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Pacifism Christ and the Sword

Jesus Christ was not a big fan of swords. He never used one Himself, nor did He advise  His followers to do so. In fact, when Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant on Holy Thursday evening, as a detachment of soldiers came to arrest Jesus, the Lord admonished him, saying: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus then healed the ear. (Mat 26:52)

And yet, He seemed to sanction the use of violence as a means of self-defense. Earlier in the day, Jesus, knowing what lay ahead, advised the Apostles to gather their purses and bags and buy swords. When informed that the group already had two of the weapons, Jesus replied, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:28) Their former lifestyle of travel, preaching and healing was about to change.

Realistically, two swords in the hands of inexperienced men would be little help against the crowd armed with clubs and swords who came to arrest Jesus. The weapons might only serve the purpose of  legitimate self-defense.

In the future, His followers would spread out across the then-known world, where they would encounter many hostile non-believers in their efforts to start the Church. The presence of a sword might be helpful to instill at least a modicum of caution in the aggressive attitude of a potential enemy.

The sword was the weapon of choice in first-century Israel. What, then, would Jesus advise about the use of weapons in modern day conflicts?  It is the writer’s opinion that He would apply the same principle to modern guns, bombs, and other means of killing. He would  insist on their use only in cases of  legitimate self-defense.

Perhaps He would have championed the efforts to defeat the Germans in World Wars I and II. The arrogance, the greed, the determination to overrun and conquer Europe, and most of all, the death camps must have aroused the wrath of the Trinity. The blood of the martyrs of both conflicts, in all probability, cried out to heaven for justice.

In 1990, after peaceful negotiations had failed, the Gulf War was waged in an attempt to free the sovereign nation of Kuwait from the invading forces of Sadam Hussein. Iraqi forces marched in and annexed the smaller nation in order to gain access to its oil and gain a clear route to the Persian Gulf  for trade and perhaps military aggression. The extent of Sadam’s military ambitions was unknown. Prudence demanded that he be driven back to his own territory. A coalition of 34 countries, led by the United States, accomplished this.

In 2003, President George W. Bush of the United States, along with the leaders of several allied nations, ordered the invasion of Iraq with the stated intentions of ridding Sadam Hussein of his supply of weapons of mass destruction and stopping his alleged support of terrorism. In fact, Sadam had no weapons of mass destruction and he was not supporting acts of terrorism.

 In this conflict, more than 4,000 military forces were killed along with over than 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees were forced to flee to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The allied invasion caused the suffering and death of many innocent people.

Why? The stated causes did not exist. The invaders’ homelands were in no way threatened by the  dictator’s regime. One can only suppose that the underlying cause was greed: an intense desire to gain control of Iraq’s abundant supply of oil. One cannot imagine Jesus Christ sanctioning this endeavor. 

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, allegedly to capture Osama bin Laden, leader of the  Islamic militant group, al Qaeda.  Finally, bin Laden was killed in 2011, not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. In the intervening years, many thousands more civilians and military troops have been killed or wounded; and still the battle rages… 

Why? No one seems to be sure. The Afghan government is corrupt and unstable, and many of the citizens want the invaders out. In fact, every minute foreign troops occupy and wage war in a far-off  Middle Eastern land,  the hatred Arab citizens harbor toward the West increases. Thus, we are not preventing future problems, but causing them.

Jesus mandated a policy of peace. He said: ” Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mat 5:44), and again, ” Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mat 5:9). Jesus believed in peace, except in cases of  self-defense.

Tragically, our military polices over the past 60 years have failed to meet this criteria.

References:

1. The Bible NRSV

2. About.com

Iraq War Facts

http://usliberals.about.com/od/homelandsecurit1/a/IraqNumbers.htm