Is Jesus Christ a Pacifist and How Can We Know? (Part 1)

Application of General Rules to a Specific Case
PacifistJesus

The only sensible place to start is with a definition of “Christian pacifism.” Although not from a traditionally published source, this Wikipedia definition has the ring of sufficiency and accuracy.

“Christian pacifism is the theological and ethical position that any form of violence is incompatible with the Christian faith. Christian pacifists state that Jesus himself was a pacifist who taught and practiced pacifism, and that his followers must do likewise.”

There is no doubt Jesus taught that the nonviolent resolution of conflict is the best possible policy – for individuals as well as for governments.  Christ’s statements on these matters are clear. In the “Sermon on the Mount,” these Christian principles were laid out in uncompromising language.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12, RSV)

Further in, the point becomes more personal and focused:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48, RSV)

There is also the undeniable fact that Christ responded to the violent assaults of Good Friday with absolutely no resistance. And, that the ultimate power of the Cross is based on Christ’s choice to sacrifice Himself for the sake of others rather than to defend His own rights.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook him and fled. (Matthew 26:52-56, RSV)

Were we to draw conclusions based only on these passages (and there are numerous others that add support) the result would be unavoidable – Jesus Christ is a pacifist.  This is the conclusion that our PCUSA elite (and those who follow them as well as many other Christians) have made.  In fact, the Biblical evidence in support of Jesus Christ’s presumed pacifism is far stronger than that for His support of same-gender marriage (this is a very low standard, for, as demonstrated in this blog, the actual Scriptural support for same-gender marriage is virtually zero).

However, there is additional Biblical evidence that must be evaluated prior to drawing such a premature conclusion, including:

  • The entire Bible, which includes the Old Testament as a co-eaual part, describes Gods nature and action in our world.
  • Even (incorrectly) limiting ourselves to the New Testament, Jesus Christ did and said many other things that relate to the question at hand, and, that call into question the conclusion that He is a pacifist.
  • There are well established orthodox Reformed theological conclusions regarding God’s nature that also call such a conclusion into question.

In short, we must apply the general rules of Biblical interpretation to this specific case.  The following posts will do just that.

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