About

The purpose of this blog is to provide a place where Christians can come together to discuss issues relating to the commandment given by Jesus: “Love Your Enemies.” For many of us, the notion of pacifism first sounded bizarre, but as time has progressed we have been impressed by the clear testimony of Scripture and history. Jesus of Nazareth did teach a radical form of trust in God that today is termed “pacifism.” Just to clarify, there is no connection between “pacifism” and “passiveness,” they just sound alike. Rather than passiveness, Jesus calls us into the front lines of compassion by instructing us in the affirmative to love our enemies. Though, this is one of the most ignored and exegetically avoided doctrines of modern Christendom, we see a clear and repeated impetus in Scripture to go against culture, national ties, the advice of the NRA, and launch ourselves fully and irrevocably into the protective hands of God Almighty, our Rock and High Tower. May he have mercy on us as we beat our swords into plowshares while yet living in a world addicted to the narcotic of violence.

So far, we have found quite a few Scriptures that bear on this subject, and impressive amount of historical data from the early pre-Nicene Christian writers. Furthermore, we have attempted to answer the really tough questions that most pacifists would rather not think about. If you are in disagreement with pacifism, subscribe to the “Just War Theory,” or some other system of thought, we especially invite you to participate by challenging us with your best arguments against pacifism. Now let us turn to the words of Jesus himself.

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

It is our contention that these sections (along with many others) have for some reason not been taken seriously in the majority of Christendom. In fact, many theories and arguments have surfaced as an effort to marginalize these immortal words of our Lord. We believe that this subject needs to be discussed in a cogent, rational manner. In addition to discussing the actual biblical data, we will present the practice of the 2nd century Christians as well as look into the rich history of the radical reformation (the Anabaptist movement of the 16th and 17th centuries).

This is an open forum, allegiance to a particular ideology neither qualifies nor disqualifies anyone from participation. We believe that through honest investigation of the Scripture along with reasoned discussion we will be able to come to the truth on this matter. We prefer that all arguments are approached from a logical standpoint with minimal appeals to emotional language for the sake of emphasis.

Questions that need answers include:

  1. Should Christians serve in the military?
  2. How should Christians pray for those in the millitary?
  3. Should Christians use violence to defend their families?
  4. Do Christians have the right to self defend?
  5. What is the Christian’s position toward government?
  6. Should Christians support the death penalty?

Responses

  1. Another question to ask: What did Jesus mean when he said he did not come to bring peace but the sword?

  2. The verse you are referring to is Matthew 10:34.

    Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

    To find out what Jesus meant by this you simply need to look at the surrounding verses. The Bible is not a reference Book to pluck out information when needed. Context is essential to understanding.

    This section commonly referred to as the “sending out of the twelve” or “chapter 10.” Jesus gives them many instructions and blesses them with authority over spirits and such(v.8). Then he gives them warnings about the hard road ahead of them (starting v.16) and then what it means to be his disciple (v.24.) In verse 32 he starts illustrating the fact that there will be two responses to Jesus, those who deny him and those who reject him. The sword is used here to illustrate the division that will happen in the world because of Jesus When you read on Jesus continues is thought in verse 35

    For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

    So I don’t think this verse really pertains to the subject of war or violence or loving your enemies. Thank you though for the question.
    God Bless
    In Christ
    ~JP

  3. You accuse John H of using the bible as a “reference book” and of “plucking” verses out of context and yet you do the same with regard to the language and culture in which Luke 6:29-30 was written.

    When you take into account the laws of first century Judea and read these verses in context, there’s a lot of good apologetics that argue that these verses are not about pacifism but more about exhausting all non-violent means of resistance to abuse and oppression. Christ did not call us to be masochistic in nature. By his words and even by his actions (the cleansing of the temple, twice; His self preservation in Nazareth; His use of force to stop the violence in the Garden of Gethsemane etc.) he shows us that there is such thing as a righteous use of force. To stand by while evil progresses over the innocent when you have the ability and are granted the power to stop it, is basically a skirting of responsibility just as much as a refusal to discipline a child is.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”

  4. First off, I am not the one who wrote this about article, so im not sure about your accusation that about me taking this article out of context.

    Second of all Matthew, this site is not really promoting passiveness. There is a wonderful article here:

    http://loveyourenemies.wordpress.com/2007/07/08/pacifism-and-passiveness/

    Nobody here is promoting standing by and allowing evil to happen. However, what is being put forward is that we are commanded to Love our enemies and to obey that command to the fullest.

    Can you reference us to these apologetics that state what you are saying, I am genuinely interested.

    I don’t know if you have had time.. but there is a very interesting post on why Jesus used force to cleanse the temple.

  5. Matthew Marcus,
    I just reread your post…, I just realized that you were referring to just those 2 verses with your statements. Im not quite sure that you will find on this site anyone using those verses to defend pacifism. After all, the author of this article underlined the verses he was using to make his point and the rest is there to show context. The verses you are referring to are not underlined.

