The Most Irritating Question
If you are in a discussion about issues of war and peace with a believer and they do not share your view of the need for peace, or if you yourself are questioning the call to absolute peace that Jesus places on us, then I would suggest asking, or answering one question. It is an irritating question, because we all know the answer but do not want to have it asked of us. What is this simple, yet most irritating question? “Who would Jesus nuke? Who would Jesus kill? An ancillary question, but really the same one, “who did Jesus say it was alright for us to kill?”.
Those who are skeptical of the call to absolute peace will try to evade this question. I know I did for years. Just keep asking it. “Who would Jesus nuke? Who did Jesus nuke? Just keep asking and keep asking. There will be some pushback along the lines that some violence is sanctioned by scripture. Really? Where in the New Testament? Where did either Jesus or the Apostles commit or advocate violence. There is Peter cutting off the ear of the guard in John 18:10. However, Jesus rebuked him, instructed all to sheath their swords and then healed the man’s ear.
Other passages may be offered up but they too are lacking. An excellent retort to all these arguments for scripturally sanctioned violence can be found in Jean Lasserre’s wonderful War and the Gospel. It will not be very long before you (if skeptical) or your debate partner will give up and admit that Jesus would not sanction violence, never performed a violent act, and never calls us to violence. It is almost a lead pipe lock that the discussion will shift to other attempts to salvage the idea of war.
Now You Have Home Field Advantage
It is distressing that people would go to such lengths to salvage the business of war, but then again, I did. After reluctantly admitting that Jesus is not at all about violence, they will usually offer one or both of the following arguments: The Jesus ethic is for the heavenly places, not a fallen world like ours, therefore we do not have to literally forswear violence. The other is that the Jesus ethic is for some far-off time in the future, usually when Jesus returns. These may seem like strong arguments but trust me you are on solid ground (or are about to cease being skeptical).
I call these the too high and too far arguments for avoiding the teachings of Jesus. The too high argument, that the Jesus ethic is about the heavenly places is erased when you consider Matthew 6:10, which is right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Emphasis mine). There is no “two kingdoms” business going on here. Jesus means for his kingdom to break into this world. We are to do God’s will right here on earth. The ethic Jesus offers us is for us on planet earth, in all that we do.
The too far question is also easily dealt with. Jesus never calls us to wait. Jesus calls us all RIGHT NOW. Everyone he calls to in scripture, is called to follow Jesus immediately. From the first call of Andrew, his brother Simon (to become Peter), then all the rest, they all were asked to follow Jesus right away. Matthew the tax collector was called the same way. Even those who chose not to follow, like the rich man, were called to follow right away. So committed to this idea of follow him right now, Jesus tells a disciple that he should not even wait to bury his father, but to follow him right now (Matt 8:22).
The objections to following Jesus only in heaven or sometime in the far distant future fall flat. It is clear, uncomfortably clear, that Jesus expects the kingdom to be lived here on earth, starting right away. In no way can the ethic of war and violence be reconciled with the Gospel or teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
Of course, we are to press home this case with love, respect, and compassion. We are not trying to defeat people; we are trying to reach them. If you are a skeptic and grappling with this, as I did at one time, then let me be clear; you are not a bad person for disagreeing, and this is not about me suggesting that you are rejecting God’s Grace. I simply implore you to search both your heart and the scriptures for the true meaning of what Jesus is calling us to do.
We can then move to the important, admittedly hard, work of building a peaceful world. We can certainly disagree about how that comes about, but we cannot reasonably disagree that Jesus is calling us to such an effort.
I think deep down we all know in our hearts the kind of life Christ Jesus is calling us to live. It is a life of belief, and then obedience. Let all that we think, do, and say be for the greater glory of God our Father and his son the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
Praise Be to God