Query: Do you promote the principles of peace, supporting Christian movements to do away with war and preparation for war?
“These are the End Times. Our world is in chaos, there are wars and rumors of wars. The Church is corrupted but there is new life springing forth. We are in the Apocalypse…and we will fight for The Lamb.” These were the early sentiments of Quakers. Quakerism began in the thick of a civil war. And, yes, even George Fox encouraged picking up sword and firing of muskets and artillery. He believed that the Final Battle was at hand.
It didn’t take him too long to realize he was wrong. His understanding of violence changed. When he was asked to join what was being called a holy army, he declined twice, saying that Christ had called him to use the weapons of the Holy Spirit to battle evil. Yet, he did not think there was a problem with others using violence and war to oppress evil.
But even within a decade, nearly all Quakers had become a peaceful people. It had become a significant part of being a Friend. Many accounts from individuals say that they chose to lay their weapons down because Jesus moved them to…and Scripture backed up that call.
And from that time forward, Quakers have been known as a Peace Church. It does not mean we are cowardly; it means we take the words of Jesus seriously. Quakers have wrestled just how far to live out the peace testimony.
Some say that as long as a Friend does not specifically enable the cause of war they are okay. Some argue that Quakers should avoid all connections with supporting the war effort. That is why you have some Friends who refuse to even pay income taxes because they know some of that will go to military spending. You have others who are fine paying the general tax but who are conscientious objectors. There are others who are willing to serve as medics or some other peripheral, non-combatant role. And there are many accounts of Quakers who have taken up the sword.
The peace testimony is something I find very hard to preach on…not because I don’t believe it to be true…but because I do not come to it naturally. Culturally, we lift up the strong man or woman. We lift up the tough guy who has fought their way through the battle.
But contrast it with the words and life of Jesus. Contrast our church with the words of Paul and Peter and the echoes of the early church concerning violence and war. There are plenty of arguments out there (Just Wars and the restraint of evil)…but are those the words of Jesus and his disciples? They are not.
Being peaceful as Jesus is peaceful is not a choice…Jesus clearly states that his people and his kingdom do not use the weapons and strategies of this world…we don’t use force to bring about peace.
Again, this is hard for me…my fallen nature actually wants to make the world better. That is Sin working its way out of me.
But I hope and pray that I am also striving to be more like Jesus. I hope that I am working to restrain my tendency toward encouraging the use of violence and power to solve the world’s problems; I pray that I am working to practice and encourage a sacrificial love. Lord, let me be sincere.
Today, as we enter into open worship, ask Jesus to search you…allow yourself to be honest before God…allow yourself to be changed before God.