“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword!”
—- Matthew 10: 34
Christians do all kinds of biblical and theological gymnastics to justify war and forceful coercion and violence, and never mind that Jesus was clearly a pacifist and that Paul and the early Christians were pacifists. In fact, it wasn’t until 300 years after Christ that Christians and Constantine merged church and state, initiating 2,000 years of some really violent and ugly Christian history.
All too many Christians try to justify violence and force by pointing out that Jesus cleaned out the temple and ran off the moneychangers with a whip. But nowhere in that scripture does Jesus physically hurt anyone. So when that justification for violence collapses, Christians point to Jesus saying he did not come to bring peace. But that scripture doesn’t hold up in trying to justify a butt-kicking Jesus either.
Jesus, as one of my theology profs used to say, was no Tiny Tim tipoeing through the tulips. Or as Dorothy Sayers put it, “Whatever the peace of Jesus, it was not a peace of amiable indifference.” Jesus was an activist, an in-your-face pacifist for sure. But there’s no question but what he was the Prince of Peace and the sensitive soul that we see weeping with compassion in the gospel. But he was a man on a mission for peace and was anything but amiably indifferent to humanity’s inhumanity toward humanity. He never said “do not make enemies,” but rather to love our enemies. He made some terribly nasty enemies who tortured him (don’t get me started on American/Christian justification for torture), and yet asked his Father to forgive them.
Me, I consider myself an almost pacifist. “Almost,” because pure, unadulterated pacifism ultimately collapses under the weight of love of neighbor. Standing by and doing nothing to stop violence would be cold and cruel comfort to someone or some peoples being slaughtered. But as I always say here, I’m for war and violence as an absolute last resort, and haven’t seen many wars lately that were waged as anything like the last resort. Certainly not the invasion of Iraq, which couldn’t begin to be justified by any measure of moral or ethical standards and least of all by any traditional Christian definition of a “just war.”
The kazillion people of the world who claim to be Christians could stamp out evil with the sheer force of their numbers if they but lived by the gospels they purport to trust in. Active non-violence is hardly mushy stuff, as MLK and Gandhi and so many other aggressive peacemakers have demonstrated.
But we love and adore our war heroes. Our peace heroes, not so much.
All that said, click onto this link for more on Matthew 10:34 and the kind of sword of which Jesus spoke.
And visualize world peace, because as the Good Book says, “without a vision the people perish.”