Tag Archives: pacifism

Love your enemies

It’s time to resurrect the “Thoughts on War” topic and address the passage that began my turn to pacifism.
I’d read it before, but not until the days after 9/11 did it hit me with such a radical challenge.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.*

I was so challenged, and so struggled with what those words meant in our world and for us. I ran into the dilemma that no matter how I looked at it I couldn’t come to a conclusion that killing my enemy could be loving.

So, brother’s and sister’s in Christ who support war, please help me with some explanation of this.

do not resist…

(note: I’m skipping passages I’d like to come back to later, and trying to hit the ones that most affected me, and ones most people usually reference and want to talk about first).

38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. -Matthew 5:38-42

The idea of not resisting an evil person has got to be the most counter cultural concept I had heard in a long time. We’d certainly heard the “turn the other cheek” passage, but usually it’d been flaunted as a weak and cowardly thing to do to avoid further punishment. Growing up I can only think of one example of this being carried out in real life: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. I later learned about Gandhi, Mandela, and others, but initially I had heard of nothing but the occasional reference to the Civil Rights movement. It’s no wonder I and many others didn’t take this passage seriously at all.

But, upon reading it one summer I was struck by the fact that a literal interpretation of it seems incredibly inline with what Christ message is. Self-sacrificial love seems like the only compelling force to this type of action. I later was enlightened by Walter Wink’s insight into this passage and I think it coincides with what I said. Christ calls us not to resist the person, but rather to show them love, and at the sametime maintain our humanity in the person’s eyes. Evil has no power over that kind of love.

(please let’s not discuss other things that Wink says in that article here. I’d rather just focus on the passage mentioned.).

Starting with Jesus

I’m not exactly sure where to start, so I hope this works. As a Christian, my faith, my belief system, is centered around Jesus. Without question, the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament are valuable and also God’s Word, but without Christ and his teachings, our faith is meaningless. My journey began the summer before my freshman year of college. I was reading through the gospels and also happened to be reading C.S. Lewis’ ‘Why I’m not a Pacifist’ essay in The Weight of Glory at the same time. I’ll be honest with you, Lewis’ essay was compelling, and had I not gotten a large amount of grant money to pay for my tuition, I probably would have joined the ROTC program. I had just cracked open Matthew at the same time and I ran across the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Well, that didn’t seem to conflict too much, I mean we would say our military in a time of war are there to do exactly that, to bring peace. But do this with me for a moment a little visual lesson. We are going to read through the beatitudes and I want you to picture in your mind what that person looks like:

3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t know about you, but the song, “One of these things is not like the others,” starts to run through my head when I picture a soldier decked out in military gear and a gun in his/her arms. I start to wonder if maybe a Gandhi like figure doesn’t make a little more sense.

(Please remember, I’m going one thing at a time. This isn’t my whole case for why I’m a pacifist or anything like that. If you want to comment please limit it to addressing this passage only. Thanks for understanding).

A discussion of means, not ends.

As Christians, the discussion of war and pacifism is not a discussion of ends. We are not to choose are course of action based on what we think the possible or hypothetical ends of an action are (there are probably situations where you can do this, but I don’t believe this is one of them). Certainly if I was not a Christian, not some one who believed in the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ who walked the earth, I would more then likely Primarily consider the ends to choose my course. This discussion though is amongst Christians.

We see numerous examples in the Bible where a choice was made based on means (as they saw God had called them to) rather then the ends that seemed likely. Daniel in the Lions den, Moses going to Pharaoh, Abraham venturing out, Stephen who was stoned, Jesus being crucified, and Paul going to prison. The most clear example probably is Rack, Shack and Benny (care of VeggieTales), when they refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s God. The ends seemed quite obvious even to them: They’d be burned up in the furnace. But they knew clearly they needed to follow what God had clearly called them to regardless of the outcome; and we were all quite surprised at the outcome.

This is my point: If pacifism is what God clearly calls us to in His word, then we must follow it, regardless of how irrational it might be from our worldly (and even historical) perspective. If you are going to dialog with me on this topic as a Christian, we are going to need to come to a consensus on this point. This is an important point to deal with before we move on.

For example, you are not going to convince me that pacifism is not what Christians are supposed to do by logically arguing that war was the only possible option to defeat Hitler. A political argument that war was the only option to oust Saddam is not what we are focusing on. If you show me that war is a Biblical Christian response to Hitler and Saddam then I’ll be happy to agree with you.

Are we in agreement that this is not to be a discussion of ends? (we can have that conversation later if you want).

Respect for the troops.

As I begin my thoughts on war I found myself needing to venture another disclaimer before beginning the discussion.
Not only did I have one of those yellow ribbon magnets on the back of my car (until the winter weather disintegrated it, I guess most folks have a garage), but I actually do love and care about the folks in uniform. I don’t feel like I’m more holy than thou when I say that I disagree with war, I’m simply sharing what I’ve come to see in the scriptures and through my thoughts about this topic.
Are those who fight in the war no longer Christians? By no means. As we discuss this I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I think those in the military have some how fallen away or anything. I don’t claim to have the absolute truth, though I do think what I’ve read in the scriptures is accurate.
Shortly before I started becoming a pacifist I read C.S. Lewis’ “Why I’m Not a Pacifist” Essay in Weight of Glory and let me tell you it had me convinced. I read it again a little while ago and I’ll tell you again that it is quite convincing. Much of what he says in there I still agree with, and maybe that will come out in our discussion. I share that simply to say that I am open to the fact that I might be wrong.

There are people who are close to me that are in the military and what I share in these entries does not change my love for them at all.

Beginning thoughts on war.

In some discussion with friends of differing views on the topic of war, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should start a small series of post related to that very topic.

My first thought and clarification is this: I am not a political pacifist. I guess you could call me a Biblical pacifist if you needed to define it. What I mean by that is simply that I did not come to my pacifist views by any political ideology or teachings. I did not grow up in a family that was anti-war or anything of that nature. My journey basically began a few years ago when I read: “love your enemies” in the sermon on the mount and start to think hard about what that might mean for me.

So, when you comment on my post, feel free to educate me about political ideas and issues. But any convincing or persuasion will need to be done from a Biblical standpoint. Hope that’s okay with you.

Dear Anonymous

To anonymous and others who have enlightening things to tell me about,

I would love to IM or email with you about the things that you obviously think I am un-informed about. My understanding of war does not come from a philosphizing political point of view.

Most of my thoughts on issues like this come strictly from what I see Christ said. My hope is that others like yourself would come to see that maybe war isn’t such a hot idea and then YOU can be the genius who comes up with the pacifist foreign policy that would work.

I concur to the blog world that Anonymous will likely be able to rip to shreds any thoughts or arguments I give on any sort of political grounds. I concur that Anonymous is likely far smart then me when it comes to these things, and if you would like to know more of Anonymous’ thoughts please go to Anonymous’ blog.

Now, anonymous, out of curiousity…
Say you were crazy like me and for some reason thought killing people was just a straight up bad idea. Say your right about the Iraq Body Count thing, but you still think the numbers of dead people is too high. What if you were President (or whatever position you would want to choose, except God), would you do to try to carry out the ethics of not going to war? No round about answers or arguing how it just won’t work. Just pretend your crazy and you have these crazy ethics. What would you do?

Pacifism works.

You’ve probably heard about the murder rampage that happened in Atlanta over the weekend. Probably also thought like most folks that this person was an evil horrible criminal, not a human.

Anyways, thought you would be touched by this account of Brian Nichols:


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