Peacemaking: An Exercise in Faith and Imagination

One of the goals in my classroom is to create an atmosphere where the students want to dig deeper into their faith and wrestle with critical issues.  As the year progresses my students learn of a few of my positions that are relatively new to them.  Now most of the students who either have me as a teacher or will have me next year know that I am a Christian pacifist (the adjective is necessary because my reasons for being a pacifist rely on Jesus being who the Bible says he is).  The fact that this reputation has started to precede me has led to some interesting conversations.  I have explained my reasons for being a pacifist and why I think Christians are called to a nonviolent lifestyle, but it is clear from some of their questions that much is still misunderstood about Christian nonviolence.  I am going to list some of the most common questions I get from students once they learn that I am a pacifist and craft a response for each.

1) Do you hate soldiers?

I recently had a student discover that a “Christian” group has made a habit of protesting soldiers funerals (Westboro Baptist).  She then asked me if I approved of what they were doing since I was a pacifist.  I was horrified by the question.  While I don’t think that Christians should participate in the military, I do believe that the act of waving a sign that says “God hates you” at a funeral is an inhumane and deeply anti-Christian act.  My call to Christian nonviolence puts me in direct opposition to the folks at Westboro precisely because I believe that they are committing verbal violence.  I think many pacifists often get accused of dishonoring soldiers and veterans, and it is hard for the discussion to not become personal with so many of us having family in the military.  So let me be clear, the church is called to love soldiers and veterans even if it stands against war.  In fact, the church needs to be proactive in the care of the soldiers who are now starting to come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. There needs to be a safe place where soldiers can talk about their experiences and start to heal from both visible and invisible wounds.  The church must be that place.

2) What would your husband do if you were punched in the face?

This question has actually become a running joke in one of my classes.  Now whenever I ask this class if they have any questions during a lecture, this is usually the first one asked in jest.  It started as a serious question when they found out that both my husband and I are pacifists.  They then created a ridiculous scenario where someone randomly comes up to me and knocks me out (I find Yoder’s response to hypothetical scenarios to be especially helpful here).[1]  The correct response, according to them, was for my husband to beat up the other guy.  He would do this to defend my honor, and if he did nothing that meant he clearly did not care about me.

There are several problems underlying this question.  First, they assume that the role of a man is to protect “their woman” and be willing to use violence if necessary.  This is endemic of our southern culture that identifies males as the proverbial “protector” and females as the “damsel” in need of rescue.  If this is true, the measure of a man is evaluated by the lengths he will go to defend those he loves.  I see this trope all over the place in Hollywood movies but not really in the Bible.  The second problem is that a nonviolent response is viewed as not a response at all.  I told them that my husband would probably not engage with the guy who hit me, but would immediately check to see if I was okay.  They felt this response did not really address the issue, which was equally concerning to me.  Are we so thirsty for blood that we forget about the very person we’re claiming to defend?

3) So as a pacifist are you just supposed to stand back and do nothing?

This question has been asked to me in many different ways.  It usually comes up when there has been a violent uprising in a country or a school shooting (both of which seem to be happening a lot these days).  My students often think that since I am a pacifist, my response to these situations is to not get involved.  According to them, pacifism means you stand back and do nothing in the face of injustice.  Pacifism is often mistakenly associated with being passive.  This is why I prefer the term nonviolent resistance or peacemaking instead of pacifism.  Both of these terms are active and more clearly convey the heart of Christian pacifism.

I think this question reveals both a lack of faith and imagination on the part of many Christians in America.  We say that we trust God, but when it comes to defending our families or our nation, we’re more likely going to trust our guns.  Because we automatically reach for the gun, it is hard to try and think of any other way to stand against evil and injustice.  And we as Christians are called to have a more robust imagination than that.  Our very name points back to the one who did not respond back with violence, but overcame evil with good.  If the God whom we worship was able to overcome all the powers of darkness through “obedience unto death on a cross” what does that mean for his followers?  Are we willing to take up that cross and follow him?  How can we take an active stand against violence without responding in kind?

