Q. When I was younger I served in the Canadian military for a number of years and have always supported Canada’s military missions. It has been about 10 years since I came to Christ and ever since then I have been wondering if His statement on living by the sword is directed towards those who make their living in the armed forces. My pastor and many of my born-again friends espouse the idea of pacifism to such a level that it makes me wonder if I’m missing something. Are they correct in their belief that Jesus was a complete pacifist and that this is the idea He had always tried to teach us?
A. As Born Again Christians we have a new nature from The Spirit of the Lord that makes us more loving, tolerant, and forgiving people. We don’t want to bring harm upon another or see anyone hurt. When the Lord spoke in His sermon on the mount (Mat. 5:43-48) He said to love even our enemies. He said the peace makers will be blessed. Paul said if it’s possible, as far as it depends on us, we should live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). And Proverbs 16:7 tells us when our ways are pleasing to the Lord He makes even our enemies live at peace with us.
We can take two things from this. First, loving another person doesn’t mean we are required to suffer repeated abuse from them. Paul said we should live at peace with others if possible, as far as it depends on us. I don’t think that deprives us of the right to defend ourselves, but it does mean we shouldn’t start anything.
And second, if we’re having problems with others maybe it means our ways are not pleasing to the Lord. This is certainly the case among both people and nations today. Maybe if we got right with the Lord we’d experience more peace.
In the U.S. we have a constitution that gives our elected officials responsibility for the protection of our people and property against all enemies foreign and domestic. We don’t have a military force so we can mount unprovoked attacks, but so we can defend our nation. I’m sure Canada has similar laws.
And Jesus was not and is not a pacifist. When He came the first time He couldn’t defend Himself because He was being punished for our crimes. He certainly had the ability to overpower His attackers, but had He done so we’d all be lost (Matt. 26:53-54). So He was forced to take the punishment due us. When He comes the next time that won’t be the case, and He will condemn most of the world to suffer eternal punishment for having disobeyed Him. During the Millennium He’ll rule the nations with an iron scepter and dash them to pieces like pottery (Psalm 2:8-9).
Finally, you’ve misunderstood His statement in Matt. 26:52. He didn’t say that all who live by the sword will die by the sword, and it wasn’t a general admonition. He told Peter to put his sword away and told him all who draw the sword will die by the sword. He was reminding Peter that the disciples were hopelessly out numbered. If they resisted they’d be killed, and He had promised not to lose any of them. John 18:8-9 tells us He then persuaded the soldiers to let the disciples go and just take Him.