© 2014 John Casimir O'Keefe

Peace, Never War

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It’s no secret I’m a pacifist and have been for many years. In my stance, I hold to the teachings of Christ, and seek to truly be a peacemaker, a child of the Divine [Matthew 5:9]. My stance is not based on the politics of the day but on the teachings of Jesus the Christ in scripture [Matthew being just the start of it all]; I hold all life sacred. You see, I actually believe the teachings of Jesus are peace, grace, forgiveness and love. To be honest with you, war has no place in those teachings because the core teachings of war are not peace, love, grace and forgiveness – let me say that again, there is no love, peace, grace and forgiveness in war, NONE.

I find the taking of any human life, for any reason, violates Christ’s teachings and flies in the face of the standards Jesus set before those of us who truly desire to be considered a follower. Over time, many have tried to turn my pacifism into a political stance, and they have gotten angry with me because I refuse to make it political. I refuse to partake in marches that have a political overtone, or speak against, or for, one party or the other. I hold that my pacifism comes from my faith walk and not my political views.

I have been asked by some if I believe all Followers of the teaching of Christ should hold a “pacifist” stance, and my reply has always been “yes,” let me explain. I believe that the core of Christ is that of love, and In love there can only be peace. I love the response Jesus gives his followers as he is being arrested, [taken from Luke 22, in the message] “no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said, “Judas, you would betray the son of man with a kiss?” when those with him saw what was happening, they said, “Master, shall we fight?” one of them took a swing at the chief priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. Jesus said, “Let them be. Even in this.” then, touching the servant’s ear, he healed him.” In the process of being arrested, knowing he was going to die and that his followers would fight for him, Jesus said, “no fighting, even in this situation.” Think about that, Jesus taught peace even to the point of his willing to die instead of starting a fight – violence for Jesus was never the option; Jesus knew it held no value.

Generally speaking, War and violence are simply ways of taking what you want, oil, land, power and control. James [Jesus’ brother] teaches us that fighting is caused by our desire to “have things” and because we are not asking God to help with the right motives, [James 4:1-3 NIV] “what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Paul also speaks of living in peace and not going to war [when we place the words of Paul through the filter of Christ]. In his second letter to the Corinthians [10:2-5 NIV] Paul writes, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” While this is hard to do, it is still something we must live by.

Can someone, anyone, explain to me the value of war? Why is it needed, and what value does it have in our faith journey? No war in history has every produced peace; let me repeat that for those who might have missed it, no war has ever produced peace. Every single war in history has simply led to another war. When we look at war stats we are quick to say how many “soldiers” died, but slow to explain the civilian population that dies – in many cases the numbers of innocent civilians that die outnumber the soldiers 100 to 1 – for every soldier that dies, over 100 non-military people are killed; most of them are old men, women of all ages and children – how is that good? How is wiping a village off the face of the earth a good thing? How is taking the life of people who are “just there” a good and right thing? The only people who benefit from war are those involved in the military industrial complex.

I was recently speaking with a person who thinks that those numbers and the fact that innocent die are “acceptable.” as he said, “if they wouldn’t be in the battle field they wouldn’t be killed. Sometimes during a war the innocent die.” WHAT? That just doesn’t connect with me. The battle field is their home, their streets, their neighborhoods. How can “they” move? How can “they” not be in the middle of the battle, when the battle is in their homes? How can they not be harmed when we blanket their homes with bombs and soldiers?

I think it is easy for us to watch the war on TV and play Monday morning quarterback. We then head over to Starbucks for a café mocha and a conversation about how good thing are going, or how bad things are going, in our lives. But if the war was outside our homes, and there was no Starbucks to go too would we have a different point of view? As Followers of the teachings of Christ, I believe we must be a voice for peace, for grace, for love. We must be a voice that stand against war, for any reason, and speak for peace. I know that to stand at the pulpit in an American Evangelical Church and say that war is wrong is seen as “anti-American.” But that’s OK, we are supposed to be “anti-American” because we are to be for Christ and if we are for Christ, we stand for peace, love, grace and forgiveness. I’m not interested in politics, and I have no interest in appeasing the “American Christian” church – my walk is with Christ, with peace and with love – I operate under peace, and I stand for forgiveness.

I still have not found one scripture where Jesus supports war, nor one word of Jesus that tells us to do violence to another, nor one teaching of the early church that allowed for the taking of human life. if we are to truly see the early church as a role model of our faith, then we should be willing to die for our faith, but not kill for it. I believe, and others will disagree, that a Follower of the teachings of Christ will not take another life – but would willing go to the lions, and stand firm on the teachings of love, grace, peace and forgiveness.

2 Comments

  1. Bradley
    Posted 2014/03/12 at 12:32 pm | #

    I agree with you. I do not understand how people reconcile war, the death penalty, prosperity, jingoism, and a thousand other things. My middle son took a lot of grief because he refused to do the pledge of allegiance. My journey has been a long one. I am a veteran, but did not serve in combat. The more I talked with other veterans that did serve in combat, the more I felt it was wrong. The wars that we are in today are because of wars we either fought, or had other countries fight for us. I am not saying that sometimes wars are necessary. I just see no justification from a spiritual stand point.

  2. Posted 2014/03/12 at 2:08 pm | #

    I agree with you on much that you say and think that most of the wars we engage in are needless and unjust. And I think that we devote so much to the study of war, so little to peacemaking. I’m troubled that the church in America did so little to speak out against, or at least ask hard questions about our attack of Iraq. But I’m also troubled by the fact that Jesus doesn’t tell the Roman centurion whose servant he heals to lay down his arms, even though he represents an occupying oppressor. (Nor does John the Baptist when approached by a soldier.) Paul acknowledges the “power of the sword” to subdue evildoers. I’m troubled by the idea that you thereby totally exclude serving on any safety forces that must exercise potentially lethal force to restrain violence, or serving in roles of civil or political leadership that must direct these safety forces. In our attempt to witness to peace, do we leave these necessities to others who do not share our faith? Do we leave the conundrum of living in a fallen world to others?

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