    I am well aware of the cultural context of the statements in 29 and 30, as well as the author of this article. Thats the part that I glossed over, that you were only referring to those two verses, I thought you were referring to the underlined verses in the article with your statements and thats what I ask for the reference.

  6. My apologies. I was assuming that you had wrote the article when I read your reply. My mistake. I actually wrote quite a lengthy description of the apologetics in question in the Scriptures section if you want to check it out.

    I read the Passivism vs. Pacifism and while it was a good article, I find it hard to swallow that by not acting, defending and protecting the innocent in this world and in doing so “loving” your enemies, are you pleasing God with your decisions and actions. Making the argument that Being a pacifist doesn’t make you passive sounds like a matter of semantics to me.

  7. It is typical to introduce a false dichotomy. You think there are only two options (1) use violence (2) do nothing. But, this is exactly false. For those of us who believe in God and follow Jesus’ radical example, there is always a third option. That is to trust in God rather than the myth of redemptive violence and allow his spirit to lead you.

    Pacifism has to do with being opposed to violence, not being opposed to action. Just look at anti-war protests.

    The bottom line is that if you refuse to love your enemies then you are not a follower of Christ, because he commanded you to do such. Paul echoed this and so did Peter, not to mention the first three centuries of church history.

  8. I never said that violence or inaction were the only two options. In fact I make it very clear in my post in the “scriptures” section of this site, that I do not take hold that view at true.

    And who ever said that you can’t still love even through the use of force? Christ was sinless and was God in man and so was fully love, and yet there are a number of examples of Him using force. My point is just that you can use force in the right given situation, still loving and still trusting fully in God as you do so.

  9. Well, Ive only seen what you have written here, and what you present here seems like its the only 2 options. It did look like a false dichotomy you placed here in the context of this thread alone.
    especially with statements like:

    I find it hard to swallow that by not acting, defending and protecting the innocent in this world and in doing so “loving” your enemies, are you pleasing God with your decisions and actions.

    and

    To stand by while evil progresses over the innocent when you have the ability and are granted the power to stop it, is basically a skirting of responsibility just as much as a refusal to discipline a child is.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”

    You are pretty much insinuating that not doing anything is the position of this site.

    I don’t think it fair for those who read the blog to assume that they have read everything you have posted on this site. if its something you have covered in another part of the site, please be more specific which article you are talking about rather than “the scripture section.” It will help us all out a lot.

    As for your question of force… I have to use force to close some doors in my home, Sean has to use force to discipline his child. However there is a point where that force goes beyond the point of being appropriate (like me slamming the door) and even unloving (sean using a scourge to discipline his child.) It is the partly goal of this site to bring clarity (primarily to Christendom) on where that line is crossed with the various articles contained within.

  10. Matthew,

    Please answer my question: Do you believe that you should love your enemies? Or do you believe that you should love them so long as they are not a threat to you or your loved ones and then in that case it is fine to break the clear commandment of your “Lord?”

  11. I should have mentioned this in my last post, though I hate to beat this to death but another comment you made that gives the perception of the “either or” is

    Making the argument that Being a pacifist doesn’t make you passive sounds like a matter of semantics to me.

    You have lumped the two together and address the passiveness. There really is a huge difference and if you wish to discuss why you think there isn’t, i would suggest that you do so in that thread.

  12. A better way to phrase the issue would be “Biblical nonresistance”. Pacifism is not a term used in the Bible so far as I know. This is an interesting discussion.
    Thanks, Mrs. Vestal

  13. We prefer to use the phrase “love your enemies” because that is an affirmative statement. Besides, not all non-violence advocates believe in absolute non-resistance. Obviously this is a hair-line distinction, but I prefer to think of the redemptive possibilities in following Jesus regarding my enemies. If we do not resist them, we will not participate in the evil they commit. But, if we love them, they may be transformed by that love and so repent and live.

    thank you for your comments
    ~sean

  14. You might have added in response to “MennoGirl” that the word ‘nonresistance’ does not occur in scripture. The passage from which ‘nonresistence’ is derived has a reference to violent insult followed by instructions which could be rendered “Don’t resist the violent one violently.” Thus ‘non-violent resistance’ would be closer to this interpretation than ‘nonresistance.’ Jesus’ action in healing the paralytic, his ‘cleansing’ the temple so that Gentiles had a place to worship, and teaching against the leaders of the day demonstrate this resisting while loving those in need.

  15. Dave,

    Thanks for clarifying. There are two types of non-violence: active and passive. We advocate the active type.

  16. Sean,

    I just randomly came upon the site and am very intrigued by all of the articles on it, however I had a few questions about Pacifism that I’d like to ask over E-mail and I don’t see any sort of address on the site. Is there an E-Mail address I could use to contact you?

