What is peace? In order to seek it and pursue it, we must understand what it means to make it in a Biblical sense.
By contrast, what does it mean to contend for the faith? For some, such questions are answered by crossing the line into militancy.
There is a balance to strike here for the Christian, between peacemaking on the one hand, and war-making on the other, dependent on the circumstances. But we too often in our day conflate being peaceable with pacifism. And on a related note, we too easily accept the myth of manliness as malignancy.
Moderation is a virtue. And that holds true whether we are talking about a time for war or a time for peace. But I think most American Christians in the year 2022 are immoderate, and too stuck on being nice in a pacifistic sense. That in turn makes the American Church vulnerable in a way that is neither good, nor wise, nor holy.
Ours is a perverse age. And that certainly includes, but is not limited to sex. It also includes our conceptions of conflict, masculinity, and aggression. It also includes what, if anything, might merit direct confrontation of depravity and evil. But where nothing is worth fighting for, the strong man will be bound and his household goods raided and plundered.
Two sides of this coin must be considered. We must turn this thing over. For there to be a perversion means there is an authentic and accommodating to life version which is true, beautiful, and good. To kick against that goad is to reject that there is such a thing as perversity because we deny and reject the standard. Anything can be anything, and everything is really nothing. This is by definition what it means to be senseless and ignorant and lawless.
Consequential to this view, pacifism is a perversion and hyperventilation of appropriate calls for peacemaking. In a similar vein, militarism is a perversion of the fact that there are times for war. In both cases, the loss of ability to distinguish is tied to a defenestration of the genuine article where truth, beauty, and goodness are concerned.
Yes, Christ told his disciples to turn the other cheek if someone slapped them. But not for nothing did Jesus also say to sell our cloak so we could buy a sword if we didn’t have one. Between the two we must arrive at a Biblical hermeneutic which holds all Scripture as breathed out by God and profitable without rejecting any bit, whether because we love peace or war in an unscrupulous way.
No, Christ’s kingdom is neither of this world or from the world. The pacifists are right to reference that. But his children did not fight his arrest in the garden past when he said ‘peace’ and healed the ear of the high priest’s servant. And perhaps that context was closer to the full extent of what Jesus was getting at than the pacifists have reckoned.
Meanwhile, Christ looked at the Pharisees angrily when they refused answering whether it was lawful to heal a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. They wanted to destroy him, and he confronted them publicly in a way that was not pacifistic or de-escalating of the tension inherent to their relationship.
And what was Paul on about anyways, writing that the governing authority bears the sword both for our good and to strike fear into wrongdoers? The good of ours the governing authority is securing is retributive justice and its power to deter the machinations of evil men against our persons and property.
These two passages are just the tip of the iceberg. They are indicative of many more besides which demonstrate to the careful that, yes, there is still a time and place for conflict, confrontation, and even deadly force depending on the circumstance. And, yes, that does mean God’s economy in the New Testament period we inhabit now includes a time for violence and war.
Nevertheless, pacifists struggle with these while peacemakers who draw on the whole counsel of God have a much easier time reconciling them.
The central question in distinguishing between these two categories of Christians, then, is whether we embrace Christ saying he did not come to bring peace but a sword, and that he will come again with a sword. Pacifism fundamentally misunderstands this because it gets stuck on an uncareful approach to peacemaking which does not recognize as legitimate that there is ever a time for war.
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