Category Archives: Nonviolence

Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). 

Some, both modern scholars along with church leaders since the fourth century, have used this passage as evidence to argue that Jesus is not altogether non-violent.

When we place Matthew 10:34 in its broader context, it becomes clear that Jesus’ teaching not only does not condone violence on the part of his disciples, it actually rules out all violence. As Jesus is preparing his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the arrival of the kingdom of God throughout the region, he warns them that he is sending them out “like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16, cf. vv. 5-15).

Continue reading Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide

by Darrin J. Rodgers, originally posted at AG News and Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

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Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Gerber was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Gerber only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Gerber’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Gerber cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Gerber quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise. Gerber’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Gerber.

Gerber shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Gerber’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Gerber and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Gerber and Lambert arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Gerber, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Caesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Gerber identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Gerber were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Gerber’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Gerber for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self-denial and a deeper surrender.”

Gerber suffered a stroke and passed away on Dec. 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Gerber followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the Jan. 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest, a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.

Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

Peace on Earth… Really?

by Bev Murrill, originally posted on her personal blog.

I’ve heard the Christmas messages on TV and social media through recent days. They intimate that the message of peace lies in the Christmas story. I’ve heard it too from busy shoppers, bemoaning their lot as, stressed and sweaty from their efforts, even in the middle of winter, they hurry to buy the advertised accessories to peace.

We moan about commercialism, but it doesn’t stop us from joining in, big time. We scurry, along with everyone else, to buy last minute presents, and to make sure we have enough food! Enough food! I think this kind of scurrier generally has enough food.

The message of peace comes from the child in the manger…

Honestly?

I used to think that. I used to say it too, but I don’t believe it anymore.

Peace doesn’t lie in the manger. It never has.

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Christmas celebration in Aleppo, Syria.

Just a couple of years ago, for the first time in 4 years, the courageous Christians of Aleppo celebrated Christmas with carols and a tree in the midst of the city. A city at war and almost destroyed. And the peace? Where was it? Peace was celebrated between opposing camps in a set of trenches in WW2. It lasted the day… and then they went to the task of killing each other again. Continue reading Peace on Earth… Really?

Denis Mukwege: The Link Between Smartphones and War

In his Nobel speech, Dr. Denis Mukwege highlighted how the aweful conflict in Congo – the deadliest war since WW2 – that has led to the death and rape of millions of people, have been fuelled by the electronics industry.

The troubling reality is that the abundance of our natural resources – gold, coltan, cobalt and other strategic minerals – is the root cause of war, extreme violence and abject poverty.

We love nice cars, jewelry and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country. Often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence.

When you drive your electric car; when you use your smart phone or admire your jewelry, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects.

As consumers, let us at least insist that these products are manufactured with respect for human dignity.

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For decades, rebel groups supported by foreign nations have taken control over mines in Eastern Congo to “tax” the workers in exchange for their “security”. Minerals like coltan, tungsten and gold are then transported on roads also control by militias to be exported to Asian nations where they are assembled into electronics or jewelry. Continue reading Denis Mukwege: The Link Between Smartphones and War

The Prophetic Foresight of Denis Mukwege

I’ve just had the privilege of listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege as he visited Stockholm. PMU and Läkarmissionen, two Christian aid organizations that have supported Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for decades. We celebrated Mukwege with music, speeches and donations. Among other things, we sang Mukwege’s favorite hymn, “The Promises will Never Fail” (Löftena kunna ej svika) by Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus, in Swedish and Swahili.

Missionary and nurse Kerstin Åkerman pointed out how prophetic Mukwege is. He has this ability – naturally or supernaturally – to have a visionary mindset and see things before they happen. For example, he stressed the importance of starting the building process of the Panzi Hospital quickly in 1998. Nobody understood why.

One week after the governor had initiated construction, the Second Congo War broke out. Kerstin realized that if the hospital had not claimed the land, the government would have wanted to use it for their purposes. Mukwege could see that before everyone else.

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Mukwege at Stockholm Waterfront. Photo: PMU on Instagram (@pmuinterlife)

As Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize last Monday, I had the privilege of being published in Sojourners, one of the biggest Christian journals with a focus on peace and justice. Among other things, I pointed out:

Historically, Pentecostalism originated from the Holiness Movement, which had a clear emphasis on social justice and helping the poor. It also had a high view of gender equality, allowing women to preach. This was also true for early Pentecostalism, even though it quickly conformed to the normative patterns of male dominance that was prevalent in other church movements. Early Pentecostals were also predominantly pacifist and champions for peace in times of world wars.

With this history in mind, it makes sense that Mukwege does not need to fuse his Pentecostal faith with something else in order to become a feminist activist, fighting for peace and women’s rights. I believe this is at the heart of Pentecost. We read in the Holy Scriptures that the consequence of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the apostolic church was not merely tongues and healing, but also economic redistribution and social equality (Acts 2:42-47).

Mukwege is a great representative and role-model for the world’s 600 million Pentecostals and charismatics. I hope that we will follow his example of combining spiritual gifts with activism for a better world.

To support the Panzi Hospital, please donate to PMU or donate to the Panzi Foundation.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Pentecostal Nobel Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege is “Accepted in All Camps”

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist who receives his Nobel Peace Prize today, proclaimed in 2015 when he was preaching at a Swedish Pentecostal conference: ”The Panzi hospital is a fruit of your prayers!” A Pentecostal himself who occasionally pastors a local church in Bukavu, dr. Mukwege has repeatedly thanked the Swedish Pentecostal movement for supporting him.

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Maria Bard

This support goes way back and have had multiple layers. We have talked to Maria Bard at PMU, the Swedish Pentecostal Mission’s development cooperation organization, about what this bond between their organization and Panzi has looked like, as well as her personal meetings with and impressions of Mukwege himself.

What has the Swedish Pentecostal movement done to support Mukwege?

First of all, Denis Mukwege’s father was a pastor in the Congolese Pentecostal movement CEPAC, which was founded by Swedish missionaries in 1921. Swedish Pentecostal churches funded parts of Mukwege’s medical education. Initially, he worked on a hospital called Lemera which was founded by Pentecostals. It was one of the biggest and most well-functioning hospitals in the region. Many Swedish Pentecostal missionaries have been treated and born there. It was destroyed as the First Congo War broke out.

There was a lot of discussion on whether the Lemera Hospital should be rebuilt or if a new hospital should be constructed. Due to the recent genocide in Rwanda, there was a lot of need in the Congolese province of South Kivu. In addition to grants from elsewhere, the director of PMU at the time, Roland Stenlund, convinced the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to help financing the establishment of a new hospital, led by Dr. Mukwege. The Panzi Hospital. Continue reading Pentecostal Nobel Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege is “Accepted in All Camps”