BIBLE DIGEST - Number 63                                                                               August 1996

Allon Maxwell

The following selection of questions and answers is taken from the "PEACEMAKERS FOR JESUS" Web Site at URL -

These questions are amongst those most frequently asked by opponents of Christian Pacifism. 

Some of these questions are very emotional in personal terms. They are usually asked in an attempt to show that The Sermon On The Mount is "impractical", and that violence MUST be used (at least sometimes) to overcome evil! ..... And they are often asked by those who have not yet repented of their own support for, or personal involvement in warmaking!

Of course the consequences of turning the other cheek and never attempting to overcome evil with evil, can indeed be VERY costly. But that does not mean that Jesus got it wrong 

Question 1 ...... Do you think it was wrong for Christians to fight against Nazi Germany during World War 2?

I guess the GERMAN Christians who fought against our side, and who were on the receiving end of all those Thousand Bomber air raids, and the aftermath of D-DAY, are still wondering about that! (Of course, I am NOT condoning the evil that Germany inflicted on the rest of the world!) 

However Christianity cuts across national boundaries. German Christians and Christians from other nations, who truly love each other, (John 13:34-35) will NOT shoot at each other FOR ANY REASON. Instead they will lay down their arms and pray together! 

From opposite sides of the conflict, in common cause, they will LOVE each other and love their enemies. They will love both sides with equal fervour, blessing both, doing good to both, and praying for both. (And they will do that without engaging in any acts of treason against the government which rules over them.) 

If we take the Sermon on the Mount seriously and literally, as I believe Jesus means us to, (otherwise WHY DID HE SAY IT AT ALL?) it is no more acceptable for a USA, English, Russian, or Australian Christian to fight and kill and destroy in self defence, than it is for a German Christian to do the same in aggression. 

In that war neither side was TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK. Neither side was loving enemies, blessing enemies, doing good to enemies, praying for enemies. 

Indeed, I can recall that the churches of the day were full of Christians who were actively PRAYING AGAINST the enemy. In those prayers they were effectively CALLING DOWN CURSES on the enemy! 

As a child during World War 2, I heard many conversations by adults, in which the common theme was revenge! The good guys, were all actively TAKING vengeance on the enemy, instead of leaving it to the wrath of God. (Romans 12:18-21) They were actively overcoming evil with evil, (which is the OPPOSITE of what Paul says in that passage). 


Question 2 ...... If I were a German during World War 2, I would rather have died than served in that army.

Many German Christians did die rather than serve in the German army. (They were shot) 

Some years ago I met a German migrant to this country, whose father was one of those German Christian Conscientious Objectors who were shot by the German authorities, for refusing to go to war. He was only one of many. 

It is less well known that in most wars, there have been AMERICAN Christians have gone to prison, rather than serve in the USA army! 

I have not heard of any being shot, but I have read one story of a couple of young Hutterite Anabaptists who died in prison, (in WW1) as the result of the mistreatment they received at the hands of unsympathetic gaolers) 

In Australia, some of my older friends did serve prison terms for refusal to bear arms in WW2. Others narrowly escaped prison, but for punishment were sent far away from their families for several years, to carry out civilian work activities of national importance. 

Some years later, during the time of the compulsory military training which was in force here in Australia in the 1950s, my brother and several friends were refused recognition as Conscientious Objectors and served military prison sentences. 

More recently, in America during the Gulf War, more than 2500 U.S. soldiers filed for Conscientious Objector discharges. Of these nearly 100 were imprisoned. (This last piece of information from a survey by the War Resisters League) 


Question 3 ...... Is there such a thing as a "just war"?

It isn't our fragile HUMAN concept of justice which decides whether we fight or not! Our conscience about fighting in any war ought to be shaped by what Jesus said. 

With the experience of a lifetime behind me, I have discovered that HUMAN perceptions of justice are often influenced (sometimes very subtly) by an individual or national self interest! 

I have also observed that the general population's perceptions of justice seem to depend to a very large extent on who writes the propaganda to which they are exposed! 

In any case, my understanding of true justice is contained in what Jesus says about non resistance to evil. That leaves no room at all, for meeting force with force, or aggression with aggression. It leaves no room at all for returning evil for evil in any shape or form. 


Question 4 ...... What am I supposed to do if I see my wife or daughter or sister or mother about to be raped? Would you not use violence to save them from a "fate worse than death"?

This is a VERY EMOTIONAL question!!! (Emotion is regularly used in this way to attempt to manipulate the feelings of pacifists!) 

Of course EMOTION says .... This must be a case where Jesus has got it wrong! This time I have to fight! Surely this is one case where it must be O.K. to get violent!

Alas ...... emotion often jumps in ahead of common sense! 

What if common sense takes a second look and says "Oh no! He is seven feet tall and has a black belt in Karate, ...... or is the World Kick Boxing Champion, ...... or here I am a cripple in a wheelchair?" ...... (or something else equally impossible for MY HUMAN ABILITIES). 

I am helpless! Violence won't win the day. I must find another way. 

Then Faith intervenes and FAITH says ...... for with God NOTHING will be impossible (Luke 1:37) (And with God nothing is impossible ..... not even combining obedience to Jesus with the protection of the potential victim ..... without resorting to violence.) 

It is my belief that the best protection I can give to any victim of aggression, (potential or real) starts with, and ends with, NONVIOLENT obedience. 

I can pray!!! I can place my own safety on the line by intervening VERBALLY with something that God gives me to say at that moment for that need, and then I can wait for God to move in answer to my obedient response. 

If it does not work that way I have no better answer!

However, the nature of temptation and testing being what it is, I cannot expect God's intervention until I have faced the prospect of total loss and committed myself unreservedly to obedience. 

If there is any point at which I will abandon my obedience and then take things into my own hands, my faith falls short of what it needs to be. 

Read the story of those three young Jews who were cast into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3) Their obedience was not conditional on God saving them from the fire. It was unconditional, whether God saved them or not. They obeyed because it was right to obey. And THEN they were saved! 

We will never walk with the angel in the fire, until we come to that point. 

Now having said all that, there is a promise in the Bible that is my security. (And the security of anyone whose safety is in my care). That promise tells me that God will never place me in a position which is more than my present level of FAITH can bear! 

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says "Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

If I am committed to obedience and overcoming, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY OUT! 

GOD SAYS SO! ...... And with a promise like that, who wants to tie God's hands by planning ahead for disobedience? 

I am not saying that finding the way out will always be comfortable. At the outer limits of faith, it seldom does feel comfortable! 


Question 5 ...... If I allow a burglar to invade my home and kill me, how will I ever be able to minister to the burglar or anyone else? 

It seems much more logical for me to shoot the burglar, have him arrested if he survives my gunshot, and then minister to him!

I am so glad Jesus didn't think that way about those who crucified Him! 

Alas ..... if you shoot the burglar and he dies, he is LOST for ever! 

Actually, it seems much more logical to me, to show the burglar that even in the face of death, you are committed to turn the other cheek, in obedience to Jesus! 

It seems much more logical to show Him that loving Jesus, and obeying Jesus, means more than life! 

In any case, perhaps it is not your place to minister to the burglar. Perhaps in God's plan, that is left much more effectively to someone else, after you are dead! 

And perhaps your faithfulness unto death Rev 2:10 & 12:10) could be the turning point for His salvation. (I do believe that Paul's presence at the death of Stephen was a major milestone in the process of his conversion). 

Isn't that what carrying a cross is all about?