Saturday Quotable – A Thought for Christian Pacifists

[In the gospels] There is nothing that throws any particular light on Christ’s attitude towards organized warfare, except that he seems to have been rather fond of Roman soldiers.

G.K. Chesterton
The Everlasting Man


Who are you fond of? Soldiers or social workers, school teachers or sanitation workers, someone else? What does this tell you about yourself?

What does Jesus’ relationship with Roman soldiers (such as here) tell you about God?

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10 Responses to Saturday Quotable – A Thought for Christian Pacifists

  1. God does love everyone regardless and takes pity on us all and compassion because we are all sinners. . that’s what it tells me.

  2. Rob Rakis says:

    I think it’s an awesome point to make that Jesus loved everyone. With some of the stuff we’ve been dealing with in our decision to be pacifists, people seem to assume it means we now hate anyone who has or does serve in the armed forces, police, etc… This is a complete falsehood. The reason we are pacifist is because we love all people and wouldn’t want to see anyone responsible for the taking of another person’s life. So if we pair that with “to hate someone is to murder them in your heart”, we’d be complete hypocrites to harbor anger towards anyone for not being on the same page as us.

    As a separate point, I think in the sermon on the mount where Jesus says not to resist an evil person and to turn the other cheek is all the commentary we need on organized warfare. Honestly what is organized warfare other than either being an aggressor or to attack back in retaliation? Either way there would be violence and murder involved and as Jesus was a Rabbi usually speaking to Jews He probably didn’t feel the necessity to remind His listeners of the commandment not to murder. So both bases were covered, don’t be a murdering aggressor and don’t retaliate by striking back but turn the other cheek.

    • Tim says:

      Rob, I like how you inform your pacifism with the command about anger towards a fellow believer who holds a different position on the matter. It’s a great example of understanding the breadth of the body of Christ and how we’re all in this together. I’d hope that non-pacifists would feel the same toward pacifists. (Then again, I also hope this for Calvinist/Arminian, complementarian/egalitarian, credobaptist/paedobaptist, etc., relationships!)

  3. Jeannie says:

    I think Jesus loves that the soldier knows how to submit, trust, and obey. My brother is in the Canadian military and we just spent several days with him, talking about many issues related to his career. I was struck again by the military’s emphasis on the chain of command. If someone in authority is known to have integrity, those under him will willingly follow him wherever he leads. Trust is huge. If a leader slips up morally, those whom he commands don’t necessarily judge his moral failure per se, but they look at it as a trust issue: “Can we trust/follow/obey someone who doesn’t follow the rules he tells US to follow?” (not trying to be sexist with the masculine pronouns, btw)

    My answer doesn’t relate to pacifism I guess, but this topic does line up with what’s been on my mind very recently.

    • Tim says:

      Those are great points about how our modern military lines up with the experience of the Roman Centurion and how Jesus interacted with him, Jeannie. That is one of those professions where someone definitely leans how to take and to give orders. The Centurion’s integrity impressed Jesus, that’s for sure.

  4. Michael Snow says:

    As much as I love the clear-headed Chesterton, this quote does not reveal him at his best or reveals how on guard we all need to be against the spirit of our own day. Paul certainly thought that Jesus’ teaching had something to do with disciples and warfare.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for coming by, Michael.

      Chesterton certainly was a master of overstatement as a rhetorical tool. But isn’t Chesterton talking here about temporal warfare while Paul was focusing on spiritual matters? I don’t see the two of them in contrast, just talking about different things.

  5. Mary Anne says:

    Two things:
    1) I love that Jesus was “amazed” at the response. I enjoy picturing him with that expression of delighted surprise at the centurion’s faith.
    2) It’s one of the things I think of when people ask me, “Well, if Jesus is the only way to heaven, what about all the people who never hear about him? Is it fair that they don’t get to go to heaven?” God had obviously already been speaking in the centurion’s heart or I don’t think he would have had that kind of faith when Jesus came along. So God can speak to anyone, anywhere, at any time—I always think of something C.S. Lewis said, that when all is revealed in the end, God will have saved some “who didn’t know they knew Him.”

    • Tim says:

      I love that amazement too, MA. And for the people who ask that type of question, I think many of them are just attempting a bit of sophistry. They aren’t truly interesed in the answer, but if they really want to have the dialog then I’d ask them “What about all the people who do hear about Jesus but refuse to belive in him? Is it fair that they go to hell?”

      That’s just me being puckish, I suppose!


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