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Was Jesus A Pacifist As Defined By Webster?

Definition of PACIFIST

2: strongly and actively opposed to conflict and especially war

Does that definition describe Jesus? No! Although He never engaged in or even defended Himself against violence, and charged His followers to do the same, He did not strongly and actively oppose conflict or war by unbelieving nations or people. On the contrary the Bible declares that it is God who establishes kings and kingdoms to do His will to punish and judge, and Paul states in Romans that these kings and kingdoms bare not the sword in vain, and is it not Jesus who will return and smite the nations, and tread out the winepress of God's wrath? Jesus did not disapprove of war, only that His followers should not participate in it; or violence of any kind.

As we move toward the end of the age, with all of what that means in terms of violence and war, what should the Christian position be? Should Christians support, oppose, or remain neutral as to war and military service? The position of Jesus must be the position of every follower of His if we claim to be Christians.

In America, as it is in most other countries I suppose, patriotism and national allegiance are honorable positions, but are they “Christian” positions? Most of the Christian denominations are considered to be “warring” denominations, by the Government, when the question of conscientious objector status is brought up. This is not surprising considering that it is very often Christians who lead the charge in the debate of “just war.” They are the first to stand, and recite with the loudest voices, the Pledge of Allegiance, and in singing the National Anthem.  What is the Biblical position that Christians should follow? And, if they are following a contrary position, why are they following it, and where did that position come from?


The question of whether or not Jesus was a Pacifist is not a fair question. Since we know God never changes, being “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and we know that Jesus will return to tread the winepress of the wrath of God, then we can say with confidence that Jesus was not, and is not, a Pacifist. Did Jesus come to show us a new way to run the earth by ridding it of war? No! He came to show us a way out, by following His example of faith and trust in a supernatural God. He came to save us from the evil that rules the earth, not to establish a new theocratic world government of men based on the faulty idea that all mankind can be convinced to live peaceably. 

I really don’t like the word “pacifist” much, it has been hijacked by the liberals, who are for the most part pacifist, but for a worldly kingdom, and not the Kingdom of God. They are really humanist who use pacifism as a political tool to engineer a man made peace on earth, which is impossible, if you believe the Bible. If we say yes, Jesus was a Pacifist, then we protest, picket, and run off to join Jim Wallis and his band of liberal Christian humanist, exploiting politics and theology for an ecumenical one world government.

But, if we say that Jesus was not a Pacifist, we join the ranks of the “just war” advocates and ally ourselves with the evil of mass destruction, and to the government that promotes it, and drape the cross in red, white, and blue.

Jesus was neither for or against war, as far as the question pertains to the world. Both of the arguments above have their roots in the flesh of men. They both start in the minds of men and reason their way to a presupposed conclusion. They both get what they want at the expense of truth.

The words pacifist and pacifism are worldly terms that conjure up images that are packed with worldly ideals, none of which reveal the mind of Jesus. We cannot force Jesus to conform to our definitions and to model Himself as a hippie or a warlord; Jesus will not follow us, we must follow Him. Neither ignoring His plain words, like the mass of conservative nationalistic evangelicalism does, or contorting His meanings, like the old school liberal camp and the more resent emerging Christianity, will work. Disobedience and rebellion are a malignant cancer in both camps.

As practicing Christians we must impose this limitation in our search for facts, are those facts true, according to Scripture. On the surface this statement may seem obvious. You may say, “well of course, the Bible is the final word on any subject, so why state something so apparent?” Because, although, the truth is apparent it always seems to have the habit of disappearing in a cloud of human reasoning. The Bible warns us in both the Old and the New Testaments to not trust human reasoning, but we cannot resist the temptation to take a position founded on what we conclude to be a very rational thought process. 

Prov. 14:12, 16:25 "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

Prov. 3:5 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." 

1 Cor. 1:20-21 "Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

1Cor. 3:18-20 “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS’; and again, ‘THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.’”

Why is the Lord so adamant about not trusting our ability to reason through a problem and coming to, what we might consider, a logical conclusion? The answer is, that we do not have the ability to reason properly since those days in the Garden of Eden, and that apple thing. Satan was right about having our eyes opened to both good and evil. Only now all of our cherished opinions and decisions are tainted with error. Every little task we now undertake has to be run through the infected database of our minds and heart. We rightly question whether or not we have made right choices. We ask our friends, search it out on the internet, and run it by the pastor, and are still deluded because we have not believed the plain written words of our Lord; the only one who can think straight and who has the power to discern correctly between good and evil; He says, "trust Me." 


Did Jesus exhibit the characteristics of a "pacifist" while He walked upon this earth? Yes, He appeared to be a pacifist. But, He was not. When Jesus comes the second time He will be no pacifist, but a roaring Lion, to tread out the winepress of the wrath of His Father, and to present a deed, that was purchased on Calvary. He will come as the conquering King, not a sacrificial Lamb, and declare war on all evil and unbelief.


It is Jesus’ first appearance, as the Paschal Lamb that we are to emulate. It is His cross that we are to likewise bear; it is His life that we are to present to the world, over and over again, as we follow the Master. The Lamb is our life, the humble Lamb, the meek Lamb, the weak and lowly Lamb. The life of Jesus should be the life of His followers.


This sounds all very simple, as it should be, yet there are those who disagree and argue that God supports and even promotes “just war.” In other words God approves and blesses Christians who fight as individuals, or in league with national allegiance, to suppress evil or defend the weak. 


