The Bible has thousands of verses concerning war and peace. Here are some of the main themes as summarized with permission of author, Ben Richmond, from the Friends United Meeting pamphlet titled, A Guide for Friends on Conscientious Objection to War. A complete copy of the pamphlet may be downloaded at www.fum.org/about/resources/COGuide_2001.pdf
· The prophets proclaimed that God’s goal in history was to bring peace. In the last days...They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Micah 4:1,3) See also Daniel 2:44-45; Zechariah 9:9-10; Revelation 21:1-4 and Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:2-7; 11:1-9; 65:17-25. Many of these prophecies are connected with the coming Messiah, whom Christians recognize as Jesus. “He will be called ... Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
early church understood that beginning with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
at Pentecost they were living in “the last days” (Acts 2:16ff, 1 John 2:18)
prophecies of peace were to be fulfilled. One early Christian, Justin,
quoted Micah 4:2,3 and then wrote: We can show you that this has really
happened. For a band of twelve men went forth from Jerusalem to teach to all
the Word of God; and [now] we who once killed each other not only do not make
war on each other, but…gladly die for the confession of Christ? It was, of
course, central to Jesus’ teaching, that “the
· Jesus acknowledged that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but,” he said, “see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come...Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:6,12,13). Part of standing firm is following his instructions: You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be [children] of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous ... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43ff ).
· This command to love enemies is simply to follow Jesus’ way of the cross, as he commanded we do (Luke 9:23ff). Just as God loved us, even when we were sinners (Romans 5:8f ), so we must love others (1 John 4:7-21). Love of enemies and the willingness to accept, rather than inflict suffering is an essential sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9-17; 12; 2 Corinthians 5: 16-6: 10; Ephesians 2:11-18; Philippians 2:5-1 1; 3:17-21; 1 Peter 4:12-19). Again and again, Jesus warned that he would have to suffer. He refused the temptation to seize political power (Matthew 4:8- 10) and withdrew from his followers when they wanted to make him king by force (John 6:15). When Jesus was arrested, Peter started to defend him, but Jesus said, “Put your sword away!” (John 18:1 1).
Exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in
is true that there are many texts in the Old Testament in which God is shown
ordering the people into battle. God’s goal was the establishment of the Kingdom
of God as a nation which God would rule directly, under the charismatic
leadership of the Judges. When the people of
· In the new covenant, the battle against evil is no longer fought with outward weapons, but by the power of the spirit. The Old Testament battle texts should be seen as “types” or “shadows” of the spiritual warfare discussed in the New Testament (Romans 12:1721; 2 Corinthians 10:3,4). The early Quakers understood themselves as participants in the spiritual war of the Lamb in which God first destroyed the power of Satan in their own lives and, through their long-suffering witness, would eventually come to rule all the earth. (See Revelation 12:7-12; 17:14; 20:7-10.)
· The Bible teaches that evil is not just “out there”; evil is inward (Mark 7:15) and is in all of us (1 John 1:8-10). According to the Book of Revelation, the victory of God is not accomplished with military might, but by “the Word of God” with a “sword that came out of the mouth” (Revelation 19:13,21). It is risky to claim to know when the final judgment of God will be something even Jesus said he did not know (Matthew 24:36). In fact, Jesus explicitly warned against engaging in this sort of speculation (Acts 1:7).