The idea of pacifism has been on my mind lately for two reasons: 1) with the elections I heard a lot of talk about the war in Iraq and how it is hypocritical for believers to support war and yet oppose abortion; 2) I’ve been reading a few authors lately that argue that Jesus was a pacifist and that we must adopt this stance as believers. So I’ve been reading the Bible lately with a filter for pacifism. In my reading this morning I came across three passages where it appears that Jesus is anything but a pacifist. This is not a researched list, this is simply three examples from four chapters that I read today.
Jesus tells a story of a king and his people called the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27). He ends the parable in verse 27: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.” That sounds pretty harsh. Not just to kill them, but “kill them in front of me.”
Jesus tells a story of a man who owned a vineyard called The Parable of the Tenants (Luke 20:9-16). He ends the parable in verse 16: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Again, a pacifist could evict the tenants or fine them, but He says to kill them.
Finally, as Jesus prepares Himself and His disciples for His capture, He tells them how to get ready in Luke 22:36. “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” This is an odd verse especially given that He rebukes one of disciples for later using it.
Now I know that there are a handful of verses that could lend support to both sides of the argument (which will probably be quoted back to me). I’m simply arguing that I don’t see this issue as an easy black-and-white answer based off of Jesus’ actions AND teachings. Since I’ve quoted things that I agree with Brian McLaren about, let me add a quote of something that I don’t agree with. He writes about a second coming where God forcefully sifts people and judges them and the seeming contrast from Jesus’ life.
“If we remain charmed by this this kind of eschataology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake-out, like a feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by a crushing blow of so-called redemptive violence in the end. The gentle Jesus of the first coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake-me-out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of a violent second coming.” – Everything Must Change (144)
I’m still not sure exactly where I land on this issue but I can tell you that I think there is validity in BOTH arguments based off of the Jesus we see in the Gospels.