Posted by: Victor | May 7, 2007


“Speaking to an intimate gathering of airmen during breakfast at the Hillcrest dining facility, O’Brien said pacifism has never been an option in Christianity, especially in Catholicism, and told the story of a Samaritan who found a traveler who had been brutally attacked dying along the side of a road.  The Samaritan took the wounded traveler to an inn, telling the keeper to tend to the traveler and spare no expense and that he would return in a few days to pay for his lodging and services rendered.  The bishop asked what if the Samaritan had arrived earlier and seen the attack take place, would not his responsibility lie in intervention in the hopes of ending the assault instead of standing back allowing it to happen and then provide assistance. ” –  Archbishop Edwin O’Brien,  Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States

Full article can be found here and commentary on this subject can be found here.

I have heard the arguement that it would be unloving to ones neighbor to not stop evil being done to them.  What do you think?  I think a big flaw in many people’s thinking is that loving one’s enemy or not returning evil for evil includes the action of “just standing there while your wife gets beaten up” or something.  This is not true nor have I (and other close companions who share this view) ever said that is something I would do.  Yet people leap to that conclusion thinking non-violence is equated to the remote in my hand flipping channels while my wife and children are attacked.  Sad that people would think that and use that possibility as their excuse to not follow Jesus’ clear teachings.

Though you might not like dealing with hypotheticals, what do you think about the situation propsed by the Archbishop above?  Does loving one’s neighbor supercede loving one’s enemy?  What are our options?



  1. In an effort not to push the Good Samaritan story beyond its intended purpose, I’d rather say what I would do if I cam across someone taking a beating. Since I live in America and we have governmental authorities (police) within reach of a cell-phone call, and considering the Scriptural authority given to the government to punish the wicked, I would first call the police if at all possible. Next, I would get involved. Jesus calls us to self-sacrificial love. Standing there and watching this horror is not an option. The cowardly will be thrown in the lake of fire (Rev 21.8). To not get involved is to miss the point of Christianity in general and the point of the Cross in particular (love to the point of death for the bad guys). Jesus calls us to love others as he loved. He is the standard for what love looks like. We are to love our neighbors and our enemies. I believe it would be right to try to stop the fight, call to people standing by, do something to help, and if I perish, I perish. So long as I perish in the cause of love, my life is well spent. Followers of Christ are called to love regardless of the cost. However, we are specifically told not to use evil so I would be limited in my efforts in comparison to someone who would use a weapon or their fist to “do what’s right.” Even so, I think that the pro-violence adherents have not understood the range of possibilities available to someone who is willing risk life and limb while not resorting to evil. Furthermore, there is certainly the possiblity of divine intervention, supernatural wisdom, or some other such unforseeable faith based option which would allow the committed follower of Jesus (and his teachings) to stop the evil without using evil.

  2. I recently had the misfortune of being in this particular circumstance. Someone was being attacked and I was the authority that ad to get involved (hours away from cellphone service, let alone police.) I ran over to the violent young man and pulled him off.
    This is the part that is king of bugging me:
    Twice, i rebuked him in the name of Christ, but he did not heed. The young man is mentally disabled so now im not sure if it was a spiritual matter. But I wasn’t sure if that mattered.

    I held him back and then he turned on me. At this time all I was interested in was getting away. He grabbed my rain poncho that I was wearing. I was able to slip out of it and JohnO (a larger man than I) was then able to restrain him.
    He struggled for a little bit until I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that its ok and that we love him. At this point he was reduced to tears.

    I don’t think we did anything unloving or violated any sort of “pacifist code” or anything. I saw nothing unloving about what we did. Believe me there where weapons available that many people would could have been used, but those where nothing but after thoughts. I praise God for bringing me to a place in my life spiritually that we did not fall into the temptation to do something unloving, and that it was the pacifists of the group who responded.
    God Bless

  3. Hallelujah!

    In the times I have been in similar situations the LORD is faithful to provide the way to escape so that we may do what is right and not sin. He proves not only that He is faithful but that this is the right way to live and act – in love and gentleness yet compassionate and involved. thanks for sharing john.

