taking the words of Jesus seriously

How an MMA fighter became less violent 

I learned a few things since I knew it all!  

After years of starting churches, leading alternative worship events, living in Christian community, my family and I sold or gave away almost everything we owned, and moved to Melbourne Australia. I was working for an organization that trains young leaders in ways to actively engage their communities. Teaching and coaching people to imaginatively start church communities in urban settings, and with marginalized people. Then something happened that challenged my perception of Jesus and following the way of the kingdom of God. 

I went out with some friends to a Melbourne café. Trying to eat and listen at the same time is not my strong suit. If I had to pick the more important task, food usually trumped conversation.  

I heard this voice I didn’t recognize say, “the non-violent Jesus”. We were talking about Jesus, and discipleship, and theology etc. so the Jesus part wasn’t shocking, but the “non-violent” was a bit of a speed bump. Slow down, caution, things could get dangerous! Then out of this tiny man, with long dreadlocks, glasses and a man bag, comes this phrase again, “the non-violent Jesus”. Then again, and again, and again. My attention peaked.  

This is how I met my friend Jarrod McKenna. After lunch I took him aside and asked if we could talk.  Just the two of us.  

He smiled, “sure John, would love to.” He even remembered my name. This Australian hippy was getting under my skin.  

We exchanged numbers but before the day was over, I invited him to a cup of coffee, as you do in Melbourne. Later that day I found myself back at the café with Jarrod. As we sat down, I asked, “so what’s with this non-violent Jesus thing?” 

For over an hour he talked about the non-violent nature and message of Jesus. Telling stories, quoting scholars, explaining biblical texts, and patiently guiding me through this revolutionary idea of non-violent resistance He talked, I listened. Everything Jarrod said rang true. He told me about the myth of redemptive violence, the social conditioning we received as children “only violence can stop bad men.” Even how the early Christian church was non-violent.  

“So basically, you are talking about pacifism?” 

“No John, there is nothing passive about this. Jesus came to disturb a culture in love with violence. He advocated radical resistance to oppression in all forms. Jesus got right in the face of evil yet responded with love! It’s all about love mate, breaking the chain of violence by refusing to take part in it”. This would take a bit of time to sink in.  

As we left Jarrod encouraged me to read the book, Jesus the Rebel, by Fr. John Dear. Now I liked the idea of that, as a lifelong punk rocker the idea of rebellion seemed better than pacifism. 

I imagine God got a chuckle as this diminutive hippy, and a rather large former Cage fighter hugged goodbye. I had no idea what I was in for. 

John Dear blew my mind. This wasn’t some hippy dippy Grateful Dead gospel, this was real, intense, almost violent, non-violence.  I grew more and more convinced. I started referring to Jesus as “the non-violent Jesus”. I arranged for Jarrod to come from Perth, to speak at my house church and our church network gathering in Melbourne. We talked, and talked, and when we finished… we talked some more. My faith had once again been challenged and upended. This was exciting.  

Before I knew it, I was planning to go back to America with my family, but before I left Australia, I needed to go see Jarrod in Perth. I wanted to see the community he lived in. I wanted to experience the way they lived, the way they tried to do community in the least violent way possible. I also wanted to be trained by Jarrod, so that I might continue my journey when I arrived back home. 

My whole family jumped on a plane and flew all the way across Australia to Perth. And we lived with Jarrod’s community for a week. He trained me in non-violent communication, in imaginative ways to confront violence and oppression, using new tools. He taught me how to teach non-violence in schools, anti-bullying courses, and ways of resisting without using violence.  I must admit, my life was forever changed meeting this amazing young man. 

Truth is; however, I am a violent man. I was raised to be a violent man. I have trained for thousands of hours to be good at violence. I teach others how to be good at violence. This was not an event; it was an awakening, a life practice.  What does it mean to be a non-violent man in this hyper-violent world? What does it mean for a big, white, straight, highly skilled fighter, to stand up against his own culture, and his own nature? I must say, I still don’t know. But I am less violent than I used to be. I teach others how to use their words instead of their fists, I support people standing against war, and oppression and violence in all its vulgar displays.   

I have also learned to do this away from the fray, not on the streets. There is this not so quiet voice that says, “John, you aren’t ready to test your non-violence, in the face of real violence yet.” But someday soon I hope to be arm and arm on the streets, singing songs of rebellion, with my brothers and sisters. Until then I am just a violent man, desperately trying to be a disciple of “The non-violent Jesus”.

About The Author


Hello friends, my name is John Jensen I have been trying to follow the teachings and actions of Jesus, with my wife of 35 years Raquel, for many many years. During that time I have been a church elder, a youth pastor, and started churches among marginalized communities, as well as coaching and teaching other leaders. https://www.facebook.com/johntherev/

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