The topic of the pacifism in the early church is something I have written about before for PCPJ. However, in our world it often needs repeating and restating. The Church has often fallen into the temptations of politics and militarism. This is clearly seen in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, which leaned towards pacifism in its early years, but became tolerant towards nationalism and militarism within only a few decades.
In the United States, we are in the midst of two events that make the topic of Christian pacifism relevant: 1. We are in the midst of a very brutal election season, and 2. We are approaching the 19th anniversary of the War on Terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan (which officially began October 7, 2001). It is the longest war in American history. Of course, PCPJ is an international organization, just as the Church is an international organization, but I think these are universal issues, and the war in Afghanistan includes many countries (including all of NATO). Additionally, PCPJ was founded in that time and context.
Considering that we have been in constant war for almost 20 years, I think it is time for Christians in the West to look back to our roots again and to not be seduced by politics or nationalism. What would Jesus say and do if He was here today? What would He say to a supposedly “Christian nation”? What would the prophets, apostles, and church fathers say in this time? Specifically, we should look at the early church. After all, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is primarily about revival – an attempt at recovering the Christianity of the apostolic age. Continue reading Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?→
We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.
This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.
What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.
The US is on fire right now. Yet another black man has been killed by police brutality: George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a policeman sat on his neck, charging him with paying with a false 20 dollar bill.
Many of you have already seen the horrifying footage: Floyd groaning and screaming, saying that he can’t breath, and later becoming unconscious. He was later confirmed dead.
This has caused a huge uproar across the country this Pentecost weekend. While many protesters are nonviolent, there are also reports of destructive riots and even fatalities. And it doesn’t help that President Trump writes “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” on Twitter, echoing Walter Headley who said this exact thing in 1967 when he threatened to order his policemen to shoot black people.
At PCPJ, we care deeply about racial and social justice. We also believe in nonviolence and enemy love. So while we encourage those who make their voices heard, we cannot stress enough that it needs to be done without any violence. Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. shows us that it is indeed possible to stand up for the oppressed without causing any harm to others. Continue reading George Floyd and the True Meaning of Pentecost→
While God condescended to working within the violent-prone, fallen framework of his people in the Old Testament (OT)—as I argue in Crucifixion of the Warrior God—the OT is also full of references to how God worked to preserve his non-violent ideal as much as possible. He did this by continually reminding his people not to place any trust in the sword, but to rather place all their trust him.
For example, as Judah was facing impending doom, the Lord told Hosea that he would save them “not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I the LORD their God will save them” (Hos 1:7).
So too, through the Psalmist the Lord encourages his people by saying:
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
I think most of us can agree that peace is a good thing.
Yes, many support either Israel or Palestine as if they were soccer teams, but regardless of your political and eschatological views, you’re probably with me if I say that it would be good with less death and destruction in the Middle East.
Why did Jesus command his disciples to buy swords in Luke 22:38?
Now, however,” He told them, “the one with a purse should take it, and likewise a bag; and the one without a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’For what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment.”
So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” He answered. (Lk 22:36-38)
A lot of people assume that it was in order to defend themselves, and use this as an argument for warfare and liberal gun laws. But if it’s one thing we can be sure of, it is that Jesus definitely didn’t intend the swords to be used for self-defense.
I am deeply troubled and grieved by Donald Trump’s order to kill by drone strike Iran’s second most powerful leader, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, together with the Iraqi Shia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The Trump Administration’s killing of these two men on January 3, regardless of their offenses, is evil, going against God’s command: “thou shall not kill” and Jesus’ command: “love your enemies.” It also threatens to plunge the United States and the Middle East into a major war leading to far more death and destruction.
As we hear critiques and defenses, and brace ourselves for retaliatory violence and retributive counter measures, let us consider Jesus’ seeing Jerusalem and weeping over it, and practice something like this ourselves, remembering his highly relevant words:
“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
If a violent man attacked your family, what would you do? Probably every Christian pacifist has been confronted with this question. The purpose of the question is to make the pacifist realize that violence is sometimes necessary: no matter how much you want to love your enemies, you may face situations in which refusal to use violence will lead to the harm or even death of people you love.
As John Howard Yoder points out in his book What Would You Do?, the questions is emotional. The attacker is always an anonymous man, and when the family members are specified, they are almost always a mother, daughter or wife. The one posing the question wants as little emotional bonds to the attacker as possible, while the opposite is true for the one being attacked.
Reality, of course, is not as simplistic. Most violence against women is conducted by people they know well. Questions that have even more relevance to what we might actually experience in life would be: what would you do if your son attacked his wife? Or what would you do if your mentally sick friend attacked an innocent stranger? But of course, these questions cannot easily be solved with “I use violence and everything become alright!” and so are left out of the picture. Continue reading Pacifism’s Hardest Choice and the Doctor’s Dilemma→
Today, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We’re very excited here at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice since this is the second time in a row that a Pentecostal is being awarded this prestigious prize.
Some have the impression that Ahmed is hiding his Pentecostal faith for diplomatic reasons: his nation is divided among both ethnic and religious lines. I recently spoke to Dr Jörg Haustein at Cambridge University who is an expert on Ethiopian Pentecostalism. He told me this wasn’t exactly the case.
“I don’t think he de-emphasizes his Pentecostal faith, but he’s very aware of which audience he is speaking to”, Dr. Haustein says. “There are videos on YouTube, not put up by him but by others, where he’s very Pentecostal in his rhetoric. He knows how to employ his faith in a more plural religiously appealing manner, but it’s also empowering him in the bold things that he’s done. He actually feels that he’s doing God’s work, and that this is what he needs to be doing at this time.”