Christian peacemaking is a virtue that exercises the spiritual muscles of faith and imagination.  Now with any virtue, we are not going to start off as masters of it.  The place where I get the best practice in peacemaking is in rush hour traffic!  If I can get in the habit of always seeing people as Jesus sees people, maybe when it counts, when my life is on the line, I won’t simply be thinking about my survival.  Maybe I’ll be thinking about Jesus and the cross and how that’s changed everything.  I’m certainly not there yet, but I can start by trusting in the Triune God, who brings peace into the violence of our own hearts.

So what is the next step? How can we start to exercise these muscles?

Here are two suggestions for moving forward:

1) Look for examples and imitate

A great example of nonviolent resistance in practice is a local anti-trafficking organization called Elijah Rising.  This organization has some warriors who never lift a sword!  They’re primary focus is to end human trafficking through prayer, worship, and awareness (they also strategically seek contact with the women who are being trafficked).  This group exemplifies a nonviolent pursuit of justice and a faith that believes in the power of intercession.

2) Start doing some reading on the subject

For an excellent place to begin see our fellow blogger Mike Skinner’s posts:

Jesus is Cruciform not Octagonal (A Response to Mark Driscoll)

The 5 Most Common Myths about Romans 13:1-7

Other recommended reading:

War and the American Difference – by Stanley Hauerwas

A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions About Christian Nonviolence – by Trip York and Justin Bronson Barringer

[1]  Yoder, John H.. What Would You Do?  Scottsdale: Herald Press. 1983

32 thoughts on “Peacemaking: An Exercise in Faith and Imagination

  1. As a Vietnam Veteran I am glad you are able to have the freedom to teach in a Christian classroom. I fought for that freedom probably before you even had breath. God gave me the ability to fight and kill to protect the lives of the innocent. If you are teaching pacifist ways that as Christians we are not to kill those who are about to kill the innocent, you are wrong…..not bad, just wrong. By no means do we flaunt our ability to kill, but for sure we do have the ability and endorsement of a Holy God to kill those who are about to be killed. Your view is weakness, not humility, your view is that of a coward, not of a man of courage. You seem to forget that God is all powerful and has a long history of murdering many a man and child throughout time. Was God a bad God then? No, We know He is good God, who at times kills. God never changes. Man does. Man becomes a coward and justifies his weakness when he fails to protect those being killed. God is divine, and He has appointed and approved the killing of those who are about to kill, or in the process of killing the innocent.

    May the Spirit of God lead you to understanding that this soft pacifist Jesus you preach and teach to the young minds is not the Jesus of the bible. Jesus is a lot of things. Fore sure full of love and grace, mercy, kindness etc…..but also a killer at times. Love is not sitting back in your Lazy Boy watching “The Bachelor” sipping on an ice tea in perfect climate controlled living room, while 10,000 small children everyday are constantly being raped and tortured by terrorist. Love is killing them before they kill others. God will lead that. Your thinking is off the mark. —– Shalom—

    LOVE GOD
    LOVE PEOPLE
    KILL THOSE WHO ARE KILLING OTHERS

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    1. First, I agree with you that inaction is cowardly, but pacifism is not inaction. It is nonviolent resistance. There are many nonviolent options that can be used before violence ever needs to occur.
      Second, while soldiers and war may have given me comfort/wealth and freedom of religion, there is only one man who made the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom and he did it by dying, not killing.
      I appreciate the comment but it seems like we are going to have to agree to disagree =). Blessings!

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  2. What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thoughts of Hitler as a mad dog? Supposedly, he was part of the conspiracy that led to the failed bombing attempt.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Bob! That is a great question. Hitler always comes up and I think its a valid concern. I usually respond to the WWII question with another question. What if the church in Germany had refused to go along with the Nazis? The truly scary thing about what happened was that the church was so blinded by nationalism that they forgot their first loyalty to Jesus. There has also been some recent push back against the theory that Bonhoeffer was directly involved in Hitler’s assassination attempt. There is a great book on this called Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering his Call to Peacemaking by Mark Theissen Nation.

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      1. Yes, “Hitler” always comes up (right after the ax murderer attacking your family). We need to remember that it was Christians who went to the ‘War to End all Wars’ and burdened a defeated Germany with such an un-Chrisitian treaty, that prepared the soil for a ‘Hitler’ and World War, part two.
        On Bonhoeffer: Whatever his role, did God bless the plot? Bonhoeffer’s light shined in prison, not in the plot.

