“Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Some of my most uncomfortable moments in church occurred when pastors preached in opposition to these verses. Before I knew anything about Anabaptist theology or the Mennonite church, I participated in various other denominations. I recoiled as I heard pastors stand in the pulpit and tell the congregation, which candidates are worthy of support. My heart felt defiled when a different pastor stood in the pulpit and glorified his military years and told proud stories about his 15-years of building military war ships. My soul groaned when a pastor challenged his congregation to follow him as if he was the head of a military organization instead of following Jesus and being lead by the Holy Spirit. I knew these things were an affront to God, but most everyone else in these churches seemed happy with the conduct and teaching of these men.
I just couldn’t figure it out. What was wrong with me? How could Jesus have taught non-violence and love, while the church was supporting war and hatred? Why was I so uneasy? Was I really wrong?
It was an amazing day when I discovered that I could be a Bible believing Christian and not support war. I could see the Sermon on the Mount as a practical guide for living, rather than a lofty goal for some future age. It was OK to expose the lies behind religious nationalism and embrace the truth that flows from the living Spirit of God’s Kingdom. I no longer had to hide my perceptions about war and violence or feel like I had defective beliefs. I realized that I was being lead by God and Jesus was showing me His ways.
I suppose those who believe in violent solutions and war also feel that Jesus is leading them into His ways as well. I cannot explain the difference; all I can do is rest in the truth that allows me to sleep peacefully at night. Reading Article 22 of the Mennonite Confession of Faith does bring me peace.
Lord Jesus, my soul has been burdened by war waged in Your name. My heart has been troubled by men and women who are willing to die for a religious spirit who is building a nationalistic fantasy. My mind has been distorted by teachings of fear and hatred by those who say they are Christians. I cry out for healing. I pray that the same Spirit that empowered Jesus will also empower us to “love enemies, to forgive rather than to seek revenge, to practice right relationships, to rely on the community of faith to settle disputes, and to resist evil without violence.” Lord Jesus, show me how I can work for peace. Cleanse my heart and mind from all sinful tendencies of violence. Please give me your peace in all situations. Teach me to love those who do violence in Your name. Amen.