Thoughts on Peace

Jesus never condemned anyone for being too compassionate. If one must err, it is better to err on the side of love. God can handle the retribution part. (James 2:13, Rom 12:19)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.” The Old Testament directive ‘an eye for an eye’ made perfectly good sense. It satisfied our desire for justice, and promised deterrence. Jesus could have left it in place (and many of us wish he had). Instead he chose to overturn it and replace it with a new standard of behavior for those who would follow him. If you aren’t supposed to respond to someone gouging out your eye or breaking your teeth, at what point in the assault are you authorized to stop loving your enemy and say: “You just crossed the line, now you’re gonna DIE!” How do you know if they’re going to kill you, and if so, that Jesus wants you to kill them first? As far as we know, he didn’t say, “When I say 'evil person' I'm not talking about people trying to kill you. They’re in a different category that will unfortunately go unrecorded by my biographers.” No, when he was being killed he said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Where's the justice in that? Was he passive? Did he only say it because he was the Messiah? Stephen didn’t think so. He modeled the same behavior for us when he was being stoned to death, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:59-60) James said, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13) Lastly, although Jesus didn’t mention an option to flee, he might support that choice also.

Interpretation of Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:59-60: love your enemies even as they kill you (without worrying about deterrence). We exist at the pleasure of God. When and how we die is allowed by Him; He is with us in that moment.

Rather than addressing a local face-slapping epidemic, when Jesus said “turn the other cheek” he knew the next blow(s) could be fatal. He also knew it risked an emboldened enemy moving on to other victims.

Regarding the woman caught in the act of adultery, when Jesus said: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” would you have said: “My sin is irrelevant. The Law demands that we kill her. The need for deterrence demands her death. Here's the first stone!”

Of all the capital offences in the Old Testament, why is murder the only one for which we still execute offenders? The fact that Jesus views hating your brother the same as killing him suggests that his perspective on murder is different from ours. Hatred = Murder. So, can we hate those who are not our brothers? Jesus also told us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies. Yet, who among us has not hated? All are worthy of death and in need of a Savior.

Treat your enemies the way Jesus treated Judas: wash their feet.

Jesus didn’t come to bring us common sense. We already had that. It is the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 3:18-19, James 3:17-18). Instead, he brought us uncommon sense, placing ideology above (our perception of) practicality and expecting the same from us, though it looks like foolishness. If the teachings of Christ are unrealistic, then being a Christian is unrealistic.

Is your salvation dependent upon a madman or should you take him seriously? For many of us, “LordandSavior” seems to mean “Savior.” Can Jesus be your Savior without being your Lord? I agree with Job that, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” And obey Him.

True Christianity is truly inconvenient (and counterintuitive).

Overwhelmingly, non-Christians see Jesus’ life as a model of pacifism and are disgusted by Christians who don’t. This is a great stumbling block for non-Christians. Our failure to acknowledge pacifism as a core principle of Christianity creates a wide gap for compromise with the world, and makes Christianity nothing more than an easier way to get to heaven than following the Law.

One would think that Christian fundamentalists, who place a premium on taking the Bible literally, would be the most ardent pacifists. Likewise Calvinists, who place a premium on God’s sovereignty – things will turn out the way they’re supposed to without Christians having to kill people.

Regarding protecting our families from enemies, we assume: “Surely, God wouldn’t test our obedience to Christ as He tested Abraham’s obedience when He told him to sacrifice his son!” See Matthew 10:37-38.

Many Christians want to stay out of heaven as long as possible. They seem to feel entitled to stay out for at least 70 years before having to spend the rest of eternity with God. This leads to rationalization that we can do whatever it takes to avoid an unpleasant death now in order to "guarantee" ourselves a pleasant death later. But I don’t think anyone will be bragging about how many people they killed to stay out of heaven.

A prime example of the results of “The End Justifies the Means” thinking:
“Mr. Nash said Laos is the country most saturated with unexploded cluster munitions, including types that attract children because they look like “little baseballs.” They are a legacy of United States bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War.”

When it comes to war, many believe, "God helps those who help themselves." This phrase is not found in the Bible; it actually originated in ancient Greece. Instead, how about: "God helps those who call out to Him for help." We rightly acknowledge the problem of “taking matters into our own hands.” Any noble goal that cannot be accomplished without disobedience to Christ must be left in God's hands.

I would suggest that for God, it is the means that justify the end.

If you kill someone and then slide into depression, do you have authority from God to kill yourself? If you don’t have the authority to kill yourself, a murderer, then whom do you have authority to kill?

It is said that “war brings peace.” No, war brings death and destruction. The cessation of war brings peace. What the phrase actually means is: “war brings an outcome that satisfies us.” Both sides want that kind of “peace.” But if the maintenance of real peace were our goal, we would choose to not respond to provocation in the first place.

