Faith & Reflection
With reference to war, Christians, over the years, have held two diverse opinions. These two views are “Pacifism” and “Just War”. There are valid points and good people on both sides of the issue.
A pacifist believes that war cannot be justified under any circumstances. Conversely, those adhering to the just war theory believe that there are times when war is justified and unavoidable (which by no means suggests that everything that happens in war is just or righteous). They propose that refusing to act while harm threatens family, neighbour or nation, isn’t a virtue, but a vice.
Pacifists claim that Jesus practiced and taught pacifism. For example, when Jesus was arrested, He impaired Peter’s offensive swordsmanship and repaired the injured servants ear. In 1 Peter 2:23 we read that, “when Jesus was insulted, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he did not threaten…”
Additionally, the early church, especially for the first 300 years, tended to take a pacifist position. Justin Martyr said, “We refrain from making war on our enemies, and we cannot bear to see a man killed, even if killed justly.” Clement of Alexandria added, “He who holds the sword must cast it away…if one of the faithful becomes a soldier, he must be rejected by the church, for he has scorned God.”
Jesus did teach about forgiveness and turning the other cheek. However, He also said, “I bring not peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Then, in two separate incidents in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus physically and verbally drove the religious miscreants from “His Father’s house.” The New Testament epistle of Ephesians says, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood, but against evil rulers and authorities” (Ephesians 6:12). And, Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22 that, “whoever has no sword should sell his coat and buy one”; hardly the words or behavior of a strict pacifist.
Further, the church fathers made the aforementioned statements when Rome ruled supreme. To become a Roman soldier, individuals had to claim allegiance to Caesar as if he were God and offer sacrifices to him. It’s not difficult to see why they would’ve spoken out against this.
Paul’s letter to the Romans states, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17,18).
The passage seems to be suggesting that first, it is not always possible to be at peace with everyone and second, it doesn’t always depend on us! Hence the just war theory.
Next Tuesday, November 11th, we have the opportunity to commemorate and show honor to those who fought in just wars on our behalf. Let’s be sure to do that…Lest we forget!