Home » Departments » To Our Core

Called to suffer and not to fight

by Harriet Bicksler

We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and nonviolent resolution of conflict.

I suspect that most people prefer peace over conflict. Although North Americans generally don’t view violence and war as ideal, the majority see them as acceptable solutions. And the majority of the Christian Church basically agrees.

However, the Brethren in Christ belief in pursuing peace rather than war is more than 200 years old, with our current confession of faith reading, “Christ loved His enemies and He calls us as His disciples to love our enemies. We follow our Lord in being a people of peace and reconciliation, called to suffer and not to fight. . . . [W]e reject all acts of violence which devalue human life.”

This commitment to peace is rooted in our reading of the Bible. Although the Old Testament contains many stories of the Israelites going to battle under God’s orders, it also includes His admonitions that they were not to trust in their own strength or in military might for their deliverance: “A king is not saved by the size of his army. . . .But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him” (Ps. 33:16–18). Proverbs 25:21–22 promotes mercy toward enemies: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” And the prophets foretold how Jesus, the “suffering servant,” would absorb violence. They offered visions of a future in which nations would “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isa. 53, 2:3–4; Micah 4:1–4).

Because we Brethren in Christ place more emphasis on the life and teachings of Jesus as the culmination of God’s revelation to His people, the example of Christ is central to our belief in pursuing peace. Before Jesus’ birth, Zechariah talked about the one who would “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). The angels, on the night of Jesus’ birth, declared peace on earth and goodwill to all (Luke 2:14). Christ’s most famous sermon blessed peacemakers, calling them God’s children, and described a new way to respond to enemies (Matt. 5). At the time of his arrest, Jesus didn’t fight back and told Pilate that His disciples wouldn’t either (John 18:36). The early Church continued this teaching, with Paul and Peter, in their letters, instructing their readers to “live at peace with everyone,” to “overcome evil with good,” and to “seek peace and pursue it” (Rom 12:17–21; 1 Pet. 2:21–23, 3:10–11).

Recognizing that God created each person in His image, we reject violence in all its forms. But we also reject the conclusion that peacemaking is passive. For us Brethren in Christ, peacemaking is active, as we take part in reconciliation and sacrificial service, pursue nonviolent responses to conflict, and work for justice for the poor and oppressed.

Permission granted to excerpt portions of Focusing Our Faith by Evangel Press

This article originally appeared in the fall 2009 issue of In Part magazine.
Harriet Bicksler

Harriet Bicksler is a communications consultant for the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. A member of Grantham (Pa.) BIC Church, she has been the editor of Shalom! A Journal for the Practice of Reconciliation for 28 years.

More "To our Core"

No boundaries

Christ’s call to limitless love of God and neighbor

Guardrails, centerlines, and travel lanes

Limits and leeway on the highway of biblical interpretation

The beauty in the mess

Following Jesus and finding community

Related articles

  • Is the BIC U.S. peace position still relevant in our current context?
  • In the 300 years following Christ’s death, leaders in the Early Church disagreed about all sorts of issues, but they spoke unanimously about one: violence of any kind among followers of Christ.

  • If we’re going to be Christians in politics, Jesus must be Lord—not instant effectiveness, not what the world thinks is right.

Comments

There are currently no comments for this story. Be the first!

Post new comment

Your email will not be made public.
Tip: You may use <strong> and <em> HTML tags if you want.
By clicking "save," I affirm that I have expressed my thoughts with civility, courtesy, and respect. I understand that while thoughtful disagreement is fine, personal attacks, prejudicial assumptions, and insensitive language are unacceptable and will not be published.