Welcome to Theology Thursdays!
This is a once-monthly subset of Theology Thursdays. Over the past year and a half, I have fallen in love with Anabaptism: Pacifism, the determined focus on the Jesus of the Gospels, forgiveness, and love. Each first Thursday of the month, I discuss different aspects of this branch of Christianity.
One of my most popular posts is from back in February, when I first wrote of my love for Anabaptism. It's taken far too long for me to write more about it since then, but no longer. Today, friends, we're going to talk about something vitally important to my faith: Pacifism. Peace be with you, as I always say. To be clear: Pacifism is not the same as passivism. It is not sitting idly by as someone does you harm; it is acting in love, in the way Christ taught us.
If you aren't familiar with the concept of nonviolence and/or aren't pleased with my description of it, please read through Kurt Willems of The Pangea Blog's Nonviolence 101 series. He's rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers.
The Sermon on the Mount is central to Anabaptist theology. It is, in my mind, the best illustration of how a follower of Christ should act, and it reflects Christ's instruction to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love God. As Willems writes in his second post in his series, "The [early] Anabaptists chose to take the teachings of Jesus seriously, even to the point of death. Following Christ, even to the cross, is the primary summons of the Christian life." If we do not take Christ's teachings seriously, how else are we meant to take them? He told us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Mark 8:34).
To deny ourselves, to take up our cross, is to give ourselves over completely to God's will. Jesus said, "Father, if you are wiling, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Whenever we say the Lord's Prayer, we say Thy will be done. Not our will, not God's will if it is what we want also, but God's will alone, forever and always, without exception. To surrender to the will of God, to acknowledge our powerlessness in the grand scheme of things, is a beautiful and wondrous thing. Relinquishing what we think is power and trusting in Him opens our eyes to the glory of God.
Why did I bring the Lord's Prayer into this post? It's getting me off topic because I love it so much. Stop it, Lord's Prayer, this was supposed to be about pacifism. I suppose trusting in God is always relevant to Anabaptist theology, and most theologies in general (I would hope), but let's try to get this thing back on track. This post isn't a train wreck until I say it is.
Back to the Sermon on the Mount. Where was I? Oh, yes. The best example of nonviolence we have, in Matthew 5:38-41:
You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Aside from the very direct Blessed are the peacemakers in the Beatitudes, look no further than Matthew 5:38-41 for crystal clear scriptural backing for pacifism and nonviolence. Does Jesus ever, in any of the Gospels, say anything to imply that any kind of violence is in any way okay? No. In fact, whenever violence is brought up, He condemns it. On the night of His betrayal, when Peter cut off the soldier's ear, Jesus said that whoever lives by the sword dies by the sword. And He healed the soldier. He healed and defended those who were bringing Him to His death.
The love of Christ never ceases to bring me to my knees. Even now, writing this, I'm overwhelmed by it. How is it that so many Christians out there would look to the death penalty and war as the answer to our problems, when Christ spent His entire ministry fighting against the violence we so eagerly run to? Some Christians talk so much about love of country and God bless America and look to the Constitution for a good defense on guns instead of looking to the example Jesus laid down for us. His life, His ministry, His living example, are all we need to be faithful disciples.
I don't mean to pass judgment on Christians who do not support nonviolent theology. I don't intend for this to come off as hateful towards those who would call me idealistic and naive for thinking peace is the answer. I've said it before: I am 100% fine with being an idealist, with being naive, if it means that I can see the best in everyone, expect the best in everyone, because we're all children of the same God and no amount of fighting or guns or hate is ever going to change that. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, but that doesn't mean we can't have differing opinions.
I hope, I pray that you can hear the fire in my voice. My heart breaks for the world when all I see on the news are more bombings, more children dead, more casualties of war, more families grieving because their lives are forever changed because the people they loved are murdered at the hands of others. I weep for the world, and I know Jesus does, too.
Peace be with you.