I have had some good discussions this week around what it means to be a peacemaker, pacifist, or hold a “love and nonresistance” position. In a time when wars continue to wage around the globe, and violence and abuse of many kinds is perpetrated in our very own communities, Christians need to continually consider what it means to follow Jesus’s way of peace.
My denomination has this to say in our Confession of Faith:
Believers seek to be agents of reconciliation in all relationships, to practice love of enemies as taught by Christ, and to be peacemakers in all situations. We view violence in its many different forms as contradictory to the new nature of the Christian. We believe that the evil and inhumane nature of violence is contrary to the gospel of love and peace. In times of national conscription or war, we believe we are called to give alternative service where possible. Alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ’s love.
But a common rebuttal to peace churches asks this question: what about injustice? Surely you can’t sit idly by and watch someone suffer, can you? Sometimes violence has to beget violence for the greater good, especially the victim, right? Call it “redemptive violence" if you want. It’s a make-the-best-of-it, common sense way of loving your neighbor in a violent world. The way of peace is impractical, inefficient, and idealistic. I’ll admit, it’s hard to argue this one.
Although I’m not convinced.
Part of the problem is with the measuring sticks: practicality and efficiency. And while I’ll concede the idealistic critique - I see this as a compliment - I think our categories of practicality and efficiency are challenged when we look at Jesus. In fact, Jesus doesn't seem to care much for success in the way we like to define it. He taught a subversive response to violence and abuse (Mt. 5:38-48) and modelled creative engagement with the authorities in times of injustice and confrontation (Jn. 7:53-8:11). But there was no guarantee of success. In fact, you could say that with Jesus’s death, his way of peace is the most impractical and inefficient model we have. Weakness. Suffering. Death.
Yet such a path ended up bringing life. The way of the cross, however inefficient, ends up securing life and peace (Jn. 11:25-26) that outlasts any violent revolution or overthrow of unjust rulers. Inefficiency wins.
For us, then, to accept Jesus's way of peace means giving up our categories of practicality and efficiency, trusting that with the potential of lost life, there is the promise of new life (Mt. 10:38-39).