A favorite Bible passage and rejecting war

Principal author:
John L. Clark


I turn to the Bible for a complete foundation for how to live in relationship to others, including such charged issues as the deprecation of war.

A friend of mine asked me to respond to the following prompt:

Would you mind answering the following questions:

  1. What is your favorite Bible passage/story?

  2. Why is that your favorite?

  3. How does it connect to your life?

  4. What challenges or comforts do you see in the passage?

  5. What is the role of scripture in your life?

And so here is how I responded. (Ok, I edited it a bit.)

The Bible provides the concrete historical basis for the way I should orient my life as both an adopted son of God as well as a brother to His other children. In it He both provides me with the source of my hope and my joy in being able to identify a way to live that is holy and just, and He also gives me the grace to live that way in the redemption offered by Jesus on the cross. Ever more I grow in awareness of how the Bible reveals the will of God as a whole, so I will only identify one favorite passage among many.

I am sad and angry at the way in which our world so frequently turns to war and violence as a way to solve problems. But this is in complete contradiction to the teachings of Jesus, which brings us to the passage I will choose to highlight: "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment .... You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you ...." (Matthew 5:21-22,43-44) Here we are faced with a radical and shockingly new depth and direction for the law when faced with conflict and hate, and it requires us to seek to understand what this may mean, and how it can be done. Jesus himself embodied this new direction, culminating in his acceptance of his cross, as he trusted in the Father to empower his ultimate sacrifice and to maintain His love even in midst of death.

Here the teaching of Jesus becomes a weapon: not for delivering violence, but the truth. The challenge here is to confront the world with the reality of this truth, which in turn requires us to understand what that truth means. This challenge is only aggravated by the fact that the church herself remains largely silent about the magnitude of the injustice perpetuated by warfare. The use of violence supports the exercise of power that is always contrary to the will of God, and so confronting violence invites persecution. Many are afraid of this persecution, yet we must recognize that Jesus has freed us to witness to this truth without fear. Nothing could be more joyful and exciting than working to lead people away from systems of oppression that bring only death.

This page was first published on 2012-10-08 16:11:00-04:00.

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