They say there is no wisdom
They say it isn’t so,
They stir up rainy weather
But then it starts to snow.

Poor prognosticators
Pungent pundits too
They trust their own predictions
But don’t know what to do.

The politics of fear,
And self protection reign
As if killing all our foes
Was possible and sane.

We alienate our allies
We say we’ll go alone
We ignore prevailing wisdom
And enter a war zone.

And no one’s even asking
What would the Master say
We sing our patriotic songs
When things go wrong we pray.

It’s right to ask for sacrifice
Whene’er the cause is just
Whenever truth is being served
When God’s the one we trust.

Vengeance is no solution.
Observe the Holy Land
Sick cycles of destruction
Bad blood flows in the sand.

There surely is a wisdom
It’s spoken in God’s Word
It speaks of holy sacrifice
Not one that is absurd.

It calls for love of enemy
And giving lives for friends
It calls for taking up the cross
Through suffering, violence ends.

Lamech called for vengeance
Seventy-seven fold,
Jesus said forgive that much
Before the night grows cold.

“Vengeance is surely mine”
Thus speaks a sovereign Lord,
And when we try to play God’s role
We violate his Word.

An ‘eye for an eye’s myopic
Or else it leaves both blind.
Endless reciprocity
Leaves humanity behind.

Someday the lion will lie down
Next to the harmless lamb.
Someday the swords will be retooled
For plowing up the land.

Someday we’ll see that ‘just wars’
Are never just enough
Someday we’ll realize the kingdom’s for
The meek, not for the tough.

Until that day we all must pray
For forgiveness for what we’ve done
For those who live just by the sword
Lose, even when they’ve won.

Somewhere there is an endgame
Without the sound of taps
A plan to play a different role
Blessed peacemakers perhaps.


This is a poem that some Americans will have a hard time stomaching. I understand this, but I am a pacifist because I believe that is exactly what Christ demands of me in the Sermon on the Mount and what Paul says as well in Rom. 12–14. Of course I do not think that Christ was trying to make public policy when he taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and love one’s enemies, but I do think he was offering an ethic that he expected his own followers to embrace. Jesus believed in suffering for, and even at the hands of his enemies. He did not believe in killing them.

Jesus it will be remembered even stopped to heal the ear of the high priest’s slave as he was being carted off to trial, and told his disciple to stop the violence. Jesus it will be remembered even forgave his executioners who had wrongly nailed him to the cross saying with his dying breath “Father forgive them . . . ”

What this all means for me is that while I certainly pray for our troops safety and that they may come home unharmed, I find that I have a Christian duty to oppose war which overrides any patriotic duty to support it. I am well aware that other equally sincere Christians think differently about this matter, though for the life of me I don’t see how they get around the obligation for Christians to follow the example of Christ when it comes to the matter of non-violence, the obligation to embrace personally the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount.

Yes, I am well aware of Romans 13, which suggests that governments have the right to bear some kinds of arms for some sorts of defensive purposes. I do not dispute this, but what I do dispute is that Christians have any obligation to serve their country in capacities that involve violence. This means for me, that I could never be any kind of soldier, except of course the Christian sort spoken of in the familiar hymn or in Ephesians 5. I suppose it also means I could never be some kinds of law enforcement officers either.

I believe there is a place for this opinion not merely in a democracy like America, but especially in the body of Christ, though it surely is a minority opinion, I realize. Sometimes people point to the OT for justification for fighting wars. Sometimes they even talk about wars sponsored or endorsed by God. I understand this, but I think it involves a misreading of several things.

In the first place, those texts are about God’s chosen people and their taking of the Holy Land. Americans, though they may like to think otherwise, are not God’s chosen people anymore than any other modern nation state is. According to the NT God’s people at this juncture are “Jew and Gentile united in Christ” (Gal. 3.28), an ethnically and racially and nationally diverse group that comprises a world-wide fellowship of Christ. In other words, those texts provide no justification for secular governments of any sort going to war. Modern wars are not holy wars, no matter who’s fighting them.

Secondly, Christians are under the new covenant, not any forms of the old covenant, and there are decided differences between the new covenant Jesus inaugurated and the old covenants. One of the most obvious differences has to do precisely with this matter of non-violence. Jesus believed he was bringing in the Dominion of God upon the earth, the eschatological state of affairs. He believed he was bringing in the state which Isaiah spoke of when he talking about the lion lying down with the lamb. This among other things is why we have a blessing on peacemakers as one of the inaugural beatitudes.

The already-not yet nature of the coming of this kingdom of course makes our ethical situation not always clear, but what is clear to me is that if I am going to err, I should err on the side of love not hate, peace not war, forgiveness not vengeance, because at the end of the day it is those qualities which will endure and prevail one day when the kingdom has fully come on earth.

I think it is high time for all Christians, perhaps especially American ones, to have a more adequate theology of peacemaking, rather than seeking justification for participating in more wars. I may be wrong about this, but if so, I want to err on the side that I see the Savior, took for he is the one who believed that there were many things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for. Indeed, he believed that killing violated the values that were worth dying for.

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