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Was Jesus a pacifist?

Pacifists believe it is wrong to go to go to war, fight, own or carry weapons, or participate in any sort of violence. Most pacifists have a moral or religious reason for being against violence. Pacifists will not participate in war because they feel it goes against their personal values and convictions. Jesus is our "prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6), so does that mean He is a true pacifist who wants only peace for the world? Well, not necessarily.

How did Jesus view weapons and the military?

When a Roman centurion humbly asked Jesus to heal his servant, insisting the soldier himself was unworthy for Jesus to come all the way to his home, Jesus commended him for his faith and healed the servant (Matthew 8:5-13). If Jesus did not believe in the career this Roman man had chosen, Jesus could have told him to quit the army, but He didn't.

As John the Baptist was giving godly advice to different kinds of people (Luke 3:10-13), and some soldiers asked him, “What should we do?” John could have instructed them to drop their weapons and leave their posts, but he didn't. Instead, he told them how to be noble soldiers: “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14).

The twelve disciples each carried weapons with them during Jesus' ministry (Luke 22:37-39). Jesus never told them carrying weapons was wrong. He only corrected Peter’s action of misusing a weapon when Peter attacked one of the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus. Jesus healed the injured man and went with them peaceably. (See Luke 22:49-51.)

The Need for War & Peace

In the Old Testament, there are numerous accounts of Israel going to war, which were all commanded by God (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). In the battle recorded in Joshua, Israel was marching in to take over Jericho (Joshua 6:20-21). Joshua 5:14 describes the man who led Israel’s army out as "the commander of the Lord's army." Biblical scholars believe this man was Jesus!

During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He emphasized the need for peace. He taught non-violence and told His disciples the importance of "turning the other cheek" rather than getting even (Matthew 5:38-44). We call Jesus the “prince of peace” because He will one day bring true and lasting peace to all creation. So while peace is what we ought to aim for, the Bible also teaches that war is sometimes necessary (Psalm 144:1).

Jesus told His disciples: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36). Jesus knew that God's truth would cause conflicts between even the closest of friends and family.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says there's a time for everything—including building and tearing down, love and hate, and, yes, war and peace too. These aren't tenets of pacifism. When we look at the book of Revelation, we learn that there will be a great war when Jesus returns to defeat the Antichrist and his forces (Revelation 19:11). In fact, Jesus is described as having a sharp sword coming out of His mouth and a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15), and He will be wearing a robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13).

The Battle Between Good & Evil

On a spiritual level, the Bible teaches that there's a real battle going on between good and evil. Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." God has given us armor to fight and defend against the evil of our enemy, Satan (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Romans 12:18 tells us, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Note that the author says "if possible" here. That means that sometimes peace is NOT the answer. We cannot be pacifistic when waging war against injustice, aggression, or genocide. Sometimes force IS necessary. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God wants us to aim for peace with others, but we should never be at peace with evil.

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TL;DR

Jesus did teach peace, yet He was not a pacifist. Jesus’ disciples carried weapons, and He never condemned them for it (Luke 22:37-39). The Bible teaches there's a time for peace and a time and for war (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Jesus is the “prince of peace,” and He's also going to return with a sword coming out of His mouth to destroy evil (Isaiah 9:6; Revelation 19:15). We are to aim for peace with others, but we are not to be at peace with evil. Believers may own weapons or serve in the military as God wills.

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

Writer/Editor: Catiana N.K.

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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