“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that?”
These were, of course, the words of Jesus of Nazareth. Yet 2,000 years later, evangelical Christians are among the most fervent supporters of the war in Iraq. This is very odd, as evangelical Christians take the Bible literally. But if one does that, then it becomes clear that true Christians should be opposed to war in any form.
Jesus himself speaks out against using force. According to Christ, “Do not resist the one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Perhaps the clearest indication of the disdain with which Christ viewed violence comes from the day leading up to his crucifixion. When he was arrested, a disciple attempted to lift a sword in his defense, but Jesus warned him, saying “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Faced with arrest, torture and his death, Christ still refused to lift a hand in his defense. And as he stood upon the cross, he forgave his murderers. And as your Father in Heaven is perfect, should you not also be perfect? Like Christ, a true Christian should never lift a hand in his own defense.
But even if you are not allowed to defend yourself, is a Christian allowed to defend someone else? According to the apostle Paul, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
It is noteworthy too that during his ministry on Earth, Christ met many unjust men who oppressed others, from tax collectors to legionaries. But he used his words and actions to persuade them, not the threat of force.
Even if you are killing someone who is wicked, what does that mean? Are we to believe that no one who is innocent dies in war? If it is wrong to kill someone, even in self-defense, how could it be right to go to war if it means killing others who have done nothing wrong? If what “you do to the least of his brothers, you do to him,” how can it be that a war is a righteous act?
In the years before his death, Paul wrote that one should “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It is depressing that, almost 2,000 years later, people have not taken his words to heart.