Pacifism?

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Artwork by Elhanan ben Avraham

There are some in the Christian world who believe and teach that “Yeshua preached pacifism.” Let’s take a look and see if that is accurate, or not.

The Ten Commandments does not say “You shall not kill” but, “You shall not murder

– a clear distinction in its original Hebrew (לרצח-להרוג l’harog vs. l’rtzoach), and clearly defined in the Torah.  To kill in self-defense or defense of one’s home in warfare is not forbidden. Some sins against God’s specific command have been when one did not kill an enemy, such as King Saul not killing and completely destroying Amalek (1 Samuel 15), whose seed then continued to persecute the Jews throughout the generations, including Haman in the book of Esther, and up to the Nazis.

The commands of Yeshua regarding “Turn the other cheek” etc. were relating to intra-communal relationships in the spirit of the Torah command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” not regarding invading armies or criminals coming to rape or murder one’s wife or daughter. The New Testament does not preach pacifism. Had it not been for those brave men (many of them devout Christians) who stormed the beaches of Normandy to defeat the evil of Hitler, where might we be today?  We saw how Neville Chamberlain’s attempt to pacify Hitler led only to disaster and the death of millions. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” said the Messiah. In real terms and not merely rhetorical, who fulfills this more than the defending soldier.

With no hint at condemning, the Messiah comments on war: “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace” (Luke 14:31-32).

In light of the coming Roman persecutions and destructions, the Messiah said to His disciples: ‘He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

When queried by the military, John the Baptist said only: ‘Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14). Those swords were not for peeling oranges.

 

The apostle Paul’s advice to all: ‘For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reasonThey are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer’ (Romans 13:3-4).

The New Testament does teach to seek peace, but does not preach passifism to achieve peace.