The distinction between the failed “Might makes right” mentality, which is the ideological base for all Empires, and what we have termed the better way, which can be summed up in the words of the Golden Rule: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” was made clear to all in an event that can only be adequately described as the flashpoint in human history, the moment which literally opened the possibility to choose the better way.
This critical moment is related for us in the Gospel of John, chapter 18, verses 37 and 38:
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?”retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”
For those unfamiliar with the scene, which is expounded upon in John 38:28-40, this historic exchange between Jesus and the Roman Governor Pilate takes place in Pilate’s residence, which is referred to as the Roman Governor’s Palace, in Jerusalem on the day before the Jewish Passover in what is now known as the year 33 CE according to the Gregorian calendar. It was witnessed by none other than the Apostle John. It is evident by its inclusion in John’s gospel that He grasped the full importance of the exchange.
For John was witnessing the start of a revolution.
Pilate, the governor, was Rome’s representative in Jerusalem, capital of the rebellious province of Palestine. He spent his days tempering an uneasy peace between Caesar and the Jewish majority of the region. His life was a daily exercise of the compromising principles and choosing the lesser of evils. Perhaps more than any historical character, He represents the inescapable consequence of humanity orienting itself by the “Might makes right” mentality and the ever present fear that it engenders.
Pilate was the embodiment of Empire.
His reply to Jesus’ statement about everyone on the side of truth listening to him (Jesus), “What is truth?” is neither a contemptuous mock of Jesus, nor an honest question, rather, it is an exasperated utterance of a man whose life has been reduced to endless compromises, and has seen that the lesser of evils is, in any and every case, necessarily evil.
One must wonder how many heads of state today utter these same words as they contemplate the clear moral law in contrast to what they have been called to do in this life.
How many career military men, after carrying out an assault on the enemy, have grappled with this lament in their souls?
Each of them may grapple, if indeed they pause to reflect on such matters, with a contradiction which has been eloquently expounded by Adin Ballou, who wrote a significant body of work on peaceful resistance, in his pamphlet entitled: “How many Men are Necessary to Change a Crime into a Virtue?”
“One man may not kill. If he kills a fellow-creature, he is a murderer. If two, ten, a hundred men do so, they, too, are murderers. But a government or a nation may kill as many men as it chooses, and that will not be murder, but a great and noble action. Only gather the people together on a large scale, and a battle of ten thousand men becomes an innocent action. But precisely how many people must there be to make it so?–that is the question. One man cannot plunder and pillage, but a whole nation can. But precisely how many are needed to make it permissible? Why is it that one man, ten, a hundred, may not break the law of God, but a great number may?”
Yeah, it is a contradiction that rightfully haunts thinking persons the world over to this day.
At this flashpoint in history, Pilate speaks for all of them. The Might makes right system, which must avail itself to represent the truth in a vain attempt to cloak itself with a shred of legitimacy, leaves its thinking adherents searching in vain for a truth that ultimately relies on the fragile force of arms to perpetuate itself.
On the other side of the truthless void embodied in the person of Pilate, is Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus brought the truth with Him wherever He went. As He stood, soon to be condemned to death by the Might makes right mentality which was swallowing the world, He embodied the truth as never before. John witnessed this moment in the governor’s palace and remained shocked to the end of his days.
To Pilate’s lament, “What is truth?” Jesus replies, then and forevermore:
In doing so, He ratified what he had preached in the Sermon on the Mount, to turn the other cheek, what is known today as the doctrine non-resistance.
Ever since that fateful day, which represents THE watershed moment in all of human history, mankind has had the choice to chose the Golden rule, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” over the self destructive system of Might makes right. For Jesus represents the clear change in God’s relationship with mankind. God would no longer claim His ultimate authority on the failed Might makes right philosophy, for there is none mightier than the Living God. Rather, He chose to cleanse the world through Jesus, the ultimate example of non-resistance.
Jesus’ crucifixion served as an indictment to every soul who would claim triumph by defeating others. It served notice of the moral bankruptcy of the world system. For over 2,000 years, those who have stopped at the cross to soak in the message, as John did, have been relentlessly making the world a better place.
In His resurrection, Jesus shattered every excuse for those who believe in Him to cling to the failed system of Might makes right, for to cling to the system is to live in constant search of, or worse, a fear of a truth which has already been revealed. It is to deny that the kingdoms of this world are perishing and the the Kingdom of God is advancing EVERY DAY.
The Christian, then, has no moral standing when embracing the “Might makes right” mentality in defense of property and even life. Jesus showed us the better way, the way to the Father. He is preparing for us a home in God’s Kingdom, where the rule of Might makes right is vanquished, where peace is permanently established and treasures are secure, for the Golden Rule reigns supreme.
Yet the true irony and divine beauty of embracing the doctrine of non-resistance here and now is that it serves to enhance both the peace and security of the adherent.
Why not give peace a chance?
Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.
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