Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City and the author of many books including The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of Man. In this brief but soul-stirring paperback, he notes that the three general responses to evil are passivity, violent opposition, and the third way of militant nonviolence articulated by Jesus.
Human evolution has conditioned us for flight or fight. And over the centuries, those have been the most common responses to injustice. History books are filled with accounts of power politics and war but barely mention nonviolent strategies. Yet, Wink states, in 1989-1990 alone, 14 nations underwent revolutions, all of them successful except China and all of them nonviolent except Romania. Gene Sharp has itemized 198 types of nonviolent actions which are part of the historical record but few students have ever heard of them.
Wink speaks directly to Christians when he says that the most important questions are "What does God require of me in response to the needs of others?" and "How can I participate in the struggle of the oppressed for a more just world?" Sadly enough many secularists eschew Jesus' teachings about nonviolence as "impractical idealism." Wink points out what they find inadequate about "turn the other cheek," "resist not evil," and "going the second mile." He then goes on to present his imaginative and provocative interpretations of these three nonviolent teachings by Jesus. He compares them to activist Saul Alinsky's principles for nonviolent community action. In the most poignant chapter in the book, Wink advocates opting for Jesus' path based on the love of enemies, the means that are commensurate with the New Order, respect for the rule of law, the way of the cross, and other reasons.
This is a bold and visionary work that demands several readings and soulful self-examination. Wink makes his points clearly and refuses to shy away from the difficulty of choosing to follow the third way of militant nonviolence advocated and enacted by Jesus. For us, this is the most powerful passage in the book and one that demands to be seriously considered by any serious Christian:
"It cannot be stressed too much: love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of opposition is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. The enemy too believes he or she is in the right, and fears us because we represent a threat against his or her values, lifestyle, or affluence. When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead we play God. We write them out of the Book of Life. We conclude that our enemy has drifted beyond the redemptive hand of God.
"I submit that the ultimate religious question today is no longer the Reformation's 'How can I find a gracious God?' It is instead, 'How can I find God in my enemy?' What guilt was for Luther, the enemy has become for us: the goad that can drive us to God. What has formerly been a purely private affair justification by faith through grace has now, in our age, grown to embrace the world. As John Stoner comments, we can no more save ourselves from our enemies than we can save ourselves from sin, but God's amazing grace offers to save us from both. There is, in fact, no other way to God for our time but through the enemy, for loving the enemy has become the key both to human survival in the age of terror and to personal transformation. Either we find the God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, or we may have no more sunrises."