Follow Up: Important Questions, Answers, and Struggles in Peacemaking
The topic of Christianity and War is complex, difficult, and emotional. I want to write a follow up and focus in on the point of peacemaking. In the previous post, I shared much of my frustration, sadness, and confusion at how mainstream Christianity has responded to America’s recent military campaigns, mainly the absence of a movement that questions conventional wisdom regarding how our nation’s government uses our military. I believe it has brought avoidable hardship and suffering on American military families and innocent Iraqi and Afghan families. Also, the lack of visible peacemaking through radical love by the Church deeply bothered me. I want to go beyond that and branch out beyond my own burdens and questions that fill my conscience. Here is some important follow-up.
Let’s get to the basics. In everything we do, the goal and aim is to point to Jesus. In the New Testament, Christ asked that we lift Him up. For the individual disciple and for the Church, this is our purpose. Peacemaking can be a witness to non-Christians and a powerful way to point to Jesus. It brings an opportunity to offer an alternative view of love and justice, than what the world offers. Passages in Matthew and Luke (Matt. 5:38-48 & Luke 6:27-36) that address love for enemies are instructions for each of us as individuals and our response as individuals to evil and unjust treatment. Likewise, it is a message to the Church and it’s response as well.
It is important to realize that we live in God’s kingdom but also in an earthly kingdom. At the same time, our allegiance is greater to one of these, God’s. Earthly kingdoms are governed by different rules of justice. Earthly kingdom’s have a responsibility to uphold their rights and responsibilities. Sometimes they engage in just wars, at other times, unjust wars, according to the rules that govern them. Governments have responsibilities to their citizens and a duty to take on injustice, terror, and evil through violence and warfare when necessary. Christ’s instruction to believers and the Church are to exactly those groups, us as the Church body and it’s individual parts. We are governed by a different set of instructions.
The world holds a view of justice that legitimizes repaying evil with an equal dose of retribution in the form of justice. In our human minds, this naturally sounds and feels right and just. Christ said, when facing this challenge as followers of Him, we are to take a different approach. This approach is also much harder. Christ asks us to disarm others with grace and love, the same way he addressed our sin and our grievance against Him. Christ asks nothing less of us, than what His Father asked of Him. He turned the wisdom of the world on its head, and asks us to do the same. When we respond to those who wrong us with love, grace, and forgiveness, we point to Jesus. It is shocking and radical to others, and many times ourselves. Consequently, it is one of the most powerful ways to point to Jesus. Christ’s love is sacrificial, and so should ours be.
Also, don’t forget that Jesus stood up for justice and was forceful at times in proving His point. Just take some of His words and actions in the synagogue or courts of the Pharisees. He was never violent, or retributive, but He was active in His advocacy. We are called be to active, not inactive in this area. This is one of the major misconceptions about non-violent peacemaking. As Christians, we need to be more creative and pro-active in the area of peacemaking. I don’t know many churches cheerleading for war, but I don’t see as many as I would like speaking out against it.
Let’s face it, our nation will go to war. At times, according to the rights and responsibilities of our government, it may be just. During these times, I would encourage the Church and individual believers to do a few things. 1.) Question the necessity and the impact war will have on our nation and other peoples involved. 2.) Resist and reject participation in the facets of war that involve, require, or support violence and killing. 3.) Support military members and their families physically and emotionally. They have one of the most difficult jobs in our country and war is unbelievably tough on them. 4.) Pray fervently for our enemies and for peace. Their lives and salvation are dear to our King. 5.) Become a non-violent peacemaker that points to Jesus. Fight for grace and reconciliation between us and our enemies. Groups like Preemptive Love Coalition and the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project are amazing examples of powerful peacemaking. We don’t have enough Christians leading in this area where the gospel flies as the banner of motivation. Just imagine how powerful that could be!
In the end, my goal is that we would never stop examining our lives and the Church while asking the question: “How can I/we better point to Christ?” God’s love is made complete in us and our lives are the object that reflects Him to others here on earth. Jesus asked a lot of us. He asked us to be radical and love when it hurts. The area of peacemaking is painful. It is also filled with a multitude of questions, different opinions, and struggles. I struggle with the difficulty of the commands scripture has left us and am working at getting them right. I may never get it perfect, but my prayer is that I would be open to God’s transformation in every area of my life. That is my prayer for all of us, and the Church as well. In every part of life, may our words and actions always point to Jesus.
Here are some selected scriptures. Read them. Pray about them. Discuss them. Grow through them. As always, when reading scripture, we should never stop asking questions, of ourselves or our fellow believers.
1 John 3:11-18