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Posted by Gary Labels:

[From two months ago on Facebook]
So, I was up all night again. It's time for another 5:30 rambling. Actually I started this at 5:15, but who's keeping count?

Tonight I thought about one of the crucial and unique aspects of Jesus' preaching: pacifism.

Now, some people may believe in a just war theory and treat war as a necessary (but undesirable) evil, but Jesus did not subscribe to that theory. When the Jews expected a person called Messiah to lead them into battle and destroy all the Gentiles to bring in a new age of peace for God's people, Jesus really didn't fit the bill. Instead, he came to suffer and die. This very thing is why Peter was rebuked "Get behind me, Satan!" Peter couldn't believe Jesus' prediction of his own death, and instead tried to explain to Jesus that the Messiah was supposed to be immortal (or at least not killable by man's hands).

Besides just the very purpose of His life, which is the strongest evidence of all for Jesus as a pacifist, the second strongest piece of evidence is in His teachings. Never does Jesus enforce the death penalty. The death penalty in the Old Testament, according to Jewish rabbis, was meant to say "your sin is great enough to deserve this. Repent and you will be given mercy." According to one scholar, a sanhedrin would be considered bloodthirsty if they enforced the death penalty once every seventy years. That's too much.

Jesus seems to follow that view by telling Peter to put the sword down and give the priest's slave his ear back. His great miracle is to command the waves and wind to be still. Zeus is credited for throwing lightning bolts - Jesus stopped the lightning.

This actually isn't what I wanted to write about. Here's where the thoughts of my heart tonight really open up: what is pacifism? It is more than simply refusing to shed human blood. To pacify (the verb that "pacifism" comes from) means to make something/someone at peace. It does not mean for you to just be at peace yourself, but to actively bring peace to an external situation.

Here is where Jesus' teachings really get hard to follow. When a brother is sinning against us, we're supposed to confront him about it in the least antagonizing way possible (Matt. 18:15). Even when we're hurt, we have to consider their feelings. And we have to try to make nice on more than one occasion before giving up on that person.

According to Matt. 5:23-26, we must settle matters with each other quickly before the problem escalates. There's so much contained in those three verses. How do you prevent unpeaceful actions such as lawsuits and murders from happening? By resolving the anger or hurt underlying the desire to harm somebody. That is how you make peace. And note also that, to Jesus, doing this takes priority over going to church and "going through the motions." Although the central point of this passage is "settle matters quickly to bring peace," I strongly believe that knowingly ignoring a conflict with a brother will cloud or taint our worship.

And finally: the beatitude does not go "blessed are those who stay at peace" but rather "those who make peace."

Pacifism is not a passive role. Jesus was the most active pacifist there is. It's about solving problems rather than just choosing not to make any problems yourself. It's about commanding storms to cease their rage. It's about commanding the water to yield to your feet and let you stand on it rather than pulling you down. It's about miraculous healings of people's afflictions. It's about the Spirit descending like a dove. It's about giving oneself up as a lamb.

Being a pacifist is the most active role somebody could ever take.