  17. I’m going to go right ahead and admit that this comment will be off topic, but I would just like to say how nice it is to find a sight like this. Being a Friend (Quaker), I sometimes feel desperately outnumbered by Christians who don’t take “love your enemies” as seriously as I do, and it is a breath of fresh air to find people who are supportive of this view. My frustration over the last couple of days has lead to start writing down my thoughts on the subject, which is out of character for me in spiritual matter. Again, thank you, and I will most definitely visit again in the future.

  18. Brandon, thanks for your comment and for visiting the site. What has led you to be a strong believer in Jesus’ teaching on this subject?

  19. A teacher in our church is teaching/preaching a series on the beatitudes/sermon on the mount. He has been urging us to take a radical view of Jesus’s words – to look for ways to “abundantly, joyfully, and creatively obey” rather than look for loopholes to get out of obeying, and taking Jesus at his word – revolutionary obedience.

    I am wrestling with the Scriptures and my own heart, traditions,and prejudices like never before.

    Thank you sharing your own journey of study – and the links and leads for further study. I want to make sure I have my own convictions based on the Truth before I set out to train my kids. This has potential for causing a division between my husband and myself (he is an engineer whose work is primarily rooted in defense – rockets, missiles, etc.), so I will tread carefully and with much prayer. Thanks for sharing.

    Mrs. B in TN

  20. Mrs. B – thank you for your comment. May the God of peace continue to reveal Himself and His truth to you. God Bless You. If there is anything else we can help with, please let us know.

  21. With apologies…….this is actually a question….I have not been able to find the spot on this blog site for asking a new question.

    I am interested in whether or not anyone can recommend any collections of prayers that could be used during Communion services that are specifically nonviolent in understanding of Jesus and remembering him in Communion?

  22. Hi Sean, I saw your name on scroll publishing. I live in RI as well. I would love to talk with you.

    P.S. Hi Victor

  23. Hey Edward,

    I’ll shoot you an email so we can talk.

    grace & peace
    ~sean

  24. “‘Peace, peace,’ they say when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14 & 8:11.

    10 ” ‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” — Ezekial 13:10-12

  25. The only thing that counts is the faith that works by love, as the Scriptures declare. To follow Jesus and do whatever he tells you to do; to be led of the Spirit of truth, as the truth is in Jesus Christ. Amen. As for what others do, or do not do, Jesus did not tell us to overconcern ourselves, but to simply “follow me” (Jesus). That is all that is necessary for us as individuals; so to argue about all these things works no good at all. It is mere intellectual and carnal “entertainment” it would seem, for the most part – especially the arguing and striving back and forth; works no good. Everyone has their own opinion, and it is veritably worth nothing, including mine. What matters is “What has the Lord said?” and that’s all.
    That should put an end to all arguing.
    If the Scriptures are not precise and clear about any issue, then we should not be delving so deeply into them; we do have liberty in Christ.
    If our hearts do not condemn us, then we have confidence toward God, as the Bible says. If our hearts DO condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. Therefore, let us all
    trust the Lord our God in all matters, and walk with a clean and non-self-condemning conscience toward our Personal Lord, God, Only True Judge, and Saviour and stop trying to make formulas for
    the love of God which is so high and so great that it is not possible for any of us to wrap it all up in some neat little box so that we, ourselves may be in control of God’s will, or dismiss it as some intellectual surmising and personal opinion.
    Let us not limit the Holy Spirit. God does as He will, and that is good, and quite sufficient for all of us. Governments have God-given authority to serve God in one way, and individuals have God-given authority to serve God in another. We do not have to worry about what authority God gives to governments, but, rather, let us just follow Jesus and be led of the Holy Spirit. That is quite enough. End of discussion. Grace and peace to all in Jesus’ name. Amen.

  26. Thanks for your website. I appreciate the conversation you are facilitating here.

    I have a website http://pentecostalpacifism.com/

    I am currently writing a new book tracing the early 20th Century pacifism of the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. On my website you can see a variety of the larger groups and some hint of the pacifism that was, at the time, the dominant position in this set of movements. Holiness and Pentecostal advocates articulated a peace position based upon their reading of Biblical texts, their global understanding of mission, their identification with marginalized peoples, and their anticipation of a millennium of peace. In many cases, I have included WWI draft cards from adherents who requested being counted as religious objectors to war. They saw themselves as a prophetic movement to promote holiness and peace, often citing Hebrews 12:14, as twin markers of the presence of God. More germane to your website, early adherents to these movements often used the term “baptism of love,” to refer to the same experience they promoted as sanctification, or the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

    Again, thanks for the important conversation which you are promoting.

  27. The 30th Anniversary Edition of Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way is available in ebook format from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    It was originally published by Friends United Press and appeared on the cover of Quaker Life magazine for the July/August issue of 1982. The ms was first sent to Herald Press. The editor was encouraging that it came close to being chosen but they picked Ron Sider’s Christ and Violence over it.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christian-pacifism-michael-snow/1000946312?ean=2940013328471

  28. A new blog for Christian pacifist resources

    http://christianpacifismblog.wordpress.com/


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