Friday, April 11, 2008


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” Matthew 5.9

It may come as no surprise that I am not a pacifist. I believe that there are situations in which a man must defend his family and his own person using violence, if necessary. I believe that the failed policy of banning hand guns has proven only to escalate violence and I am interested in giving an armed citizenry a shot to see if that would diminish crime. (Though I am not absolutely sure this will work in lowering crime). Ironically, Colt named one of it’s most famous side arms the Peacemaker.

So how can I consider myself a peacemaker?
Matthew Henry in his commentary tells us that the idea of being a peace maker consists of 2 things. The first being in a consistant habit of both loving peace and making peace, to have a disposition of peace about yourself. The second is to bring peaceful reconciliation between parties in conflict. While we might be tempted to think generally of warfare’s cessation here, this is primarily an interpersonal word. He writes, “The making of peace is sometimes a thankless office, and it is the lot of him who parts a fray, to have blows on both sides…”*

This makes perfect sense to me. I am a “son of God” when I am reconciling because my God and Father is the reconciler of men. Why then , do we allow this passage to be ripped from it’s contextual moorings and thrown into the face of the church as if it were some great command for pacifism? Have we become so distant from the sacred text that we let the truth that it proclaims be slighted and maligned without comment?

Every Christian should determine the exact circumstances under which he or she might be provoked to use violence. Certainly that is a challenging subject in a hostile world. But this understanding of the text reinforces the teaching of Paul to the Corinthians, where he insists that the call of those in the sacred service of his majesty Jesus is to reconcile . As reconcilers, we bring men and women together in the restoration of marriages, we bring men together who are at odds with one another, and we bring mankind toward the loving God- who sent his Son to be our reconciler.

So what circumstance would make you act violently? As a Christian, what are the boundaries of your violence?

*(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)


Paul M. Harrison said...

I had a rusty spade
But I'm not the fighting sort
If I was Samson I would've found that harlot's blade
And cut my own hair short

My friend Aaron wrote these lyrics in a song called "In A Market Dimly Lit." He is a pacifist, and asked me in 2005 if I was one as well. I told him I was unsure, but that Samson's desire for Philistine women was "from God" for the very purpose of inciting a war with them.

Aaron then gave a sermon at Cornerstone 2006 opening with the question "When was the last time you ever heard of a sheep killing a wolf?" He believed Jesus was a pacifist and wanted his followers to be as well - as lambs sent out to the slaughter, following his example of taking up his cross and being led to the slaughter without violent resistence. All of the classic verses were there - Peter put away your sword, return evil with good, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, not to worry about your property and material wealth. Basically, when was Jesus ever pro-war, pro-big business, pro-cut throat capitalism, pro-guns, anti-public aid and pro-blaming the poor and forgetting them. Jim Wallis asks how a nation founded on enslaving one race and killing and stealing the land of another could be a "Christian" nation. You've heard it all before, full books are written on who the good guys and bad guys really are on these issues and how best to understand them. The emerging church is post-liberal/conservative and tries to get evangeicals to focus on issues without writing them off as "liberal agenda" because they sound too Democratic.

He didn't believe Christians should be in the military, the police, seeking political power, or putting their country before God (basically calling patriotism idolatry and seeing America as a great evil in the world and not a Christian nation by any definition). His message was not well received as nearly the entire audience disagreed with him. He was still processing the idea in Romans 13 that all authority is set up by God and bears the sword to inflict punishment on evildoers. Who are the evildoers worthy of armed destruction? Us? Iraq?

In another song called "A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains" he wrote these lyrics:

What new mystery is this?
What blessed backwardness?
The Immeasurable One is held and does not resist!
Struck by wicked words and foolish fists of senseless men
The Almigty One does not defend.

What new mystery is this?
In overflowing emptiness the Invisible is seen among the shadows and the mist.
Before my doubting eyes the Infinite appears in time -
The Unquestionable is questioned but makes no reply!

What new mystery is this?
"My Rabbi!" my lips betray with a kiss
What new mystery is this?