Whenever we go to war we always assume the resulting death and destruction will be less than that of not going to war. I question that assumption.

War doesn’t begin when one nation invades another. It begins when the invaded nation responds with violence. That nation starts the war.

If Christians can refrain from killing abortion providers they should be able to refrain from going to war.

When we become Christians we give up some luxuries that non-believers continue to enjoy (it’s called “taking up your cross”). One of those is the “right” to kill others to protect our Pleasant American Lifestyle (PAL) as defined by freedoms and prosperity. Killing for our PAL can be justified on political, economic or Humanist grounds but there is no Christian justification for it. Neither Jesus nor his Apostles would have killed to maintain their lifestyles. The Mafia, on the other hand, kills to maintain its lifestyle.

If you cannot yet love your enemies, at least behave in a way that is consistent with love.

Christians are commanded to give aid and comfort to their enemies (Rom 12:20).

The legacy of Constantine is the belief that the Christian response to provocation can be the same as the world’s and that God’s stamp of approval is on it. Christianity has morphed into a force believing it has a mandate from God to help the state eradicate the “evil” people of the world. Many Christians are deceived into believing they are neutralizing the enemies of God, while in reality, they are ignoring Christ’s commands regarding enemies in order to neutralize their own enemies.

Jesus never suggested that we need to be in a never-ending struggle to exterminate wicked people.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully,” commented Blaise Pascal, “as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Did Jesus regard self-preservation a high priority for himself or his disciples? Did the martyrs fail to get the word?

It's pretty sad when atheists sound more like Christians than many Christians: "There is no reason to imagine that we cannot overcome torture, war, hyper-nationalism, vengeance, and retribution." - David Swanson

The Christians’ proper response to oppression from others is forbearance, not violence.

Concern yourself not with being loved, but with loving.

When used in reference to the military, the word “fight” is a euphemism for “kill.” Schoolboys fight; soldiers kill. For example, fighting for democracy/freedom/liberty means killing for them. If we're proud of our killing we don't need to ennoble it with euphemism.

Many Christians follow a Christianity that supports their worldview.

The best deterrent to terrorism is to not be terrified.

Fear leads to sin.

“Breathe In Faith, Breathe Out Fear”

One thing America has in common with its enemies: the conviction that if you just kill enough people, the world will be a better place.

Jesus' conviction: that if you just love enough people, the world will be a better place. (Luke 6:32-36)

Many Christians point to the Old Testament as precedent for God’s endorsement of war. Among other things, Deuteronomy 20 states: “When the Lord your God delivers [a city] into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.” We would condemn any nation today for doing that, as we do ISIS. In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus denies us the ability to use the Old Testament to justify going to war.

God also told the Israelites not to count their troops or enter alliances, both of which our government does.

Between John the Baptist and the soldiers, Jesus and the centurion, and Peter and Cornelius, the story of John’s encounter is the weakest for defending Christian soldiering because it occurred prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. So let’s move on to the other two.

Luke’s account of Jesus and the centurion differs from Matthew’s in that Matthew has the two meeting face to face while Luke has them communicating through intermediaries. Regardless, like everyone Jesus encountered, the centurion was not a sinless person. Yet Jesus did not bring the man’s sins to his attention and admonish him, just as he didn’t tell the woman at the well to leave the man with whom she was living. Jesus focused on the positive here and commended him for his faith. We’ll never know what Jesus would have said if the centurion had asked him, “Lord, as a soldier of the empire, the enemies of my pagan master - the emperor - are also my enemies and I am duty-bound to kill them. Yet you have said we must love our enemies. What should I do?” But the reply from the early church can be found here: (Before the Church's capitulation to the emperor in the fourth century, Jesus’ interaction with the centurion was not interpreted as an acceptance of Christian soldiering.)

Acts 10 tells the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius the centurion. Before this encounter, Cornelius and his devout soldier likely were gentiles who worshipped the God of the Jews and served in a nearly all-pagan army of the pagan Roman Empire ruled by a pagan self-deifying emperor. They served the most powerful dictator in the world and could have been ordered to kill any enemies he wanted destroyed, including for the purpose of territorial expansion, which is forbidden under Just War theory. In order to use stories of Roman soldiers in the service of dictators to justify Christian service in the military we would have to concede that, throughout history, it has been permissible for Christians to serve in ANY military - where worship of the emperor has continued as worship of the nation. If we assume that Christians serving in the military are authorized by God to kill enemies of the state, then it was appropriate for German and Japanese Christians (yes, there were some) to kill Americans in WWII and that God expects Christians to kill each other in war (see what Paul says about killing believers in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and what John says in 1 John 3:15). God would be, in effect, raising up one army to be opposed by another. Jesus said: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:24-25)

