Biblical Justification (And Testimony) For Christian Peacemaking (Feb. 23, 2009)
Numbers 1,2: Take a census of the whole community of Israelites by clans an families, taking a count of the names of all the males, head by head. You [Moses] and Aaron will register all those in Israel, twenty years of age and over, fit to bear arms, company by company [tribe by tribe].
Numbers 1,49: Do not, however, take a census of the Levites, or register them with the other Israelites, but enroll the Levites to take charge of the Dwelling….
Numbers 8,17: For all the firstborn of the Israelites, whether man or beast, do indeed belong to me: the day I struck down all the first born of Egypt, I consecrated them to myself, and now in place of all the first-born of the Israelites, I have taken the Levites.
1Kings5.17: You are aware that my father David was unable to build a temple for the name of Yahweh my God, on account of the wars waged on him from every side…
Mt. 10,24: The disciple is not above his master.
Hebrews 12,14: Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble.
Hebrews 12,22-23: But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the million of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons [daughters too], enrolled as citizens of heaven.
1Peter2,4c-5a: Set yourselves close to him, so that you, too, may be living stones making a spiritual house as a holy priesthood….
The understanding of Christian Peacemaking has been slow going for me in my 22 years as a Christian. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I guess it had something to do a full realization that for the first 300 years Christianity was pacifist and martyrific, but then church folks and empires turned Jesus’ words all around, and made them irrelevant ("superspiritual" as we say in the church).
And then I read the book of Revelation and came to understand just how insidious empires have and always will be in trying to get us Christians to bow to them. But us Christians did right in that book- we resisted violence, refused to bow, defended the kingdom, and awaited the judgment of God to avenge us.
But empires are crafty. If they can’t get us to bow and join them, well they will bow, or apparently bow, to our God, and join us.
That’s the legacy of the Roman Emperor Constantine from 325 AD onwards. He had a vision that he (and his empire) would conquer through the symbol of the cross (sin that is), but he, or his successors apparently read more into it. And well us Christians have been a bit prone to being conquered ever since.
The cross then became a secular symbol used to sell things like the Holy Land crusades in the 11 and 12th century, actions for which Muslims and Jews to this day have yet to forgive. Francis Bernadoni (that still popular “Saint Francis”) was one such crusader who thought better of Christian militarism- after he had his young man’s fill of killing folks.
But as with so many kingdom insights, a little history isn’t enough. I needed a direct teaching of the Holy Ghost (and then another strong dose of scripture) before I could really grasp Jesus’ literal turn the other cheek-love you enemies message.
Oh I had wrestled with man’s capital punishment and dialed down my faith in man’s justice about ten years ago. That was a good start.
But pacifism? That’s a big leap. Mention peace dear Christian, mention alternatives to the better weapons-better economy mantra, mention collateral damage and civilian casualities, and otherwise peaceful and passive folks spring to life: “What about Hitler? Yes what about Hitler? He created an empire and conned all the “Christians” of Europe. Perhaps if we “Christians” had stayed practiced at resisting empires and promoting holiness and real faith, the brief Nazi empire never would have grown that strong.
And likewise perhaps we could have avoided the abominations of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation whereby one stripe of Christian killed another stripe of Christian, and they both killed the pacifist Anabaptists, because there’s something they could agree on! At least Menno Simons (1496-1561), got us to back to even (temporarily) thinking that we might have a higher standard within our spirits than the world, and back to the plain example of Jesus:
The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife.They are children
of peace who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their
spears into pruning hooks, and know of no war. They render unto
Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are
God’s. Their sword is the sword of the Spirit which they wield with a good
conscience through the Holy Ghost. (“Militarist Christendom and the
Gospel of the Prince of Peace.” (Daniel H. Shubin, Feb. 2007)
Back to the Holy Ghost's role in this- I was in Houston for a short bit of time, back about a year ago. And just down the road toward the Fiesta Grocery and the plaza sprawl, was a very modest Mennonite Church. So every time I’m going out the door I can’t miss this church.
And it starts to loom in my spirit and mind, every day, day after day. Now I’m thinking to myself “Lord I’ve gone far enough already becoming a Zionist Pentecostal and all that, now are you going to make me a pacifist Mennonite too? Here I am chasing the big city church dream (I did meet Joel Osteen), and the only apparent thing God is doing is making me consider pacifism, again and again. Bringing it up, bringing it up. Sort of like when he made me drop stuff and follow him, and forgive everybody, and all the rest of it! Hounding me like.
Well then he took me to Hebrews 12, and finished me off. There God told the former temple priests now living in barren cultic exile, nostalgic for the richness of the Temple cult, not to lash out at the pagan and hostile Roman world or their fellow non Christian Jews (who considered them cowards for not fighting Rome back in Jerusalem in 66AD): v. 14 “Seek peace with all people..” Literally (not to mention that your very existence and survival may depend on it).
Then he opened my eyes to verses 22 and 23: that just as the first born sons of Israel, later the Levites (Nm. 3,6-10), were totally dedicated as a priesthood to God in exchange for his deliverance of the Hebrew firstborns during the Exodus (Nm. 8,17), so are we Christians a first born priesthood, totally dedicated (not our own), in exchange for Calvary.
And thus, like the Levites of old (the thirteenth tribe, charged with the care of the Temple not militarily protecting the land, of which they had no inheritance), we have no inheritance other than God’s presence and service as a royal priesthood (1Pt. 2,4-5). Moses as a Levite never fought in any war. And Jesus, as a better priest from an even better order than the Levitical, never did either.
And then there’s David longing to build the temple. But you know this stuff- he was forbidden because he was occasionally a violent man (1Kings5,17). His hands were stained with blood, and whether that blood was shed justly made no difference at all. This task was left to Solomon, a man of peace, who ruled in a time of peace.
Moreover, as the living stones in a new faith temple, as builders or even constitutors of Christ’s risen Body-Temple (that was once slain by violence), we are not above our master.
Dear Christians friends, perhaps it’s time for you to wrestle with Matthew 5,38-41. But beware I tried and lost:
You have heard it said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, ‘do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
I think if more of us Christians would open our spirits up to the fullness of God’s word, we would not have a world frantic with weapons and war. If we wrestled with the word and the Spirit about these matters, I think we’d be more aware of what it means to come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, enrolled as citizens of heaven.
Those of us baptized in the Spirit, might also remember that day and how heaven came down, how we became temples. Thus, we act and live differently than the world. We also might understand how the Assembly of God 100 years ago was doctrinally pacifist as was the rest of the fledgling Pentecostal movement (A/G Heritage, winter 1986-87).
Finally, consider how and why the book of Revelation ends all our scripture without any man or empire getting any glory at all, for any violence at all, either in defense of Israel, or against Israel’s enemies, or for or against any of God’s peoples, or for or against any part of God’s creation.
No the only glory by way of violence will come in the way of God’s judgment, upon all that won’t accept Christ. It’s as if God is saying that the only violence a close follower should look for is the earthly vindication of the early martyrs and Jesus, who were decidedly peacemakers.
Lord give us the faith to pray Psalm 76,2-4: "God has made Himself known in Judah, His name is great in Israel; Salem became his abode; Zion his den. There he broke the fiery arrows of the bow, the shield and the sword of war."
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...