I won’t even call this a book review. I don’t know if I can write a review that will do this book justice or remove any of the hesitation and angst that wells up inside most people (in my circles) when they see the subject matter (Non-violence? Are you serious, Clark?). Even discussions with my wife have been tense and my attempts to share with her notable passages from the book have fallen flat without the context of the surrounding chapters. It really must be read in it’s entirety from cover to cover before a logical discussion about the content can begin. Nonviolence is a touchy subject for many conservative, American Christians. We would do well to remember that some heroes of our faith took a stand on this very subject. D.L. Moody was a pacifist and C.H. Spurgeon clearly spoke out against war and the culture of his day.
I’ll refer you to a complete book review by T.C. Moore, which is very well written, and I would encourage you to read it for more detailed information about the book itself. Moore explains in great detail the need for such a book as well as the positive and negative elements contained within it’s pages. Sprinkle earned my respect to some degree with another book, Erasing Hell, that was co-written with Frances Chan as a rebuttal to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. (if you don’t know the background here, Bell believes a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell, but Sprinkle and Chan layout a Biblical argument for the existence of Hell and the necessity for evangelism) Fight is also very well written and Sprinkle’s focus continually returns to “what does scripture say?” which is refreshing and exactly the right place to begin such discussions. The first chapter outlines what he hopes to accomplish and gives the layout of the other chapters. The next chapters focus on the Old Testament, the New Testament, and finally common questions about non-violence (or pacifism and he prefers not to call it).
Instead of reviewing the book, I’ll give you some details about what led me to this topic in the first place. A conversation in February of this year had me seriously pondering the life of Jesus, who is our ultimate example, and his reaction to violence. He continually showed love in the face of his enemies. Even when the disciples used violence in His defense, Jesus rebuked Peter and put a man’s ear back on! Jesus’ love and example became a recurring theme over the next few months in sermons, conversations, and articles that I came across. Finally, a few weeks ago, I read a blog by Shawn Groves (speaker, musician) that had me searching for more concrete answers. In the blog, (go read it) Groves made a statement that really stuck with me. “Jesus told his disciples to love their enemies. I don’t know how to love someone while trying to kill them”.
“The gospel that Jesus preached was radically counterintuitive. It offends our sense of justice and confronts our ways of dealing with evil in the world. And when it comes to dealing with our enemies, what did Jesus say? He didn’t say kill them. He said to love them.” -Preston Sprinkle
I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it goes against the grain, but didn’t Jesus always say things that sounded completely backwards? To keep your life, you must lose it. To die is gain. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Don’t repay evil with evil (they will expect that) but repay evil with good because that gets noticed and God gets the glory.
I don’t know alot. I don’t know what to do about Islamic fundamentalism or Jewish teens abducted by Palestinians or Israeli missiles launched into West Bank neighborhoods or North Korean rocket tests or riots in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. I still have more questions than I have answers, but I want my answers to come from God’s Word alone.
Before you read Fight, check your preconceived notions at the door and go in with an open mind. How much of your belief is based on your upbringing, and how much is based on the Word of God? I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the back cover of the book:
“I’m an evangelical Christian. And I’m not Amish, Quaker, or Mennonite. I own several guns and still believe that the smell of a recently fired shotgun on a crisp fall morning comes darn near close to paradise. But I’ve tried my hardest to understand God’s Word and the diverse perspectives of those who read it. And the more I study, the more I discuss, the more I’ve become convinced: Christians shouldn’t kill or use violence — not even in war.”
With these words, Preston Sprinkle jumps into a compelling, passionate study of God’s perspective on violence. Examining both the seemingly angry, violent God of the Old Testament and the peacemaking Jesus of the New, Preston takes us back to Scripture to discern how God has really called His people to think and live in the midst of a violent world. He asks us to join him in inviting God to challenge our presuppositions, to set aside our biases and backgrounds and fears … and to seek above all else to faithfully follow the Savior who humbly submitted to God in the face of injustice and violence.
Author: Preston Sprinkle
Publisher: David Cook (2013)
Available for purchase on Amazon