His point in these lyrics is to amplify the paradoxes in Jesus' teachings - to lead you must serve, to find life you must lose it, to be raised up you must die, etc. The "blessed backwardness" he believes is God telling us to resist our natural impulses to violently resist evil as he exemplified.

People asked what he would do if his child was being raped or abducted and he said, "I'm sorry, all I have is what Jesus said in the Gospels and if he is your Lord you do what he says. 'Jesus said so' should be enough at a festival of Christians who call him lord, shouldn't it?" Thus the lyric in calling Jesus "My Rabbi" when you aren't doing what he said is seen as the kiss of betrayal.

Some point to Jesus making a whip in the temple as an act of violence and so many others point to the clear glory of war heroes in the Old Testament. Then we have just war theory which deveoped early in church history but took some sinister turns when codifed and used in crusades and inquisitions.

I read, "The Myth Of A Christian Nation" by Boyd and discussed the pacifist stance in it with a pastor who said, "I hate it when people put words into Jesus' mouth. Nowhere does Jesus condone pacifism and nowhere is he anti-war. It is evil not to resit evil with violence as needed." And here the theologians come in and qualify until their positions are supported. Dare we say that when Jesus comes back he is kicking butt and taking names? But there is no example in the Bible of Christians violently resisting persecutors, plenty of pacifist teachings, and no condoning of violence, so I think we would be twisting what Jesus clearly said and adding to his teachings what isn't there to come out with a Jesus who is thumbs up for violence.

One person said, "Aaron confuses Christianity with neo-hippie ideals." He is a part of a community in Philadelphia called "The Simple Way" which is headed by Shane Claiborne who just wrote a book called "Jesus for President." Looking through it today it is very much anti-war, anti-violence, pro non-violent active resistence. They build Christian peace-making teams, etc. I am attracted to those ideals.

In The Beatles song "Revolutuion" John Lennon says, "If you're talking about destruction, don't you know that you can count me" He added "in" later because he felt there might be times there is no other option but violence. I tend to agree.

I hate guns in the sense that I wish they never existed. You know, we discover atoms and make bombs with them. The things we do with atoms! But when you think about it, can you name anything in nature that is a pacifist? Is not every living thing finding leverage to hunt and protect? To ensure protection and survival? So it's only natural that we create weapons.

Ravi Zacharias tried committing suicide as a teen because he endured severe beatings from his dad who shamed him often. To try to gain a sense of honor he tried to join the military in India to be a war hero (and he could have been a professional cricket player as well!). They rejected him because he simply didn't have it in him to kill. This very much describes me. I let the fly out the window or leave it, but I don't kill it. I would let a man shoot me before I would live with the torment of having killed a man.

But I am thankful that there are people who are built to shoot and gut animals so I can eat at Famous Daves, that there are armed officers and soldiers guarding us.

The only exception I would make in using violence is regrettable uncontrolled rage or in protecting a loved one to the point of killing or being killed. I have felt rage towards pedophiles that I find hard to see as human, and whenever I see videos of Muslims in England chanting for much bloodshed, many martyrs, and for bombs on countries, my first reaction is to want them all lined up and shot in the head. This is fear, plain and simple, and wanting a preemptive strike on them so they don't hurt free and civilized people.

In another blog, you mentioned many of the irreligious and godless tyrants who slaughtered millions. Ten seconds of holocaust footage should make us all wish Bonhoeffer succeded in assasinating Hitler. This is where Aaron reminds me that we all have evilin us and Jesus died for all so we must pray for, bless, and love Hitler as Jesus commanded. Then the world thinks Jesus is mad!

Whatever we conclude we should do in this world, it's nice to hope in another place where there will be neither violence nor evil. I think it is idealistic and impossible to hope that flesh, blood, and adrenaline can hope for that in this world.

Pastor Dave said...

I read recently of a weekend every spring in Kentucky where people come from all over to shoot weapons that they aren't allowed to shoot other places. 50 mm machine guns, rocket launchers, and, even flame throwers! now it does scare me that my neighbor might have a flamethrower- but I gotta be honest- I'd like to drive down for the weekend and blow stuff up! ha ha