, "Get all this out of here. Quit turning my Papa's house into a merch table!" 

It was alarming. It was intense. It was a spectacle. Jesus, as a master of nonviolence, chooses the opportunity to employ some theatrics to prove his point. He drives out the animals and throws the cash all over the place. He was disruptive. He was obnoxious. He wreaked havoc on the business set up in the temple courts. He certainly disturbed the peace, and it could be said that he vandalized property. It certainly wasn't nice. What does this have to do with nonviolence?

He proved a point, and he didn't cause harm to any being to do it. 

Jesus found what to him was a grave injustice, and it incensed him. He stepped into that situation and acted on it, not ultimately causing destruction to the temple or any person, but protesting by scattering a bunch of animals, yelling at people and making the floor a mess of money. All that with a makeshift whip on your way into worship. Not bad, Jesus.

Jesus didn't whip anybody. He didn't bring an army to enforce a new temple policy, he was protesting the current temple status quo. He created a spectacle, a mockery of the current economic/religious regime by making a mess of their stuff. Is this a blueprint passage for civil disobedience? Maybe not. Is it violent? No.

People get the idea that nonviolence is passive, and nothing could be further from the truth. A person of active nonviolence doesn't control, doesn't manipulate, but that doesn't mean she always follows the rules. 
Benjamin FaderComment