  4. Excellent story. As people committed to obeying Jesus we are to actively love our enemies. This, in my mind, engenders the opposite of the connotations usually associated with pacifism/nonresistance because we are doing something. Let us be the ones who get involved who, at the risk of our own personal safety, do whatever it takes to love.

  5. Sean, you bring up a good point. Often the idea of opponents of this view assume someone who is gentle, peaceable, and will love even their enemies will sit around and watch their wife be beaten or while their children are being kidnapped you are flipping through channels on TV. This is not the case at all. I think why people say this is they want to make this point of view foolish and uncompassionate.

    If you can get your hands on the book “Choosing Against War” by Roth, you will read in the introduction about a similar story that Roth finds himself in and the LORD provides a way to escape. Perhaps I’ll post on this later.

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about pacifism lately…. a question for those who are pacifists- is calling the police OK for you? And was it OK for Paul to accept a Roman escort to protect him (maybe I’m reading that part of the Bible wrong, but it seems as though he did so on a vol basis from a Roman commander who “rescued” him)?

    If you call the authorities, you seem to be justifying them– and allowing them to commit violence by proxy for you.

    The way I look at the situation is that by acting in a case like this you are not taking an eye for an eye. A question is though, are you turning the other cheek? I’ve always thought that meant more of the same i.e. not seeking vengeance. But if it means total nonresistance and allowing aggressors the opportunity to further “aggress” then you are not. By my definition, you are OK in acting, you are not passing judgment, you are simply acting in the moment to help your neighbor– and the manner in which you act should be to follow your conscience to the best of your ability.

    The only part of Jesus’s life that I find to maybe be in conflict with this is when he reproved Peter for cutting the ear of the guard. Was Peter acting out of any motive other than to defend the most innocent person ever?

  7. Dee, it is wonderful to have you here and joining in this investigation and discussion.

    I think that much that you are raising can be cleared up if we look at pacifism as an ideology based on peace rather than “passifism” (passiveness). Jesus taught his followers to be people of peace, gentleness and love. But at the same time he was concerned about injustice and oppression being ended. So, how do we as his followers take up both of his missions? That is our question here.

    So, in calling the police you are not being unloving, but using a service that is provided by the nation you reside in to stop evil. Romans 13 speaks at this at length where God has ordained the powers that be to administer some element of justice now, even though we know that full justice will come when the Kingdom comes.

    But, the problem comes in when we think that the state because it is ordained by God is also endorsed by God. This is not the same thing. There is much that the nations of this world (America included) that are horrible in the sight of God. From the example you sighted, Paul did use his “rights” as a Roman citizen so that his life could be preserved and his mission could continue. But there were other times when he did not do this…wisdom is needed as with all things I’m sure. The Romans were doing horrible things to many people, and eventually to Christians too, but Paul used what they were offering him to his advantage, without sinning, for the furtherance of the gospel.

  8. Thanks for the welcome, Victor, and I have to say that I really like the way this site is set up.

    As for your response, it introduced some thoughts that I don’t usually take away from pacifism, I take it you are saying that the nations can act justly in some small ways (and not just as evil forces bent unwillingly to do God’s will).

    When it comes down to it, we probably should try to use the wisdom God gives us and the love we should have built up for our brothers and sisters to dictate our actions.

  9. Dee, excellent points. This question is one of the most important ones that pacifists need to answer. Paul is a fine example of someone who exerted his rights as a Roman citizen in order to escape injustice. Apparently the governments of this world do serve God to the extent that they administer punishment to evil doers and protection to the innocent. Even so, I would seriously hesitate before calling the police in the moment, because I may end up short circuiting an otherwise more beneficial solution to the problem at hand. In the end, your summary is the correct one–relying on God’s wisdom in the situation rather than our own pre-conceived plans of action.

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