We don’t know if Cornelius ever killed anyone after his baptism of the Holy Spirit or if he even stayed in the military. Two who didn’t stay were Martin of Tours and Marcellus the Centurion (who was martyred for putting Christ above the state). Maximilian of Tebessa was also martyred – for refusing to join the army as a Christian. The idea that just because an earthly ruler wants some people killed that God also wants them killed and wants Christians to participate is surely questionable. Augustine said, "The evil of giving the command might make the king guilty, but the order of obedience would keep the soldier innocent." One result of this thinking was the Holocaust. If Augustine was right, the Nuremberg trials should never have happened; if anything, the defendants should have been commended for their obedience. Peter said: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)

Just as drovers have no intent to injure animals when they move them, there is no mention of Jesus injuring anyone when he drove out all who were buying and selling in the temple. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah includes these words: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked…though he had done no violence (Isaiah 53:9)”.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)
I shouldn't have to address this but it keeps coming up. Continue with verses 35-39 to see what Jesus is talking about.

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe." (Luke 11:21) Continuing with verse 22: "But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." Bible commentaries identify the strong man as Satan and the 'someone stronger' as Jesus.

In the story of Jesus and the two swords (Luke 22:36-38), what did possession of the two swords accomplish? What did Jesus mean by "That is enough"? Enough to arm 12 disciples for their self-defense? No. Enough to prevent him from being arrested? No. They were enough to fulfil prophecy that he would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). They needed to be seen as transgressors rather than innocent men. But when Peter actually used his sword, Jesus rebuked him. He could have quoted Ecclesiastes 3 and said, “There is a time to kill and a time to heal…a time for war and a time for peace” but, in Matthew’s account, he said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

In Matthew 14, when Jesus learns of the murder of John the Baptist by Herod and Herodias, he doesn’t shout to those around him: “Kill them! Justice demands your action!” Instead, he went to pray. Was he passive? Nowhere in the entire New Testament are we authorized to kill people. (To those who point to Revelation 19:14 as proof that Christians are authorized to kill, I point to Matthew 13:40-42, 16:27, 25:31 and Revelation 19:21. We're not angels and we're not God. God can destroy what He's created. "Vengeance is mine" sayeth the Lord.)

Before the Sermon on the Mount, our marching orders were “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Since then, it’s been “Do not resist an evil person”, thus disarming us. When an American is asked who won World War II, the answer is invariably "We did." It is never "God did." We give ourselves glory for saving the world, but does God deserve any glory, and if so, what percentage? If Christians had not participated in the killing and destruction of that (or any) war, where would that leave God and His creation? In other words, what would God do if ALL Christians obeyed Christ by loving their enemies and not resisting evil persons, rather than killing them? Would He be furious with us and refuse to help us? Would He be powerless to stop the servants of Satan from taking over the world, powerless to carry out the Second Coming, and ultimately, powerless to avoid the loss of His creation? If so, Satan would be delighted for us to obey Christ so faithfully. But many examples in the Bible demonstrate God’s ability and willingness to destroy transgressors without human assistance. If He’s not powerless, He doesn’t need Christians to disobey Christ to save His creation. If He doesn’t need us to disobey Christ, why should we? Can we not trust God for an outcome that is acceptable to Him? It's His world, after all, not ours. Let Him take responsibility for the consequences of our obedience. Let Him decide who will populate and rule His world (Nazis, Communists, Islamists or maybe people who aren’t so scary - Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth) and whether your country/culture/civilization/race/religion will survive. They're only important if they're important to He who has the power to ensure their survival. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). In the first three centuries, the Church came closest to realizing the ideal of loving enemies - a rejection of violence that did not result in calamity for God (but apparently did for Satan). He doesn’t seem to be too anxious about it since He wants us to repay evil with good (war is repaying evil with evil, but no accommodation is made for a "necessary evil" [Rom 3:8]). Does that guarantee our personal safety - that we won’t partake in the sufferings of Christ? No. But if you’re willing to die for something Jesus never promoted – political freedoms – you should be willing to die for what was important to him – the kingdom of God, which exists across cultures and is built upon obedience to the Father, whose commands were spoken through Christ himself (John 12:49-50). In pursuit of perfect love, let go of your fears and fall into the hands of God, trusting Him to decide whether to allow our enemies to send us on to heaven, or enslave us, or neither. If enslaved, refer to 1 Peter 2:18-21 and pray for your human master to become a brother. Work to transform the new culture from within. "Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage." (Ezra 9:9)

Likewise, on an individual level, if you see someone attacking another, rush to give the attacker a big hug - perhaps exclaiming, “Jesus loves you!” Let God decide whether to allow the attacker to kill you, and/or the intended victim, or neither of you.

This is what's expected of followers of the Prince of Peace. He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate…even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). It is better to die in obedience to Christ than to live in disobedience: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)