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  3. Really great post, Michelle! I could not agree more – I think you explain Christian pacifism/peacemaking extremely well. The way of non-violence takes a great deal of courage and strength and the willingness to lay down our own lives for the good of others, even our enemies. God’s cruciform, self-giving love has made many enemies friends — and I am convinced that it is this cruciform love that the Spirit works in us that will slowly but surely change this broken, violent world. Violence only begets more violence…. blessed are the peacemakers.

    Good word, my friend! 🙂

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  4. How soon we forget how God instructed to David to kill Goliath. “To save you”. How soon we forget that a God killed thousands of Pharaohs army in the Red Sea to “save you” How soon we forget at the Passover so many were killed by the hand of God to “save you” So soon we forget that God killed first born babies. How soon we forget God did all this killing so that Jesus would be born, to be killed to “save you” To be opposed to violence of any kind is very strange teaching and its just not in God’s full plan. In fact, it is a warped dangerous thinking to teach that to children. While God for sure is a loving God, never forget, He is a wild man with a bigger purpose(you don’t know) that is far beyond our little brains. I know teaching fluffy Jesus is probably popular thing, but know this, God is not concerned with being popular. He is God. If we are so smart in our tiny little world,why do we have all the questions, and HE has all the answers? I would hope you would consider teaching the whole text and not just the parts that give people a warm fuzzy. We should of course make every effort in pursuing peace. Just know that if anyone attempts to threaten the life of an innocent victim in my presence, I will be prepared and if necessary I will shoot them right between the eyes. That may come against your belief in being a Pacifist, but thats your deal, as you say– we will agree to disagree. 🙂 God is a lot of things. If you say he is not used killing in his Holy plan, then you are not comprehending the full text. Proof texting is a very dangerous thing.

    Blessings to you and Yours
    Shalom (with a Glock if needed) 🙂

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    1. I think you have some valid points in here, but at the same time I think we should be very careful about deciding who God wants us to kill. I think non-violence is a viable approach in many situations and maybe in every situation. The problem is that when you start claiming that God told you to kill someone then you have to deal with a very slippery slope of where that ends. There are people out there who honestly believe that killing President Obama is what God wants, are they right or not? I would like to ask what you think about how Jesus acted and what he did. Did he destroy the Romans for crucifying his son? Did he destroy any other culture for persecuting and killing his church? I’m not trying to avoid the Old Testament and I think that would make for a good discussion, but I don’t know that I can agree with you because you are ignoring the New Testament.

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  5. Great post! I wish more Christians were able to claim this belief as their own. I struggle with explaining why I am a Christian and a Pacifist. It is amazing how much resistance pacifists receive from the Christian community. It’s very sad that people do not recognize the fact that, like you said, pacifists are not ones to stand and watch injustice happen. There are Christian pacifists in other countries who often times are standing in between two guns. Peace and Love is the way of God, revealed through Jesus. Christian Pacifism does not imply the doctrine of warm and fuzzy Jesus. Christian Pacifists are the ones who stand above the violence in the world and try to stop it. Not stand by and be ignorant and watch injustice happen. Thanks for the awesome words. This will help me explain my beliefs more clearly. Thanks and God Bless!

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    1. Johns quote
      It is amazing how much resistance pacifists receive from the Christian community.

      My quote:
      No its not. Its a false belief you gained from a teacher who was a pacifist. You can’t possibly read the entire text and be a pacifist. Its just bad math. Shalom 🙂

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      1. Jesus and Paul are both CLEAR on the issues of violence and retaliation:

        – love your enemies (Jesus – Mt. 5:44)
        – never repay evil with more evil (Paul – Romans 12:17)
        – our fight should never be against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12)

        Where in Scripture are we given an exception to the above commands? At what point are we allowed to disobey Jesus and Paul, and what Scriptural evidence do you have for this judgement?

        Simply referencing violent stories from the Old Testament proves nothing, especially when the Old Testament ITSELF contains promises of a coming Kingdom that will be non-violent (Micah 4:1-5; Isaiah 2:2-4). Christians believe that this Kingdom has been inaugurated by Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection). Micah and Isaiah were aware of the violence in the Old Testament, and yet still predicted a non-violent future Kingdom.

