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    Fight Like Jesus

    Jason Porterfield’s Fight Like Jesus: How Jesus Waged Peace throughout Holy Week gives a longtime Christian pacifist food for thought.

    By Charles E. Moore

    April 7, 2022
    • Mike Nacrelli

      Insurrection is generally not endorsed under Just War criteria. One need not be a pacifist to reject armed rebellion in most cases.

    • Dan Davis

      Our small congregation is using this to guide us in our Lenten journey. I chose the book after reading Scot McKnight's forward. It has not disappointed. Rather I am witnessing a transformation in myself and people who have been doing church for 40 plus years. As pastor, Porterfield's insights have challenged me while brining new life into my ministry, I highly recommend it

    You could be excused for thinking that there are already enough books addressing Jesus’ way of making peace. But I’ve found that most either push some extrabiblical agenda or rehash the same arguments about war and peace that have already been run into the ground. Jason Porterfield’s book Fight Like Jesus does neither. Accessible and peppered with surprising insights, this is a book worth diving into because it keeps our eyes directly on Jesus while not overlooking “inconvenient” scripture passages.

    Porterfield focuses his attention on each day of Jesus’ last week. We think of this week in terms of Jesus’ suffering – his betrayal, his loneliness, his agony, his passion and crucifixion. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was led to the slaughter for the sins of the world. Porterfield, however, reminds us that Jesus did more than suffer: he actively and zealously demonstrated God’s peace – so much so that it takes us off guard. Palm Sunday, for example, was not a benign, ceremonial entry into Jerusalem, but a bold, prophetic demonstration of Jesus’ kingship. Jesus wasn’t interested in just receiving homage. He meant for the crowd waving their palms of “victory” over their oppressors to know that he was their liberator. By riding a donkey instead of a warhorse, he also meant them to see that his reign is one of goodwill.

    Then why the whip of chords in the temple? (John 2:15–17) Why the strident declarations against the religious leaders? (Mark 12:38–40) Why did Jesus command his disciples to carry swords? (Luke 22:36) Traditionally, these incidents have been fodder for those who feel violence is sometimes justified. Porterfield carefully rebuts this notion and in doing so shows the extent to which Jesus is committed to nonviolence. What kind of whip did Jesus use? What sort of woes did he prophesy for the powerful? Why did he tell his disciples to carry only two swords? I will let readers discover for themselves in Porterfield’s astute treatment of these texts.

    Porterfield writes evenhandedly and doesn’t get bogged down in scholarly minutia. For instance, he explains the difference between the Day of Atonement and Passover. The former has to do with forgiveness, the latter with liberation. Jesus’ death on the cross was a Passover act of liberation. “Yes,” Porterfield writes, “Jesus died for our sins so that we might have life. But he also came to show us the way to live and the truth about God.” In other words, the cross isn’t just something Jesus endured for our sake, “it is also the end result of a way of living we are called to imitate.” In this light we can better understand why the crowds chose Barabbas, a violent insurrectionist, instead of Jesus (Matt. 27:21). They wanted to rid their land of enemies, and they wanted vengeance. Jesus, on the other hand, called them to love their enemies and practice forgiveness. “If we choose the Barabbas way of making peace,” writes Porterfield, “we have rejected Jesus.”

    “If we choose the Barabbas way of making peace,” writes Porterfield, “we have rejected Jesus.”

    Jesus’ nonviolent approach to enemies is vividly illustrated in the way he responded when nailed to the cross. Porterfield points out that Jesus’ words on the cross could not be more different from those of Mattathias in 167 BC, the Maccabean who, in a fit of righteous anger, stabbed two men to death, tore down the altar, and fled to the hills crying, “Avenge the wrong done to your people. Pay back the Gentiles in full!” (1 Macc. 2:67–68). This is not what Jesus cried out on the cross. Instead of demanding vengeance, he called for the opposite: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

    Throughout Porterfield’s book we discover a Jesus who, despite grave opposition, misunderstanding, and risk to himself, works and speaks consistently for peace. He enters Jerusalem in a spirit of peace and upon his resurrection utters words of peace. In fact, Porterfield notes, despite his disciples’ betrayal and abandonment, instead of berating them Jesus proclaims, “Peace be with you!” (1 John 20:19). Quoting John Dear, “There’s not a trace of anger, resentment, retaliation, or vengeance. There’s no argument, no ‘I told you so,’ no condemnation.” Jesus’ way of peace speaks healing words of mercy that calm fears and invite us back into community with him.

    Because Fight Like Jesus is structured around each day of Holy Week it lends itself for reading during Lent. But the book stands on its own and can be read any time. Porterfield reminds us that there is more – much more – to Jesus’ last days than what happened on Palm Sunday or on Good Friday and Easter. The path Jesus trod was a sorrowful one, but it was a path that led to peace and hope. Porterfield’s own reflections on what that path might look like for us who live in the twenty-first century are real and honest and inviting. We would be wise to consider them, and wiser still to walk as Jesus did during his last week. For in this world we are to be like him (1 John 2:6). Porterfield’s reflections can help us to do this.

    Contributed By CharlesMoore Charles E. Moore

    Charles E. Moore is a writer and contributing editor to Plough. He is a member of the Bruderhof, an intentional community movement based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

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