Was Jesus a pacifist?
A pacifist is generally defined as a person who is opposed to the use of violence for any reason. According to this definition, Jesus could not be defined as a pacifist.
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Why not? First, Matthew 10:34-36 teaches, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." Jesus clearly taught His role would include conflict.
Second, Jesus personally expressed the fact that war would take place until the end. He accepted the reality of war despite His peaceful role on earth. Matthew 24:6 notes, "you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet." This appears to confirm other biblical passages, such as Ecclesiastes 3:8: "a time for war, and a time for peace."
Third, Jesus is seen as a warrior upon His next return to earth when He will defeat Satan and those who oppose Him in the Battle of Armageddon and at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:7-10). Only after this time will there be a new heaven and new earth in which there is total peace and no need for conflict or war.
In contrast, some have seen Jesus as a peacemaker who stands opposed to all wars or violence. Reference is made to Jesus as the Prince of Peace or to the account where Jesus tells Peter to put away His sword as evidence of this view. Others argue that no one can love their neighbor as themselves or love their enemies as Jesus taught and still be involved in armed conflict. While these are important discussions that highlight the emphasis of Jesus to live at peace with others whenever possible (Romans 12:18), they do not remove the important facts that Jesus teaches about conflict in this world.
Paul taught, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Romans 12:17-19). Paul was clear some people do evil things and that believers are to live peaceably whenever possible, leaving vengeance to God. The Lord will right every wrong in the end. Yet until then we will continue to live in a world that includes violence and sometimes involves even Christians in conflicts.
It is evident from Scripture that Jesus was not a pacifist in the traditional sense. He lived peaceably on earth, yet spoke directly regarding the conflicts and wars that will take place until God restores all things in the end. While we long for peace and support it whenever possible, true peace will only be achieved when Jesus Christ rules in the new heavens and new earth.
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