BIBLE DIGEST - Number 83                                                                    May 1998

Allon Maxwell

There are of course many Christians, who sincerely believe that in time of war, it is their duty to serve in the military. On the other hand there are many (including the writer of this article) who believe with equally passionate sincerity, that service in the military is a denial of the teachings of Jesus. Those who believe this way are prepared to lay down their lives, if necessary, to demonstrate the love for enemies, enjoined by Jesus.

This article is not written with intention of making war about peace! Nor is there any desire to offend those whose convictions are opposite. But, on behalf of other Christian Pacifists, I do want to present a case for why we believe that Peacemaking and Christian Pacifism are non negotiable elements of the Gospel of Peace. 


The Gospel of the Kingdom begins with a call to repentance. (Matt 4:17) In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus defines what repentance means. He reaches deep into our personal space, to touch virtually every area of human life. We are challenged to re-evaluate our actions, and even our secret thoughts, towards our neighbor. We are called to renounce our rights; to possessions; to legal redress; to reputation; and even to personal safety. 

We are called to repentance from all manner of hatred for enemies, and all forms of resistance against evil, and all acts of revenge,

We are called to be peacemakers instead of war makers! That, Jesus said, is the path we must walk in order to become sons of God. (Matthew 5:9,45)


The Gospel is not only about forgiveness for sins. It is much, much more. It is also the Good News about inheritance of the kingdom of God in the future. And it is the Good News about the eternal way of life which restores fellowship with God now, and prepares us for our place in that future kingdom. 

Believing the Gospel means believing that Jesus is the Prince of Peace ; it means believing that Jesus was, and is, and will be for all eternity, the living example of what it means to be a peacemaker. 

It means believing all the words of Jesus , including those which call us to join Him now as peacemakers ..... and sons of God.


For this writer, Pacifism is a non negotiable element of the Gospel of Peace. 

That is what Jesus did himself; that is what Jesus commands us to do; and that is what Jesus commands us to preach in His name.

Believing that about Jesus will change us. It will change for ever , our attitudes and actions, our goals in life, and even the career we choose. It will change how we deal with both friends and enemies.


Jesus laid down His life for friends and enemies alike. (John 15:13 ? Romans 5:8-10) This is how He commands us to love. (John 13:34-35)

How shall we demonstrate this love which Jesus left as the test , by which the world is invited to measure our discipleship? (John 13:34-35) How is it possible to claim that we love as Jesus does, if we do things which are clearly NOT love at all?

It is imperative that we ask ourselves some hard questions about what it real ly means to be peacemakers. 

It is even more imperative that we accept the hard answers to these questions, if it is really true that our whole aim in life is to become children of the living God.

How is it possible to love our enemies, do good, resist not evil, and yet be ready to strike back at the aggressor?

How is it possible to shoot at the enemy, or drop bombs on him, or threaten him with all the other horrors of modern warfare, when our REAL calling is to pray for him and bless him?

How is it possible for us to delude ourselves that praying for the defeat of our enemies, is what Jesus meant by ?blessing?? Is not such a prayer really a curse ..... instead of the blessing to which our calling commits us?

How is it possible for two Christians in opposing armies, to shoot at each other, instead of laying down their weapons to pray together and be reconciled? 

How could two Christians who do shoot at each other, convince the world that they love one another with that divine love which Jesus says is THE mark of his disciples. (John 13,35)

How is it possible for a Christian to make war against any man, friend or foe, for whom Christ died and for whom he also is commanded to take up his cross with Jesus?

How is it possible for a Christian to make a career in a military organisation, which trains its servants in the best methods to hate and maim and kill? .... and binds them by OATH to do those things on command? 

How is it possible for a Christian to swear an OATH, to obey orders which require him to commit these sins?

How can such ?Christians? ever give meaning to the self sacrificing love which took Jesus to the cross? How can we ever claim to carry a cross with Jesus, if our own love falls short at the point where our safety IN THIS LIFE is threatened?

