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The peace piece

Do you teach peace and nonviolence at your church? Dan Longmore Marsh Creek BIC of Howard (Pa.)

If by “peace,” you mean having peace no matter the circumstances or being reconciled to one another, then yes. If you mean anti-war and world peace, then in my opinion, no. Jesus never taught that we could, or should, bring peace to the whole world. As John 16:33 says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Christians need to focus on inner peace and peace with their fellow brothers and sisters. Leave the world to sort out its own peace.

Scott Elkins Canoe Creek Church (Hollidaysburg, Pa.)

During my first year as a pastor, I was a little shocked after I preached on the peace position and was confronted by a few people who told me that we didn’t push the topic because it might offend the veterans in attendance. I finished the series, and one or two did get mad and leave, but most did not.

Maybe we have become so ingrained to think that we must defend ourselves that we have a right to retaliate against those that hurt us. But to me, nonviolence is the ultimate test of our dependence on Christ; obedience in a threatening situation is the best way to show loyalty to Jesus.

Eric Villnueva Desert Light Christian (Albuquerque, N.M.)

According to biblical record, John didn’t ask the Roman soldier to leave the army (Luke 3), nor Jesus the centurion whose servant He healed (Luke 7). Similarly, Paul didn’t ask the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), nor proconsul Serguis Paulus (Acts 13) to cease their work for the Roman Empire. Like the sons if Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12, we need to “understand the times and know what to do.”

For 16th-century Anabaptists, that meant not participating in an army created to support a corrupt government. Today, Brethren in Christ must continue to be true to conscience as the Spirit leads. However, that might look different than it did for our Anabaptist predecessors. Nothing in Scripture warrants that brothers and sisters who do serve as soldiers, police officers, or government officials should in any way be considered less of a believer.

Chris Hutton The Meeting House (Ottawa)

Yes, we do. This conversation has been uniquely interesting in our context in Ottawa, where many of our people are employed by the federal government or the military, and there has not historically been a lot of Anabaptist presence. Many people in our community are now for the first time asking the question, How do I love my enemies as Jesus did if I am involved in the governance of a nation?

Stephen Mead Bethel Community Church BIC (Cassopolis, Mich.)

I’m a new pastor, and this concept of non-military involvement and peaceful resolution played a great role in my decision to join the BIC. So do I preach peace at my church? Absolutely. Is it always popular with those present in the church service? No, I can honestly say it is not. But we must hold to the truth, for only it can set us free.

Kevin Rohr Amherst Community BIC Church (Massillon, Ohio)

There seem to be two kinds of peace: apostolic and debatable. Regarding debatable peace, there are those who believe the peace issue is akin to matters like what one eats, drinks, or whether or not one adheres to Sabbatarianism (cf. Romans14-15:7; 1 Corinthians 8-10). Apostolic teaching does not support adherence to peace based on issues of personal conscience.

However, there are a plethora of passages in which the mandate of apostolic teaching is that those who surrender (their life) to the Risen Christ, will, progressively and manifestly reject violence in every form and produce peace via the work of the Holy Spirit.

Do I teach peace? As a Fruit of the Spirit, yes I do, but much more importantly, I teach people to surrender to the Risen Christ so that the Holy Spirit may produce peace in, with, and through them.

John M. Keefer Mount Pleasant BIC (Mount Joy, Pa.)

I believe in our doctrine of peace not only because I've been raised Brethren in Christ but because it is biblical. As one observes our world today in 2011, one can certainly see the results of the lack of peace being promoted today. I do pray for our nation and our world and do preach on this important subject of peace. Love and peace are what Jesus Christ shared where ever He went while here on earth. I have always said that I would err on the side of compassion, even when, for Christ, it required me to take a defensive stand in love for the Gospel. Peace, I believe, will win the day if God's people will fast and pray along with our standing against sin. When Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes back then there will be true and lasting peace.

Keith Tyson Ashland (Ohio) BIC

I have not every preached a series on peace, but any time it is in the text, I point it out and our BIC understanding of it. This probably occurs 3-5 times a year.

We have also had a Sunday school class that used "The peace reader," co-edited by Luke Keefer, Jr., and E. Morris Sider.

Kimberly Tucker Dillsburg(Pa.) BIC

A Shalom Ministries Team has been established at our church to offer conflict coaches and provide other resources to all generations on peace, conscientious objection to war, conflict resolution, and bullying. In the past, we've had church retreats teaching about diversity, forgiveness, conflict resolution,and reconciliation. But the best way to teach peace and nonviolence is to live it. Our congregations need to have peacemakers living out our call to reconciliation given to us through Christ. I perceive that many in our congregation disagree with living a shalom lifestyle, but it is taught and preached to all ages.

Tim Harden Rosebank Church (Petersburg, ON)

As a member of the Commission on Ministry and Doctrine, I have the blessing of reviewing doctrinal questionnaires, and frankly, I’ve learned a great deal on the peace subject by reading the many perspectives that are presented by our prospective licensed pastors. As for us at Rosebank, I try to teach on the subject at least once per calendar year. Additionally, our ladies group went through the “Inglorious Pastors” series on peace produced by The Meeting House (Oakville, ON).

Larry Olson Light of Christ Fellowship (Des Moines, Iowa)

Our little church teaches that peace should be pursued and advanced wherever whenever possible, a stated principle advanced because of the teachings of Jesus. While we do not teach pacifism as a duty, we have established our primary commitment to be engaging our society. This creates tensions, but the tensions are worth it for the results.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2011 issue of In Part magazine.

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