        Jesus was aware of the tradition of divine violence in the OT scriptures (he wasn’t stupid) and yet clearly said in Luke that IN ORDER to be a child of the Most High you must be generous, forgiving, and loving to your enemies. (Read the text Stan – Jesus frames it as a cause and effect. The opposite would then be true – if you are not defined by radical enemy love – you are NOT a son of the Most High.)

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        1. Mike Statement:
          Simply referencing violent stories from the Old Testament proves nothing, especially when the Old Testament ITSELF contains promises of a coming Kingdom that will be non-violent (Micah 4:1-5; Isaiah 2:2-4)
          ================
          Me
          This is the reason people don’t see clearly. They dont listen, they pick and choose versus that fits their agenda. You say– simply referencing stories from the Old testament proves nothing….HUH? Really? Ya wanna take that back….You should. Its just not true. Come on, you are smarter than that. One thing is clear the Old Testament is more than just a bunch of stories as you say, but one thing it is, is the history and character of GOD. To say there is never a reason for killing is just ignorance of the word of God. You can’t proof text. You just can’t pick and choose.

          The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart — it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that benefits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.

          Shalom<

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          1. You didn’t reply to any of my substantive points. Where in the Bible do you see exceptions to the clear teachings of Jesus and Paul? (who were both aware of the previous stories of violence in the Old Testament, yet still set forth strict commands for the Christian community).

            Again – if the Old Testament ITSELF anticipates a future that transcends the past stories of a violent God, then we are not picking and choosing. The Bible is a narrative (just as God’s revelation is progressive – we know more and more about him over time – with our clearest picture coming in the person and work of Jesus).

            What you are doing is similar to quoting one of Job’s friends speeches about retribution theology as a proof-text, while missing the fact that later ON the text clarifies that this was in fact a mistake.

            You must be a lot smarter than Micah, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul – since you can interpret the Scriptures better than they can. They were aware of the violent stories in the Old Testament, yet saw into the deeper reality of the Kingdom.

            “It is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that fits mankind.” Yes – but just because the Bible contains elements like that does not mean that it ENDORSES those. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband – but we shouldn’t go and do likewise. Stories have to be interpreted. And stories should be interpreted in light of Christ and in light of the new, historical, eschatological Kingdom he has inaugurated.

            The way you read Scripture is the same way that it was read to endorse slavery (“you can’t just “ignore” those passages in the Bible where God commands/endorses slavery!!!!”), mass genocide, and other atrocities.

            Simple question Stan: is Jesus the perfect, clearest, most-accurate revelation of God’s nature and character (John 1:14-18, Hebrews 1:1-4)? Because Jesus both taught enemy-love and embodied it. If you choose to ignore that because “there are stores in the Old Testament” then you are no better than the Pharisees who couldn’t see that those texts were meant to lead to Jesus himself (John 5:39-42).

            The conversation is over until you address the many passages that YOU are picking-and-choosing to ignore.

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          2. Stan I think you are missing something incredibly important that happens in the New Testament. Jesus comes to earth as a man, gives himself as a blameless sacrifice, and changes everything for the rest of time. He is the fulfillment of prophecy and he redefines how we have to read the Bible. I’m still not 100% sold on Christian pacifism either, but I think you are ignoring valid points because they go against your own previously held belief. You can’t ask people to take your points seriously if you aren’t taking their points seriously.

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        2. Mike’s Comment
          Jesus and Paul are both CLEAR on the issues of violence and retaliation:

          – love your enemies (Jesus – Mt. 5:44)
          – never repay evil with more evil (Paul – Romans 12:17)
          – our fight should never be against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12)

