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 previous concept of ‘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, “This doesn’t apply to 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) Did he only say that 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)

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!”

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.

We think others commit “big” sins while we commit only “little” sins. Do non-believers who appear to be good people and commit only “little” sins just need Jesus a “little” bit? What separates the righteous from the wicked is not the relative sizes of their sins but their relationship with God - something that can be changed. Many Christians treat murderers (alone among the perpetrators of Levitical capital offenses) as unredeemable – doomed to hell. They would have killed King David and Saul of Tarsus.

Regarding the security of 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. Does our Father, who has the ability to protect His children, protect them from all dangers?

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" = "God helps those who take matters into their own hands and do whatever it takes to win, that anything they do to the wicked is 'good'." Another way to phrase this non-Biblical homily: "There's no such thing as sin when you think you have to win." (See Romans 3:8) Instead, how about: "God helps those who call out to Him for help." 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.

The fact that God views hating your brother the same as killing him suggests that His perspective on murder is different than ours. Hatred = Murder. Who among us has not hated?

All who are not reconciled to God are His enemies and worthy of death, including you and I before our salvation. For some reason God does not reveal to us those people who will never submit to Him; otherwise we could just hate and kill them and focus our love on the rest.

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?

Regarding the notion that war brings peace: wars fought to certain victory always bring peace, whether won by the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” Everyone who uses violence wants to establish peace – on his own terms.

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.

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 or their lives. The Mafia 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?

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

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 defense against 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)

Americans, by and large, are better suited for Judaism. Jews are not required to love their enemies.

Many Christians like to cite the Canaanite genocide (when God commanded the Israelites to slay every living thing among the enemy) as precedent for God’s endorsement of war (what about genocide?). Does this mean that, throughout history whenever an army has taken to the field, it was by God’s instigation? If He was pleased when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, beginning a rampage of conquest and modern-day genocide, who were we to oppose them? Or does the Canaanite example only apply to the United States? Is there any scripture to support the view that the US is the “new” nation of Israel, that if we want to go to war then surely it is because God wants us to go to war? Recall that it was a sin for the Israelites to not kill every living thing among the enemy. We would condemn any nation today for doing that.

So what lessons might we draw from the Old Testament? “You are authorized to exterminate Canaanites, but must surrender to Babylonians (today's Iraqis).” UH-OH! There are lots of things God told the Israelites and Judeans to do that we don't do today. He also told them not to count their troops or enter alliances, both of which we do.

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. Jesus focused on the positive here and commended him for his faith. It is likely the centurion’s servant was a slave, but Jesus didn’t ask him to free his slave. 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?”

It should be noted that, prior to Augustine’s accommodation to the State, the Church didn’t interpret Jesus’ silence on the centurion's occupation 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. 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, including those of Germany and Japan in WWII (Rom 13:1). Assuming 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 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)

There is no evidence of Jesus striking any people when he cleared the temple. He likely would have been arrested for that. Had He followed one of them out of the temple and caught up with him, what do you suppose He would have done to him? Any more than his chastisement of the Pharisees?

"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"? He told his disciples that his command was for the purpose of fulfilling prophecy (Isaiah 53:12)

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. Nowhere in the book of Revelation are we commanded to kill anyone. Nowhere in the entire New Testament does Jesus or Paul even suggest that a follower of Christ should kill anyone for any reason.

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, how much? 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 powerless to stop the servants of Satan from taking over the world, powerless to carry out the Second Coming to recover it, and ultimately, powerless to avoid the loss of His throne? Would He be powerless to answer our prayers and to provide salvation through Christ? If so, Satan would be delighted for us to obey Christ so faithfully. But the Flood, Sodom, and Gomorrah demonstrate God’s ability and willingness to destroy the wicked without 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, Muslims or maybe people who aren’t so scary) and whether “our people” will survive. If God doesn't want your enemies ruling the world, they won't. 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. 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. 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.

Otherwise, consider whether you really want to take up your cross and follow the Prince of Peace (i.e., be a Christian). What more would he have to say to get you to stop killing your enemies or encouraging others to kill them for you? 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 be a victim than a victimizer.
It is better to die than to kill.
It is better to die than to torture.
It is better to die in obedience to Christ than to live in disobedience.