Juxtaposition and opposition in the Christian way

Living out the way of Jesus by overcoming evil by means of alternative living.

The Christian life is a nuanced one, there is on one hand the call to defend the oppressed and oppose the proud while on the other a call to not resist our enemies. Since, as Christians, we believe Jesus believed his own preaching and then lived it out, we know that the result of these two calls to action is not contradiction but instead nuance.

If we hope to be effective in bringing about social justice and peacemaking in this broken world, we need to live out this nuance better. When we don’t you can really tell: you get the Westboro Baptists, dripping in hatred, condemnation and judgement while they oppose what they deem as injustice. In other instances what we see are good causes backed up by preaching only with no action or sacrifice, robbing it of any chance at the moral high-ground or the miracle-making power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the model of how to live out this nuance. In his day the Romans were an occupying empire and the religious elite (Pharisees and Sadducees) were the hand of political oppression while also administering spiritual hypocrisy in the name of God. These were the powers that existed at the time that Jesus lived and were the administrators of the evil He worked to overcome.

We can use Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees and Roman officials as a lens through which to see how we should interact with systems of injustice.


We are called to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) and Jesus gave us the model for how to do this. In cases like interactions with the Pharisees we see Jesus exposing their hypocrisy and rebuking it outright, to set free the oppressed from their bondage.

Jesus overturning tables in the Temple (John 2:13–17), untethered relationship with God from money. Jesus’ rebuke about washing hands before meals (Matthew 15:1–20) untethered one’s standing before God from ceremony and tradition. Jesus healing a man’s hand on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6–11) prioritized experiential relationship with God and obedience to His voice over strict adherence to law. It also freed people from anything that hindered them from doing the good they know should be done, even if there are laws against it (“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9). Jesus writing in the sand (John 8:1–11) freed that woman from the shame and condemnation she was handed by those religious leaders in order to help her find relationship with God and live differently.

Notice there was no slut-shaming, no victim blaming, no condemnation of the oppressed. There was never selfish ambition. There was a firm and oft gentle hand pushing against injustice; then another open hand out towards the oppressed as an invitation to receive the grace and love of God. Notice there was never opposition for the sake of opposition, there was always a purpose and then a call to live differently.


Jesus always juxtaposed. He presented the option to live differently. We see this when Jesus interacts with the oppressed people in a few of the stories above when he calls them to live different now that they have encountered God’s grace.

In other instances Jesus would point out the way of the world and then preach how the children of God would live. This was always juxtaposing the conduct of citizens of Heaven with those of this world. All of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) is a sermon on the upside down nature of the Kingdom of Jesus. The world was one way (generally self centered) and the way of Heaven was another (usually lowering oneself to level of a servant).

Some more examples are the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) about radical forgiveness and throwing away the temptations of comparison. The parable of the laborers (Matthew 20:1–16) teaches one to be humbly accepting of what is gracefully given. Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Matthew 7:1–8) proposes the idea that no human should judge another. The story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18–30) that riches are not the way to eternal life. Loving enemies (Luke 6:27–36) instead of only loving those that love you.

Notice also, that Jesus never just preached an alternative way of life, Jesus himself would live those juxtapositions out.

Living out The Way

In the case of saying: do not resist your enemies, Jesus did not resist with those that arrested him (John 18:4–11), accused him (John 18:28–40), beat him (John 19:1–11), or those that crucified him (Luke 23:26–43), instead he asked God to have mercy on them. He juxtaposed lived out the alternate way to interact with the powers that be and the result was that he conquered death itself and walked among the living.

Jesus lived out becoming a servant when he washed his disciples feet. (John 13:1–20) Aside: it hits me so hard every time that God himself humbled himself to that level, just…wow.

In the time of Jesus, tax collectors were some of the most hated people in society because they frequently stole from people and were the traitors of Israel that served the Roman empire (link). Their sins are many and yet Jesus shows radical forgiveness when He forgives Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1–10).

Jesus loves and forgives His enemies by praying for their forgiveness when actually nailed bodily to the cross (Luke 23:32–43).

Jesus, the most righteous and sinless man to ever live, was committed to not judge on His own authority but to only judge by what He heard come from the Father (John 5:30–32).

Jesus lived out his preaching about money when He didn’t pursue riches as a means to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He was homeless (Luke 9:57–58), seemed to carry no money, told His disciples not to even bring extra changes of clothes on their journeys to preach (Luke 10:1–12).

Jesus lived out the acceptance of what is gracefully given when we see Jesus praying about his impending death (Luke 22:41–44). In the face of death and pain beyond imagining, He gratefully accepts His cup.

Living Out Juxtaposition as a Means of Opposition

Just opposing evil is not enough to emulate the way of Jesus. Jesus didn’t just overturn the tables in the Temple, he then presented the alternate way to live in proximity to God and then he lived it out. This gave rise to a new framework for living that inherently destroys systems of injustices. Jesus’ opposition of the evil in the world was carried out by living differently with the power of the Creator of the Universe to back it up.

Power Behind the Conviction

Our core conviction for believing in the way of Jesus is that the darkness has not overcome (John 1) and will not overcome the light of the world. So we can live a life of meeting power with servitude and non-violence. We can live this way to the point that we need not concern ourselves with the outcome, because we trust God will win in the end and that the way of light will eventually prevail. We join in turning the world upside down by means of radical love and blessing our enemies and turning the other cheek while simultaneously standing against the evil in the world because we know that the power of Yahweh is working to help us do these things.


If we hope to stand up for the poor and oppressed, we have to live out a fuller picture the model Jesus gave us. We need to be people that take action when we see oppression to stand between the oppressor and the oppressed. We need to propose alternatives, a more grace-full and loving style of life. Then we ourselves need to live those loving lifestyles out even if living out that way of life is illegal or incredibly unpopular in the current legal and/or cultural climate.

Can you imagine what it would look like if Christian activism was so rooted in reconciliation and nonviolence that we were known for our love of mercy and justice. What would it look like if the name of Jesus and His followers were tied to peacemaking. What if we never judged and always started from a place of believing and comforting the victims before making snap judgements. What could we do if we lived more like Jesus did in the face of injustice?