          My comment
          With respect sir, I have quoted many passages. You would actually just have to read my quotes in this entire blob in context. Scroll and you will find them. The Jesus passages you pick out are one of many that Jesus spoke. Of course we are to pursue peace. Thats a given. We love. You seem to forget that Jesus did not all of sudden pop on the scene 2,000 years ago. Keep that thought in your head at all times. He was there when God was killing people for His glory. If you say he wasn’t killing, you are not speaking truth. There is a time for peace, and a time for war. Example: When my son(policeman) knocks the door down of a man that has his arm locked around a little that he has just raped and beaten and has a knife to her throat as my son walks in the door to rescue her…this is not a time for a bible study. This is a time for killing. A Pacifist would say we have to trust Jesus to intervene, can I give you a hug? GOD uses people to carry out his will. If a man is about to kill an innocent little girl, that man is to be killed…period. At the time the bullet enters the head of the person about to kill a child I would not be repaying evil with more evil. Your thinking is off the mark and indicates that the God of the bible is evil. God is not evil. God kills in the bible. Again, Jesus was there. Was he hiding in a closet somewhere in His velvet robe waiting to pop on the scene to cheer on the Pacifists? No. Its hard for me to wrap my head around your one sided teaching. It is apparent you think highly of yourself. You think you are smarter than the average bear. You are not. You are like me, very limited in clarity. If you say you see clearly on everything you again, are not speaking truth. You are not God, I am not God, and you will not figure him completely out. Give it rest. He has given you a dim view. He has called us to love GOD, love people, and kill those who are about to kill others.
          A theological professor one time said. : Class you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway.” I think this whole self righteousness thing is a hard thing to deal with people with great educations like yourselves. Simple truth is just not good enough a lot of times in their minds. One other thing is Mike, you don’t determine when the conversation is over. The conversation is never over. It is how we all learn. Its not a matter of you having to be right all the time, its a matter of taking the scriptures for what they are. TRUTH. God has, and continues to allow war and killing. In the next 10 years you will see massive killings, you will nuclear warheads that will be set off in the good ol USA that will kill thousands. Its coming. I pray that we will have brave men of courage who will be on the front lines protecting the innocent. You evidently will not be one of the them. While on this planet we will be at war. My grandfather was in world war 1 and killed people, my dad was in WW2 and killed people. I was in Vietnam. We did not serve our country to protect evil, we served our country to protect the good. GOD is good. Sometimes we are able to settle peacefully other times we shoot people in the head. You saying that our military is in error for killing and shooting the enemy is far from GOD, no matter how you spin your pacifist view. If the conversation is really over as you say, then you will prove that by not responding. I am not the enemy, you are not the enemy. Let us move on in pointing people to Jesus, their only hope.
          Shalom<

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          1. Don’t have time to respond to all of this, but I would like to point out that a Christian Pacifist would not say, “we have to trust Jesus to intervene, can I give you a hug?” A Christian Pacifist would offer his (or her) life in exchange for that persons. They would be the first one to willingly go die so that someone else might live. They would be the ones who would be doing everything in their power, and praying for God to do everything that they couldn’t, to stop people from dying. Killing a person, while difficult for many, is relatively easy. It is natural human instinct to preserve one’s own life over others. I imagine it is relatively easy to kill a person who you consider to be scum or to be an evil doer, but it is crazy hard to love someone enough to not kill them when everything in you screams for you to do it. If the Apostle John had the option of being boiled alive and killing those who would boil him alive he would beg to be boiled alive and pray only that God would forgive the men who had done it to him. That’s not cowardice. That’s the bravest thing I can imagine. I don’t want you to feel ganged up on and I want you to know that if I had a gun and I walked in on a guy who had raped and beaten a little girl I would probably shoot that person too, but I don’t know if I agree that it would be the right thing to do if it could be avoided. I’m still growing in my faith and I’m nowhere near perfect, so I’m apt to make decisions based on my worldly, humanly desires, but that doesn’t make them right. And killing is a very final thing. There is no chance for redemption, no chance for a person to give his life to the Father and further the kingdom and that should be a very sad thing. There are people who did really awful things before they were redeemed, but they ended up doing the Father’s will and advanced His kingdom. I’m not discounted what happened in the Old Testament, I’m just saying that God is the one who should be judge and jury, not us.

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    2. Thanks for the comment John! As you can see, this topic sadly does get a lot of resistance from the Christian community. It’s ironic that the topic of pacifism can create such violent reactions within us, and its not just online but the resistance is in my classroom as well. Be encouraged! There are more Christian pacifists out there! God bless!!

