Violence Is Consistent with Love for One’s Enemies

A central argument of Christians who argue for principled nonviolence, like Sean Finnegan, is that Jesus’s command to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44) precludes violence. It’s not loving to punch a man in the face – or kill him – so if we are to love our enemies, then we are forbidden from engaging in any violence against them. Most folks with healthy instincts revolt at such an absolutization of this text, immediately asserting that some qualification to this principle is necessary to account for cases (e.g.) where our loved ones’ lives are at stake. Notwithstanding this apparent need to account for the complexity inherent in such moral situations, absolutist proponents of nonviolence will scoff that these are pretended “exemptions” to Jesus’s plain and simple commandments. Here is a plain and simple argument against their absolutist reading.

One can be sinfully unloving in the commission of violent acts, but one can also easily be unloving in a sin of omission. Suppose you see a small boulder tumbling towards your daughter. Any decision to refrain from physically stopping that boulder would be unloving, since you have an obligation of love to protect her from physical dangers, obviously. But now ...

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