A Brief Provisional Outline of Biblical Teaching on Non-resistance and Peacemaking
Affirmation The Bible teaches non-resistance and peacemaking. This is the only conclusion to which one may arrive from a prima facie reading of the New Testament. For example, it is clearly taught by the life and teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles. Evidence Prophecy: Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in the prophecy of Isa 9:6. The angelic announcement of Christ’s birth: It concludes with the benediction, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:1). The example of Jesus: Jesus did not resist the violence to which he was subjected—beatings, lashing, and the cross—even though he could have called upon the armies of heaven to rescue Him (Matt 26:53). Furthermore, he did not retaliate in any way. Instead, he trusted God (1 Peter 2:21–23). Selected teaching given by Jesus and His apostles: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matt 5:9). Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:39, 44, 45). Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:17–21). But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17–18). Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, whoever would love life and see good days must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:9–11). Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21, 23). Selected examples of appeals for peace and unity made by Christ and His apostles. Jesus’ prayer for unity: John 17 Paul’s appeal to unity based on the example of Jesus: Phil 2 The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper: 1 Cor 10 The purpose of the death of Christ: Reconciliation between God and people, in other words, the removal of enmity and the restoration of peace. The consequence of the reconciliation of God and people: Peace and unity between people and people groups. Conclusion Peacemaking and non-resistance appear to be the overriding characteristics of the story lived by those who are disciples of the Prince of Peace and children of His Father.
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A Brief Provisional Outline of the Biblical Teaching on Non-resistance and Peacemaking
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Brief Responses to Common Objections to the Biblical Teaching
What about war in the Old Testament? This is a genuine problem. In grappling with it, one must consider the conclusions in the following list. At the least, they demonstrate that Old Testament teaching and example do not abrogate the clear teaching of Jesus and His apostles. One must adhere to the basic hermeneutical principle of attempting to understand difficult passages in light of clear ones. In other words, the clear teaching of the New Testament, to which reference is made above, must be given the benefit of the doubt when its teaching appears to conflict with Old Testament teaching and example. In other words, one who clings to Old Testament teaching that appears to contradict New Testament teaching has the burden of proving that the Old Testament supersedes New Testament revelation. The fact of progressive revelation anticipates differences in the teaching of the two testaments. For example, contemporary Christians obey the New Testament teaching of monogamy and reject the Old Testament example of polygamy. The New Testament affirms a discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments characterized by teaching in the Old Testament that has been ended, replaced, and/or superseded. Example verses: The entire Old Testament Scriptures testify of Christ (Luke 24:27) Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17) Christ is the goal of the Law, and in His fulfillment of it, the Law has ended for believers (Rom 10:4). The grace of Jesus replaced the grace of Moses (John 1:16–17). The Old Covenant has faded away, but the New Covenant lasts forever (2 Cor 3:10– 13). Selected illustrations: Jesus endorsed the end of capital punishment (John 8:3–11). God endorsed the cessation of Old Testament food laws and the full inclusion of the Gentiles in Gods’ program of reconciliation (Acts 10:9–16). Selected illustrations of contemporary Christians’ belief in this affirmation: They do not offer sacrifices at a temple. They do not refrain from eating pork and shrimp. They do not refrain from wearing clothes made of blended fabrics. The law of love now prevails, and the following passages summarize its principles: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matt 7:12). Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12). Israel was a theocracy. Its governance and actions are not analogous to the modern nation-state. Yahweh ruled directly or through His mediator, e.g., Abraham, Moses, Saul, David. Yahweh was the leading warrior in all battles. He actually won the battles for Israel.
A Brief Provisional Outline of the Biblical Teaching on Non-resistance and Peacemaking
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The OT battles were holy wars. Terribly wicked nations, whose worship consisted of, among other vile practices, fornication with prostitute/priestesses and sacrificing children, were fought for the following purposes: To provide Yahweh with a sacrifice. To establish Yahweh’s place, not as a tribal deity, but as the one true God. To protect Israel from the wicked idolatry that surrounded it. To preserve a remnant from which the Messiah could be born. All who perished in these holy wars were guilty and deserved death. It is only by God’s mercy that anyone is not consumed. Lamentations 2:22 – 23. What about just war doctrine? This doctrine derives not from biblical teaching, but from the teaching of Cicero, a first-century BC, Roman philosopher. Augustine, a fourth and fifth-century theologian, articulated this doctrine for Christian audiences. This doctrine depends on accurate information. Governments, however, are the primary source of this information, and governments historically have been untruthful, especially in time of war. This doctrine forces individuals into the virtually impossible position of weighing the merits of refusing violence against using violence to achieve a purported greater good. This doctrine causes one not to trust God, by placing a higher value on human life than on obedience to God. People cannot choose to fight in wars they consider just and then with impunity refuse to fight in wars they consider unjust. Governments, at most, excuse from military service only those who conscientiously object to participating in all wars. Believers consistently have not determined that any war has been unjust. Instead they have stretched the criteria for determining just wars in order to justify all wars pursued by the state of which they are citizens. What about defending a weak, innocent victim of violence by means of violence? Hard cases make bad law. For example, unrelenting concentration on hard abortions cases has resulted in virtually unrestricted abortion. Similarly, television, movies, and novels have conditioned us to assume that defenseless, weak, and innocent victims commonly suffer at the hands of aggressors. The question seems to imply that violence is the only effective response to violence. It fails to explore the possibility of other effective responses. This question seems to imply that human life is more important than obedience. It manifests lack of faith in God. Even if one accepts the validity of some forms of individual self-defense, and their extension to the defense of a weak, innocent victim, one cannot logically extend such a position to the actions of people groups, including nations. In other words, acceptance of the validity of some forms of individual self-defense does not logically require the endorsement of war.