Is this true? The truth is more important than any pet doctrine or allegiance to a flag. 


It seems that every little fragment of truth that we gather puts us more and more outside the circle of the general opinion or the consensus of Christian belief, either on the one side or the other.  Is it possible that truth is so rare that those who find it also find that they rarely agree with others who profess to follow the same Jesus you follow? The simplicity of Jesus, seems to be itself, veiled in complicated darkness and hidden from the sight of those who follow from a distance. They are more concerned with the pretty stones along the seashore than the mighty rolling glory of the Sea itself. But, many there are who look for pretty stones, and miss out on the preciousness, power, and cruelty of the sea. To follow Jesus will drive a wedge between what could be, lasting relationships, if the simplicity of Jesus becomes a reality in your life. 

If you were to ask the average person what Jesus preached – even the mediocre Christian – you'd no doubt hear something about love: "Jesus taught about love. He said we should all love each other." This perception of Jesus' teaching isn't wrong. Jesus did talk a lot about love. In fact he said that loving God is the greatest commandment and loving our neighbors is next (Mark 12:29-31). So, love figured prominently in the message of Jesus.


But love was not the core of Jesus' message. And, his preaching about love didn't get Him hung on a cross. Neither the Romans nor the Jews would have been particularly bothered by a Jewish prophet who ran around telling people to love God and people. A lot of Jews would not have appreciated His love of their enemies, but the Romans  wouldn't have crucified someone whose main crime was telling Jews to love them and turn the other cheek. The bone of contention with Jesus' message must have been more abrasive, indeed, more disgraceful, than a call to love your enemies.

Jesus' message was anything but pacifistic. He says of Himself that He, "came not to bring peace, but a sword." Jesus came to declare war against evil, using the tools of meekness, and obedience to the will of the Father, as a weapon of mass destruction to all who reject Him. What He doesn't win over with His immense, pure, complete, and everlasting display of love will be forever vanquished from His presence in a place the polar opposite of love, which can only be called pure Hell.  

Jesus spoke many times of the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth as a conquering force. He gave parables about the Kingdom and its King and His intentions.

Lk. 14:31 "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?"


Lk. 13:6-9 "He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’"

Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom was not a message of a pacifist; He was delivering a stern warning, and it was understood as such by those who killed Him.

The kingdom of God has been equated with all sorts of things in the last two millennia. Some have claimed that it is heaven, and that Jesus was saying, in so many words, "Now you can go to heaven when you die." Others have understood "the kingdom of God" as referring to the Church. From their perspective, Jesus announced the beginning of the age of the Church. Still others have seen the kingdom of God as a world infused by divine justice. They have taken Jesus' announcement as a call to social action. In recent times, New Agers have reduced the kingdom of God to inner awareness of one's divinity. Like the ancient Gnostics, they understand the good news of the kingdom to mean "You are divine."

Jesus was unleashing the power of God into the world through His sacrificial act and that it would be carried on by the sacrificial acts of all His followers.

His message is; The Kingdom of God is coming, God is establishing His direct rule or government in the earth, and this government will be manifested through Messiah (Jesus) (Psalms 2), and His warning is, repent or perish, that is the terms for peace. The government of the whole world will "rest on His shoulders." Human self-determination will end, and "every knee will bow."

All the false dreams of nationalism, patriotism, and pacifism will be extinguished, and then we will come face-to-face with reality, because God is the God of reality.


2 replies on “Was Jesus A Pacifist As Defined By Webster?”

Exceptional, Steve!  Jesus Christ is our wisdom for every situation, whether to be silent or speak boldly before kings.  If you don't mind, I can't resist adding my two cents.  I've mentioned this other places before, as well as my own blog, but I think your topic demands it.  The pacifists will highlight the verses which tell us Jesus was meek to substantiate their agenda.  However, here's a quote by Donald Barnhouse magnificently illustrating the oft misunderstood term:
”What is meekness? Many people have a totally wrong idea of it, but they can learn the true meaning by listening to jockeys and horse-trainers after a horse race.  The horse that wins the race is ‘the meekest on the track’. This is the horse most under control, the horse that responds most quickly to the jockey’s guidance. The self-willed horse, the factious horse, is frequently left at the post; when he does get started he may run faster than some of the others, but he does not finish with the leaders who were meek.  In the Word of God, meekness is presented to us as a vertical virtue, not as a horizontal one.  Meekness is the way a man stands before God – even as Moses was able to stand before Pharaoh – he is bolder than any man.”
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Psalm 37:11
Excerpt from “Let Me Illustrate” by Donald Grey Barnhouse
By the way, I'm having tremendous fun playing with the many cool options I'm given in this comment box…I hope my comment shows up in spite of my creative genius 😉 .


Your comments are coming through just fine.

Thanks for the response. This is a subject that many will have to deal with in the near future I am afraid. Christians participating in the military was a thing “out of the question” in the early Church. It is out of the question because the Bible is very clear as to the directions the followers of the new Commander in Chief are take. But, patriotism seems so much in line to the Christians of today, but it is simply not Biblical. As you have rightly said, it is not because of weakness, but meekness. On the contrary, those who oppose the temptation to join with the patriots show what great strength must taken in not aligning themselves with the nationalistic spirit of the times to bow to a flag or vow allegiance to men. If you don’t stand during the singing of the national hymn you will draw a lot of attention, but so be it, I will not do it ever again, God forgive me for my past ignorance.

Blessings to you Pearl,

The Lord is looking for strength through weakness,

Steve Blackwell

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