||| Five Biblical Reasons Why Christians Should Be Pacifists |
| Some Famous Pacifist Christians of Christian History |
Five Biblical Reasons Why Christians Should Be Pacifists
1. Christians love their enemies
The Lord Jesus himself taught his disciples that they must love their enemies. (Matt. 5:44). By praying that the Father forgive those who tortured and crucified him, Jesus modeled how Christians should love all those who would injure or kill them.
2. Christians use the weapons of the Spirit
Since ultimately Christians struggle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of wickedness, they are instructed to fight with the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18), not with weapons that destroy human life.
3. Christians are ambassadors for Jesus
Christians enjoy the privilege of being ambassadors for Christ to the world (2 Cor. 5:18-20). Just as ambassadors today do not become involved in the wars declared by their host nations, so also Christians should not participate in wars carried out by the nations in which they live.
4. Christians forgive their debtors
As a people of God who pray, Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt. 6:12), Christians are required to completely forgive their enemies and show them mercy rather than kill them, even in just causes (see Matt. 18:21-35).
5. Christians follow a higher calling
Christians realize that their time on this earth is short and that they need to genuinely exhibit the love of God so that others may also discover the salvation of Christ. Our love for God is not demonstrated by participating in wars and by slaughtering other humans, but rather in this: that we lay down our lives for one another (I John 3:12-16).
Some Famous Pacifist Christians of Christian History
During the last twenty centuries, many Christians have understood Jesus teachings to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28) to mean, first of all, that it is wrong to participate in wars and kill others. The following selection provides examples of how certain Pacifist Christians have responded to the Gospels call to love one another, including ones enemies, just as Jesus loved us.
1. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165)
And that (the prophecy of Isaiah 2:1-4) did come to pass, we can convince you. For twelve men, illiterate and without speaking ability, went out from Jerusalem into the world, and by the power of God they proclaimed to every nation that they were sent by Christ to teach the word of God to everyone. And we, who formerly murdered one another, not only refuse to make war against our enemies, but in order not to lie nor deceive our judges, meet death willingly, confessing Christ.
Apology I, 39
2. Martin of Tours (c. 315-397)
Around 356 A.D., at a ceremony in which soldiers were given a donative or monetary gift, Martin explained to his commanding officer why he could no longer serve as a Roman soldier. Up to the present I have served you as a soldier. Allow me now to become a soldier of God. Let the man who is to serve you receive your donative. I am a soldier of Christ. It is not lawful for me to fight.
Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin, 4
3. Paulinus of Nola (355-431)
Paulinus was a friend of Martin of Tours and Victricius of Rouen, both of whom left the military in order to follow Jesus. In this letter to Crispinianus, a Roman soldier who had shown interest in becoming a Christian, Paulinus urged Crispinianus to similarly abandon the military and become a Christian. Therefore, no longer love this world or its military service, for Scriptures authority declares that whoever is a friend of this world is an enemy of God. Whoever serves as a soldier with the sword is the servant of death, and whenever he sheds his own blood or that of another, this will be his reward: he will be regarded as guilty either because he caused his own death or because of his sin (of killing his enemy in war.)
Letter 25, To Crispinianus
4. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy.
5. Menno Simons (1494-1561)
The Scriptures teach that there are two opposing princes and two opposing kingdoms: the one is the Prince of peace; the other is the prince of strife. Each of these princes has his particular kingdom, and as the prince is, so also is the kingdom. The Prince of peace is Christ Jesus. His kingdom is the kingdom of peace, which is his church. His messengers are the messengers of peace. His word is the word of Peace. His body is the body of peace.
Reply to False Accusations, III
6. Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)
When the Civil War began, Moody felt pressured by his friends to enlist in the armed forces on the side of the Union. In spite of all this he could not conscientiously enlist: There has never been a time in my life when I felt that I could take a gun and shoot down a fellow-being. In this respect I am a Quaker, was his explanation.
William R. Moody, The Life of Dwight L. Moody, p. 82
7. Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)
Five months after the Second World War commenced in Europe, Evelyn Underhill wrote to a friend: I am sorry that we do not agree about Peace. Although I quite agree about the stern element in Our Lords teachings, the denunciations of Pharisees, etc., etc., still the numerous texts enjoining love of enemies , non-resistance, etc., do seem to qualify this strain in a sense that precludes war. And in fact the early Christians held that they were debarred from war, didnt they? Of course Christendom has never had the nerve to apply this teaching without qualification, right up to the point of national martyrdom. When it does, perhaps the Kingdom of God will come.
Letter of January 13, 1940, The Letters of Evelyn Underhill, pp. 284-285
8. Georgia Harkness (1891-1974)
The modern mind has not made a great deal of progress since ancient Israel in the matter of viewing the nations enemies as Gods enemies. Our bombs, battleships, bacteriological laboratories [are viewed] as instruments for the infliction of divine judgment upon those who contemn Gods holy name and flout his law. It would appear that large portions of the Christian world have yet to discover the word of the New Testament: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him....Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
The Gospel and Our World, pp. 114-115
9. Dorothy Day (1897-1981)
How obey the laws of a state when they run counter to mans conscience? Thou shalt not kill, Divine law states. A new precept I give unto you that you love your brother as I have loved you. St. Peter disobeyed the law of men and stated that he had to obey God rather than man. Wars today involve total destruction, obliteration bombing, killing of the innocent, the stockpiling of atom and hydrogen bombs....War means hatred and fear. Love casts out fear.
The Pope and Peace in The Catholic Worker, February 1954
10. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you..... Jesus is eternally right. History is replete with the bleached bones of nations that refused to listen to him. May we in the twentieth century hear and follow his words before it is too late. May we solemnly realize that we shall never be true sons of the heavenly Father until we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Loving your Enemies in Strength to Love