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      1. back at cha Mike! Thanks for pouring out your life to kids.
        See ya at the end. For sure no need to kill in heaven as there will be no enemy.
        And thanks Chad for not being a pacifist. Its ok if you don’t agree with me on killing. As a veteran I have a lot of friends on the front lines in war right now. They are trained to kill. When I hear of pacifists say they are doing something not of God it needs to be corrected. Sometimes in the correcting emotions play in. God made us men and women that are full of emotions. I am not a pacifist but I do have passion. Ill stop commenting on this. I will never call my brothers and sisters in error that are dying for good. love y’all. 🙂

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  6. Stan,

    I am not a pacifist. I wanted to say that so you do not feel like I am picking my team when I tell you this.

    As someone who in theory agrees with you on this issue, I find your arguments in this discussion barbaric. Your views are not based in biblical evidence but on a hodge-podge of anecdotal examples (if this I happens we should shoot someone between the eyes). Your scriptural argument consists of offering a few proof-texts, followed by statements like God is a wild man not your fluffy Jesus, then, you cap it off with lines like (Shalom with a glock if needed). There are ways to have this discussion but I find this particular method embarrassing and if I had to choose between the two views being presented in this discussion the more biblical choice would be Michelle and Mike’s. (Thank God these are not my only two choices!)

    Second, I have a question for you. This is your quote “He has called us to love GOD, love people, and kill those who are about to kill others.” Where does the last part come from? The first parts are easily recognizable but I am not sure where you are finding the last part (not saying it is not there, only that I’m not familiar with it).

    Obviously this issue is very personal for you and you are free to disagree with anything we write on this blog (including this comment). I would suggest doing some reading on this topic and then we can have a faithful (and civil) discussion over these issues.

    perhaps start here – http://www.amazon.com/War-Christian-Ethics-Contemporary-Readings/dp/0801031133/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=19RCTV5HJQGG67JN2Z08

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    1. I will say this – Stan: I love you! haha

      I don’t ever want to come across as smug or arrogant or mean (and I know i sometimes – or usually – do!). I appreciate your willingness to read the blog and engage with us! I’m always better off for having to think through my positions more! 🙂

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      1. back at cha Mike! Thanks for pouring out your life to kids.
        See ya at the end. For sure no need to kill in heaven as there will be no enemy.
        And thanks Chad for not being a pacifist. Its ok if you don’t agree with me on killing. As a veteran I have a lot of friends on the front lines in war right now. They are trained to kill. When I hear of pacifists say they are doing something not of God it needs to be corrected. Sometimes in the correcting emotions play in. God made us men and women that are full of emotions. I am not a pacifist but I do have passion. Ill stop commenting on this. I will never call my brothers and sisters in error that are dying for good. love y’all. 🙂

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  7. Michelle I just want to say that this was an excellent post and I enjoyed reading it. It is really causing me to think about what I believe and to question some of my beliefs on the subject. I think I would like to be a Christian Pacifist, but I’m gonna have to work to get to a point where I can really accept that in a way that is meaningful. It will definitely be an interesting discussion in the Wright household tonight, I can tell you that.

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    1. Thanks Josh! I’m glad you’re willing to grapple with this. Trust me, I’m not there either. I really do think that peacemaking is a virtue that we have to practice. I wish you luck in your discussion! It was not pretty when I tried to discuss this with mine =).

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  8. “…Christian pacifist (the adjective is necessary because my reasons for being a pacifist rely on Jesus being who the Bible says he is)”
    Yes! When I first wrote on pacifism, it became evident that pointing pacifists to Christ was at least as important as pointing Christians to pacifism.
    From a once-upon-a-time Marine.
    Some great quotes from Charles Spurgeon: http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

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    1. The premise of pacifism expressed here is similar to Sheldon’s “What would Jesus do? (WWJD)” so I may imitate Him. That is the old question of the letter (law), not the new question of the spirit (Rom 7:6). The question is, “What is Jesus doing in you now, at every step?” WIJD, if you will. Christ in you is your hope of glory (Col 1:27). It is no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you (Gal 2:20). Christ is formed in you (Gal 4:19). So, in our knowing Him (Phil 3:10), what is He saying and doing at the “right nows” of our lives? Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom 8:14). It is the being led that’s key. Law and conduct admonitions tell us what the Godly walk looks like, but they are not lists to follow. We are to be led by His Spirit.

