“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Many separatist and marginal Christian traditions throughout church history have been referred to as ‘peace churches’. The Quakers, Mennonites, Anabaptists and others all have been associated with nonviolent resistance and conscientious objection in their histories. In my view, they connect to a strong movement of the Early Church, a strong vein of pacifism. Now, I’m not going to advocate that the Church Father’s were right about everything, but it is worth noting that pacifism has been a very real expectation of the Church historic.
One could argue that at one point in church history, pacifism was the mainstream view. It only changed when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, crudely replacing Paganism.
It is certainly an error to point to Church history as a guide for our theology and practice: If we did so, we would still conquer and enslave people-groups or ride across europe to kill those of different beliefs. Still, tradition teaches us many things to refine and reform our practice today.
The Church Fathers and many traditions down the ages have interpreted the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament to mean that a Christian should not use violent means to protect himself or his property.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Jesus modeled this himself by enduring bitter mockery (Matthew 27:27-31) and subjecting himself to crucifixion. The world demanded his life and he willingly gave it.
In this he brought peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Son of God.
I can’t help but think this kind of non-resistance is inherently holy because it model’s Jesus. In God’s mind the suffering and death of Jesus was not, in fact, non-resistance. It was the means by which God was going to accomplish his redemptive purpose on the earth.
Now, this redemptive purpose is far greater than the end of hostilities between people-groups, which is the aim of Pacifism. Pacifism, in Jesus life it seems, demonstrates his commitment to his mission and his kingdom.
Is the same true for us? Is it ever ok to take up arms and fight the powers of this world, as a church or as a nation-state?
What do you think?