What are some of the issues raised by the current war against terrorism?
Didn’t God command the people in the Old Testament to fight wars?
The children of Israel did fight wars, relying on God for victory. But prophets envisioned a different kind of world, in which peace between nations would prevail. In the New Testament, Jesus showed us “the more excellent way” of love. This gospel of peace overturned the Old Testament way of war, just as the gospel of grace overturned Old Testament dietary and ritual laws. The way of war was supplanted by Jesus’ way of loving our enemies.
Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 5:38-42; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 2:15
Didn’t Jesus predict there would be wars and rumors of wars?
This statement about the end time is descriptive, not prescriptive; it tells what is, not what should be. Jesus was calling the church to faithful discipleship in times of violence and warfare. He was not calling the church to arms or justifying participation in war.
Doesn’t the peace of Christ make us right with God and bring about inner peace, rather than world peace?
The gospel of peace results in right relationship between individuals and God. But “peace” is not just personal peace with God or an inner calm. The peace of Christ is a divine power that transforms relationships. Jesus Christ preached and embodied a peace that broke down walls of hostility between peoples.
Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 1:20
Didn’t Jesus use force to throw the moneychangers out of the temple?
Jesus was calling the people to restore the temple to its rightful place—not a center of commerce but a place where people of all nations could come to pray peacefully. Jesus’ actions hurt no one and killed no one. Neither did he take control of the temple, politically or religiously.
Isaiah 56:7; cf. 65:25; Jeremiah 7:1-15; Mark 11:15-16; John 2:14-16
Aren’t Christians supposed to obey the earthly authorities that God has set over us?
Actually, Paul writes that we are to be subject to the governing authorities, not obey them. This means we shouldn’t rebel against the authorities or try to overthrow them. However, governments sometimes ask Christians for an allegiance that belongs only to God, which is idolatrous. Or they ask people to take actions, like going to war, that violate Christian principles and conscience. In such cases, Christians are to “obey God rather than human authority.”
What would Christian pacifists do if someone tried to attack their spouse or child?
Christians committed to Jesus’ way of peace might try to deter violent action by stepping between the assailant and the family member. Or they might appeal to the assailant’s conscience and humanity, or try to restrain or distract a violent person. In the end, though, the Christian must entrust the final outcome to God. We need to trust that God will be with us and our loved ones, no matter what.
Shouldn’t we stop murderers and terrorists so they don’t do more harm? Don’t we need to meet violence with an equal or greater force in order to neutralize it?
Murderers and terrorists should be held accountable for their horrendous deeds. However, Christians committed to Christ’s way of peace do not seek revenge, but seek to restore peace where there is hate and hostility. This means taking the long view, asking, What policies and practices will promote peace with justice? Christ’s way of peace may not always be the most effective way to stop violence in the short run. But Christ’s disciples want to be faithful to the way of Christ, even if it means the way of the cross—one’s own death.
How can I enjoy religious freedom and other freedoms for which others fought if I am not willing to fight?
It is easy to fall into the common belief that democratic freedoms can only be attained or preserved through war. But history proves that democracy and freedom have also been preserved by brave people who stood up for justice. In fact, ideas about separation of church and state and freedom of religion and conscience—essential to modern democracies—came from the pacifist Anabaptists of the 16th century, not from the American or French revolutions.
Why shouldn’t I be proud of my country, fly the flag, and join in affirming pledges and allegiance?
Christians can be grateful for their homeland, with its freedoms and opportunities. We should work for the good of all in our countries, be respectful of our fellow citizens, and pray for our rulers. However, as Christians, we belong to a body without borders—the church of Jesus Christ. This body transcends nationality, ethnic background, and other human divisions. Our ultimate citizenship is in the kingdom of God. Some Christians choose to stand to show respect during the playing of their national anthem or pledge of allegiance, but they do not sing or recite because it compromises their ultimate allegiance to Christ.
Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Is it okay for a Christian to join the military?
In the early days of Christianity, when believers saw themselves as a prophetic minority, they steered clear of military force and killing. However, as Christianity became more of an established part of culture, this conviction began to break down. Christian pacifists will not want to judge Christians who choose to join the army, while at the same time discerning whether this is inconsistent with Christ’s way of peace.
Matthew 7:1; 1 John 4:1
Information taken from brochure Making Peace with Enemies, © 2002 Faith & Life Resources, Scottdale, PA. Written by Richard A. Kauffman. Download brochure as a PDF.