We ALL want Peace.
We don’t disagree that peace is the goal. The discussion isn’t about peace, it’s about the way to peace. We disagree on which methods and actions are appropriate as Christ-followers to employ in the pursuit of peace. Pursuing peace and reconciliation is not about the avoidance of conflict, it’s about handling conflict appropriately.
God is talking about “Shalom”
When God/Jesus and the Bible talk about peace they’re talking about “Shalom.” Shalom is a Hebrew word which often is translated as “peace,” but it means more than a lack of violence or strife. Shalom means “right-relationship.” Shalom means that everything is “right” between oneself and God, themselves, family, neighbors, community, country, world, and creation. Shalom is bigger than peace, it includes ideas like “justice,” “righteousness,” “hospitality,” etc. and it’s what God calls us to throughout scripture.
“Pacifists” are NOT passive.
Pacifist develops from the Latin root “Pax” which means “peace” (not the Latin “Pati” which means “suffered” or “acted upon”). Pacifists‘ methods for resolving conflict are actively non-violent in both action and intent and Christian pacifists view violence as incompatible with the life, teachings, and example of Jesus.
Non-Pacifists are NOT “violent.”
Even though non-pacifist may see violence as an option to resolving conflict, violence is often seen as the last resort and most Christians would affirm that non-violent alternatives should be thoroughly pursued first. We are ALL non-violent, most of the time.
Limits and Intentions
In one form or another, most people approve of some form of violence. Take surgery for example. Surgery is an incredibly violent action, cutting into someone’s body and removing tissues. It’s violent, but the intention of the violence is drastically different than other forms of violence. Few people question the appropriate use of the “violence” of surgery because few people question the appropriate intent of the surgeon and the invitation of the patient. The intent is to heal, preserve, and improve the health and life of the recipient of the surgery/violence. Without the invitation OR without the intent to heal, surgery is illegal, immoral, unethical, and sinful because the intent of the violence is so central to its appropriateness.
In a similar way, our disagreement often revolves around the appropriateness of our intentions for violence. Indeed, many of Jesus’ and the Bible’s instructions address our intentions rather than specific actions.
We also disagree about the limitations of our violence. Often one’s inclination to use violence is based on a desire to preserve, protect, and/or defend the people and things we value. Eliminating the use violence as an option altogether seems, to some, like an unreasonable, foolish, and even unbiblical proposal. However, few people (far fewer Christians) believe that the use of violence as protection or deterrent should be “unlimited.” We all set limits to the appropriate use of violence.
We may disagree on whether it’s appropriate to own a gun or shoot an assailant for protection, but do we disagree on whether it’s appropriate to use violence against or kill the family of an enemy assailant for one’s own protection, do we? Do we? (Shockingly, this is now an actual question worth pondering – is it appropriate or not for Christians to threaten or kill the family of an enemy for protection or preservation?)
Or how about this: Surely, it’s inappropriate for a Christian to use violence or kill an unrelated innocent person or masses of innocent people in order to protect or preserve one’s valued people or things, right? The point is: we all set limits to the appropriate use of violence.
1.) We don’t disagree that there are SOME appropriate and inappropriate forms of violence for faithful Christians to employ. We disagree agree about discerning which is which.
2.) We don’t disagree that there are LIMITS to the implementation of violence for faithful Christians. We disagree about discerning where those limits are.
3.) Finally, we rarely disagree about who the victims and who the perpetrators are – who are innocent and who are guilty. We disagree about how to treat guilty perpetrators. We all recognize the call to love the Jews during the holocaust. How do we show love, make peace, and reconcile with the Nazis during the holocaust? Jesus’ command to love our enemies is a command to love them.
Our discussions will revolve around the USMB article 13 and, in light of that article and the scripture passages we study, which actions and methods we affirm and reject as Christ-followers to resolve conflict.