This past weekend I gave a sermon about Jesus and pacifism. If you saw that, you might find some of it repetitive – but it is an expansion of it. If you feel so inclined and want to watch it you can do so here on Facebook or here on Vimeo… The idea to talk about it was really born 20+ years ago in college… which I talk about that in the message but part of what brought it to the forefront was a post a friend of mine had shared on Facebook. In that post he wondered if pacifists would just want to give members of ISIS (the terror group that is mass exterminating Christians in Iraq) “a good talking to” instead of a use of force. As you can imagine such a post on Facebook brought immediate reaction from 2 different kinds of people. One immediately condemned the use of violence in any situation… the other supported any action necessary to stop the evil that is happening to Christians in Iraq. Those two opposing views immediately went into a war of words with one another. Both are Christians. Both see it completely different.
Let me just confirm for your right off the bat that I personally don’t believe we are called to be pacifists… Yes – I do know the Sermon on the Mount but I also know what Jesus did in the temple with a whip in John 2 and that when soldiers asked John the Baptist what repentance meant in Luke 3 he didn’t say that they had to leave the army. (SO … it’s not a scriptural mandate. Don’t bother trying to convince me otherwise if you disagree… we’ll just have to live with the stalemate.)
I believe it is scripturally, morally and theologically appropriate for the US to use force to stop atrocities, defend the innocent and defend our country.
Now listen… there is a big difference in violence for the sake of violence – i.e. backhanding someone because they mouth off to you vs. a reaction of force to atrocities that requires immediate response – i.e. someone physically attacking your family or muslim radicals beheading children in Iraq.
One of the people that responded to the post on Facebook was a pacifist and they pointed to the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan in WWII. Specifically he referred to this as the “US attempting to eradicate evil by the use of evil in a mass bombing and murder of the entire civilian population of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.”
It is interesting to me that this person pointed to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as wholesale evil… It was definitely terrible losses of life… But Axis leaders Tojo and Hitler combined had already killed over 22 million people by the time this happened. The bombing of Japan, while taking a terrible toll claiming the lives of 120,000, stopped a regime bent on destruction that would have claimed millions more lives. No one should feel good about the deaths of the residents of those two cities but to pretend that it didn’t bring a quick end to a war (that was started by very evil men and that would have dragged on for many more years and claimed millions of more lives) is naive and foolish.
The other thing this person stated on Facebook was that one had to decide if they wanted to be a Christian OR American. WHAT?!? For me… I am both. I am proud to be both. I am thankful for the US role in WWII and I will feel equally thankful for whatever level of intervention deemed necessary against ISIS. And this is not just my world-view… I think it fits perfectly well with my Kingdom-view. AND it’s also a personal commitment to non-pacifism (if there is such a thing) on my part. I will, beyond a shadow of a doubt and without hesitation, follow through on my belief that self defense is sometimes necessary and would without regret or second thought use force against anyone who personally harmed or attempted to harm my family or friends or a stranger on the street… A pacifist may also say that they too would stick to their beliefs regardless of the circumstances – but I pray that they break from their pacifist creed if ever put to the test in a life threatening situation for their friends and family.
Sometimes evil men need more than a good talking to or for someone to just love them… sometimes lives are taken to save countless others. I feel comfortable in my salvation and in my witness as a Christ Follower even as I hold it along side my patriotism, my desire to protect the innocent and my non-pacifism.
Romans 13:3-4 is a good place to end… 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
I am proudly Christian AND American.
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.