A Christian Perspective from within the Peace Movement
By John C. Darrow
(1991 or earlier)
"Those peaceniks all take their orders from Moscow - a Christian can't be a pacifist!" How many times have you heard statements like that? Many Christians shun the peace movement because they believe it to be antiAmerican and/or unBiblical. What basis, then, do some of us have for our participation in the movement? Why am I a pacifist?
An initial misunderstanding must be put to rest. Many people misunderstand pacifism as an unwillingness to die for a cause - or just plain cowardice. Yet Christian pacifists from the early days of the Church to the present day have died for their faith. What we refuse to do is to kill for a cause. General Patton recognized this distinction regarding war in stating that he did not want any of his soldiers to die for their country, but to make the other guy die for HIS country.
Within the peace movement are many who are involved not because of a principled objection to killing, but because of fear of nuclear holocaust. Similarly, many opposing the peace movement do so not because of Scriptural convictions that killing is permissible, but because they fear the Russians. Either feared outcome - nuclear holocaust or domination by Communist totalitarianism - is evil, but the Christian should not be dominated by fear (2 Timothy 1:7), for trust in Jesus Christ ensures us that God is still in control.
The Christian can be a pacifist BECAUSE of the belief that Jesus is Lord. If Jesus is Lord, we need not fear those who can only kill our bodies (Matthew 10:28), for trust in Jesus Christ has assured us that we will live forever with Him (Romans 8:11). We then can obey the Biblical injunction to "not repay anyone evil for evil" (Romans 12:17), but to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
What about objections? Some have criticized those who identify turning from destructive weaponry as a necessary part of turning to Jesus Christ. If this is seen as somehow earning salvation, it is heresy. Yet those proclaiming this view see it as a RESULT of salvation. I John 3:7,8 says that good works, not evil ones such as killing, will be the results of salvation. Those who single out the threat to annihilate a large part of the globe's population are no more adding to the Gospel or proclaiming a different Gospel than are those who name any other sin (homosexual activity, abortion, theft, etc.) and state that the person who persists in that sin cannot be a Christian (1 John 3:9-10).
Another objection is raised about being "unequally yoked" with unbelievers, which is specifically forbidden by Scripture (2 Corinthians 6:14). What about Communists in the peace movement? There undoubtedly are Communists, and other unbelievers, in the peace movement, just as there are nonChristians in political parties, the Moral Majority, the Right to Life movement, or even the military. For the Christian, participation in any of these organizations or movements should be based on the conviction that what it is doing is right.
Another objection dates back further than most Christians realize. In the third century, the pagan philosopher Celsus objected to Christianity because Christians refused to bear arms. He felt that this was a shirking of responsibility which required that someone else must then take the Christian's place. The Christian scholar Origen wrote a major work, "Against Celsus", to answer such attacks. He pointed out that Christians, by doing good and by praying for the nation and its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1,2), are of far more value to the nation and the nation's defense than are those who kill for the nation.
It is important to realize that Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring lasting peace to the earth, and that He will do so when He returns. We must also recognize that God does send war as judgment on nations (Ezekiel 16:21,38; Leviticus 26:25) for their persistence in evildoing. Perhaps America (and many other nations) will be judged in this way if we continue the abortion holocaust (a holocaust, or burnt offering, not to God, but to Self.) Yet even when a specific war is God's judgment, Christians are EXPLICITLY forbidden to participate, but are commanded to wait for God Himself to act (Romans 12:17-21).
The discussion often ultimately comes to the argument that pacifism is not practical. Yet God has demonstrated His ability to protect His people when they are obedient to Him (2 Chronicles 20:17ff; Exodus 14:13-14; 2 Chronicles 32:21), although Christian pacifism is not based on an expectation that God MUST protect us. As the three Hebrew youths told Nebuchadnezzar, "Our God is ABLE to deliver us. But even if He DOES not, we will not be disobedient to Him" (Daniel 3:17-18). Those of us who are Christian pacifists base our stand not on Utopian dreams, but on obedience to Christ's commands, such as "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven" (Luke 6:27-28; Matthew 5:44).