Certainly, if the example of Jesus means anything at all, we have not attempted to live at peace with all men, so far as it lies with us, (Rom 12,18), until we have determined that we will go ALL THE WAY to preserve peace ..... even to an undeserved death ..... even to an unjust crucifixion! Nothing less can adequately demonstrate the Divine love that cannot be quenched by even the worst evil devised by carnal men. To this we are called ! (1 Peter 2,21)


If we are peacemakers :-

- we will not defend ourselves against aggression.

- we will not make war.

- we will not assist others to make war.

- we will not work in any situation directly associated
  with the manufacture of the instruments of destruction.

Peacemakers act in ways which deal with others as we wish to be dealt with in return. Some practical applications of this are :-
- turn the other cheek instead of resisting aggression.

- love our enemies.

- do good to those that hate us.

- pray for those who mistreat us.

- never protect ourselves by threatening another.

- never take revenge.

- if our enemy is hungry, feed him.

- if he is thirsty give him a drink.

- overcome evil only with good.

It is not possible to give meaning to any of those things with swords in our hands.


If enough people believed Jesus, and obeyed Him, there could never be another war. In fact, His way is the only way in which the evils of war can ever come to an end. Some of us believe this so completely that we are prepared to put it into practice, regardless of the cost. Jesus left us that example! It is our calling to follow Him in this radical way of peace.

A man who loves his enemy enough, wants to see that enemy become a friend. That means for me, that no matter what my enemy does to me, I will return only friendship. 

Even if he so hates me as to seek my life, or the life of my loved ones, threatening our safety with all the horror of modern warfare, my best proof of my love for him is to refuse to do that back to him and his loved ones.

If he cannot be moved to peace by that demonstration of love, then, in the cause of peace, I must lay down my life for him. He is the one who needs to live ..... not me. If he lives, perhaps he will eventually learn his need for the change that I have already experienced.

If it costs me my own life, or something even more precious than that, to give him that opportunity, that is the final expression of my love for him. That is the love we learn from Jesus. That was our salvation when Jesus gave Himself for us, on the cross.

I can afford to love my enemy that way. My life and that of my loved ones, is far safer in God's hands than in mine. I can afford to lose my life so that he can live, for I am already eternally safe! And it would be my very great pleasure to wake on resurrection day to find him standing beside me, at last, as a friend!


A recent newspaper statistic claimed that there are currently more than 40 wars in progress around the world. In those wars it is not only soldiers who die. Civilians die too. Women and innocent children die or suffer as terribly as the professional war makers. 

They suffer and die as you read this.

Today, this awful problem extends far beyond the actual time of open warfare. In our generation, the methods of warfare leave their mark, long after ?peace? has been declared, and the soldiers have left the battlefield. 

For decades afterwards innocent civilian victims must contend with devastated cities, and chemically polluted environments. They must live with the ever present threat of the countless millions of landmines that have been left behind to carry on the maiming and killing ..... while men proclaim that they have made ?peace?!

The responsibility for those wars and their terrible aftermath, cannot be left only with the governments involved. It must be shared equally by the defence industries of the Western world who are willing to take enormous profits from all that death and suffering and destruction. It must also be shared by those who will take their bread and butter from working in those industries. 

To assist in any way in making war, whether as a member of the military forces, or as a civilian in the defence industries which support it, is to become a contributor to the wickedness, and hatred, and obscene disregard for suffering, that is one of the deepest problems faced by the human race. 

To make war, or to assist those who make war, is to be part of that problem. 

Disciples of Jesus no longer want to be a part of that problem. Instead, they want to be numbered amongst the sons of God, who have GOOD NEWS about God's answers for the violence that infects this evil world.

Do we love each other? As Jesus loves us each, equally? If we come against each other with swords in our hands, threatening each other's lives, THE WORLD IS ENTITLED TO REJECT THE VALIDITY OF OUR CHRISTIANITY!

Peacemakers do not carry swords. Instead they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. 

They refuse to learn how to make war, ever again, for all eternity. Instead, they proclaim peace, seek peace, and if necessary, lay down their lives to make peace by not fighting back.

They take their place as sons of the living God .

This article also appeared in The Restitution Herald, Dec/Jan 1998. 

RH is the magazine of the Church Of God General Conference, PO Box 100,000 Morrow, GA.30260, USA