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Jesus is not a pacifist

October 13, 2010

Jesus is not, not a pacifist either.

It’s become a popular subject in contemporary Christendom.

I’ve seen bumper stickers that read, “Jesus was a pacifist,” or “Who would Jesus bomb?” A new generation of disciples are trying to push back against the mainstream idea that Christians are necessarily George W.-style republicans. Many young adults hardly remember a political climate void of 9/11 references and stories of American soldiers dying in some forgotten desert, and many are holding open their Bibles, unable to reconcile a King who commands that we pray for those who persecute us and a political system that accepts collateral damage as the necessary cost of reaping vengeance on those who persecute us.

Meanwhile, a mostly older generation of Western evangelicals remind us that the character of God is also one of a righteous Judge, that Abraham had an army, and that when Jesus comes back it will be as a conquering King instead of a sacrificial Lamb.

I have been wrestling with the thing for the better part of a year – instructed in one camp for several years, but unable to ignore the testimony of scripture where it seems to disagree; learning to separate my faith from conservative politics and my American citizenship.

Some like to say that Jesus was a pacifist. Some argue that is a wrong interpretation of His first earthly ministry, and not a pattern for Christian living.

A couple days ago I realized that we may be answering the wrong questions.

It’s not about pacifism vs. self-defense. It’s about love. Jesus’ life wasn’t to show us how to be pacifists as a socio-political strategy; it was to show us how to love.

I think if we can remove both terms – pacifism and self-defense – from our vocabularies we’ll be that much closer to the heart of God. It’s about love.

Jesus didn’t turn the other cheek, or command us to bless those who abuse us, so that we could protest war or talk about whether Christians should own guns. He did it to teach us how to love.

You can be a pacifist and not have love, and completely miss the point.

Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek,” because you don’t hit someone you love.
Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you,” because you don’t curse someone you love.

It’s not about dividing the body of Christ over the issue of pacifism. We should be uniting to be His hands and feet in demonstrating His love to the world.

Let’s stop talking about pacifism and guns, and just stick to talking about love.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 9:53 am

    Good word Lex. I believe it a difficult thing to desire a war with someone who is feeding you and clothing you. I wonder when followers of Christ will take Him at face value?

    Thanks for writing!

  2. October 13, 2010 10:07 pm

    To quote a friend: “friendship. hospitality. generosity. education. humility. gratefulness. If you have all these and you have not Love: They don’t mean a damn thing.”

    Also, for struggles on how to interpret scripture, I recommend checking out the “Cotton Patch Version” written by Clarence Jordan. His writing and the legacy of his way of living have often challenged me to my core and brought new insight.

    • Lex permalink
      October 14, 2010 10:41 am

      Ed – Thanks! “I wonder when followers of Christ will take Him at face value?” That’s convicting me.

      Dreams – Thanks for the recommendation! Always looking for good, new (to me) stuff.

  3. Jason Jenkins permalink
    October 14, 2010 4:11 pm

    Thanks Lex, great read. I believe you are right on. Also, I believe there are very few who actually love (in the fullest sense) others. It’s very very hard to love and not expect anything in return.

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