This was one of the first books I read that argued extensively for a Christian life of nonviolence. In a culture that mostly accepts violent solutions to problems without much thought, it is vital for Christians to engage with the life and teachings of Jesus. Yoder’s book challenges Christian realism and calls Christians to live in the way of Jesus regardless of what happens. Its not practical, you might die! But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
I wouldn’t call myself a pacifist for two reasons. First, pacifism implies being passive and Jesus was anything but passive. Pacifism is different from Christian nonviolence, which confronts evil in the world in a different way. Second, I live too comfortable a life in America for my claiming of a nonviolent lifestyle to mean much of anything. Its too easy to say you’re nonviolent when you’re not tempted with violence each day.
That said, books like Yoder’s have convinced me that even if American Christians do not all go all the way towards becoming nonviolent pacifists, we ought at least become more nonviolent than we are. Christians ought not be the leading cheerleaders for war and ought to be very critical of the nation we live in when it promotes violence against anyone. May we learn to be more nonviolent than we are and consider that a good start.
Finally, it should be noted that after his death it came out that Yoder was abusive towards women in his life. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to his own teachings and harmed many people. I considered taking his book off my list, but I realized I do not know much about the other 99 authors and how they treated people. Yoder’s abuse is part of his story, but I am choosing to keep his book on my list in the hopes that we can follow his nonviolent teaching better than he himself could.