      If we take the “what He did” and “how He did it” approach, we have law, not grace. Romans 7:4 says God made us die to the law in Christ, so we could be separated from the sin and death that come from trying to follow the law. Unfortunately except for salvation and a few other rare moments, we try to live like good Christians who do x, y and z. This is outer law, not inner leading.

      In you at this moment God’s Spirit may want you to share His life (1 Cor 6:17) in a pacifistic way (He lives, not you). In the next moment, He may be knotting small cords and driving out the animals and overturning tables. It is His call by His leading, not ours by following an external model or a list of do’s and don’ts.

      If He wants a Christian to be a policeman or to be in the military, that is His call, not ours. If they do answer His call that way, they will not bear the sword for nothing, for that is His will too. Let us all be led in the way He has called.

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      1. Richard:
        Are there any professions (or actions) that are ever universally condemned by God? Your ethical system (built off what seems like a Lutheran sensitivity to law v. grace) seems susceptible to the “God told me to” defense of mothers who drown their babies, etc. Law language aside, Jesus’ does give plenty of straightforward commands in the Bible, which he does not seem to imagine should be relativized by a particular situation/calling. You do have a good point that it is important to remember that when Christians are obeying Jesus, they are obeying someone who is still alive, and still able to surprise.

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        1. Galatians 1 says that Christ revealed to Paul who revealed to us in his epistles. With that being so, would you consider that it is Christ’s sensitivity about law and grace rather than Luther’s? If not, please direct me to the Bible verses Luther wrote.

          If you don’t believe that those led by the Spirit are sons of God and that His sheep know His voice, then that is a problem. Again, the Bible contains examples of what His life looks like so we can examine the leading received. In case you’re not certain, I can assure you that He does not drown babies.

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          1. I certainly agree with you – I simply meant to imply that perhaps there are actions that are uniformly and universally forbidden of Christians (which we might call Law), such as torturing orphans. If we can accept that Christ will not call anyone to do that, then perhaps we can look at (obviously much more nuanced) examples like policemen and military officers, as you mentioned in your original comment.

            As to drowning babies, certainly Genesis 22 could (and has) been used to found “divine-command ethics.” I think of Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical” as an example. To more common historical scenarios, there have been many (seemingly well-intentioned) Christians who believed the Spirit was leading them to *defend slavery, *support the nazi regime, *oppose women’s rights, etc. Perhaps a firmer stance towards violence, such as Tertullian’s “In disarming Peter, Christ disarmed every soldier” is a more fitting posture in response to Jesus’ life and teaching.

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            1. Christ sums up the whole law – love God and love others. Hopefully, besides drowning children, it is also apparent where torturing orphans and the rest would fall in that summation. To be sure you know what I mean: doing those things to them would NOT be loving them. There is no nuance as to police officers and military personnel since they are ordained of God according to Romans 13.

              Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Since we are wanting truth, we know we can find it in the written Word that speaks of the Living Word – Christ. If the Bible cannot do truth justice, then exploring Kierkegaard or Tertullian or Dr. Seuss might provoke God to be more clear since we appear to prefer their words to His. However, in my experience, I read outside authors when I did not know God or the Bible. Maybe reading these other authors make us think we are smart. Is God awed by them? For truth, there is no substitute to the Word. Please focus primarily on it or show how some other author does a much better job than God does.

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        2. Mike…So your saying the God would never tell a parent to kill their own child? The word of God says He did. Was the mother who killed her kids hearing from God? Pretty sure she was just insane. I don’t see a purpose for her killing. Was the order to kill Isaac a one time thing? We don’t know. The spirit knows. Again, God will do what God will do. I have no problem with personally putting a bullet in the brain of a madman who is slaughtering innocent lives. We serve Him,not man. We “IN CHRIST JESUS” are led by the Spirit. Let us agree to continue to love the poor, clothe the naked, serve the widows and orphans etc. We agree on those things.
          Shalom

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