“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12.17-19

We live in a world obsessed with violence. You turn on the news and hear of wars fought both overseas and at home. The United States government has turned video games into reality and now war can be waged from behind a computer screen while heartless drones injure and kill countless thousands. Then, when robots won’t suffice, they send well-programmed human killing machines to do the work. And as if that is not bad enough, the government is now making its intentions clear that it plans to invade the lives and homes of its own citizens in order to steal more of their property, guns in particular. But the violent government is not the only group obsessing over guns and violence. While they plan their attack on American citizens, many otherwise good people are buying weapons and preparing to defend themselves and their families with violent force.

What I am about to say here is for those of us who follow Jesus. When he walked the earth, he laid out a brand-new way of living in a world much like ours today.

When Jesus came into the world, he came into the very center of conflict. Israel was a crucial junction between Rome to the west and Asia to the east. It was critical that Rome keep control of it, no matter the cost. The Israelites were a proud people and armed resistance was common. Assassinations were a daily reality. When Jesus arrived, the Jews were looking for a leader to defeat the Romans and drive them from their land. That is why his disciples asked him, “Now are you going to set up your kingdom!?!?” (Luk 19.11; Act 1.6) They expected him to send out a call to arms at any moment.

But that was never his intention. The kingdom he came to set up is “not of this world” (Jhn 18.36). In other words, it does not fit within the structure and ways of the world. The kings of this world vie for power and take it by force (Mat 11.12; 20.25). But Jesus knew that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26.52). He instead advocated a way of life where if someone takes your goods, you willingly let them take them and do not even ask for them back (Luk 6.30). To the world’s way of thinking, that is absolutely crazy. But Jesus took it even further and told his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luk 6.27-28). While their desire had been to kill and drive out their enemies, Jesus left the people with a new challenge, a challenge to love (Jhn 13.34-35). They had to ask themselves the important questions, “Can I love my enemy while killing them? Am I doing good to my enemy by using violence against them? Can I bless and pray for my enemy while attempting to spill their blood?

The church was primarily pacifist until the time of Constantine when the church came to believe that it could make Jesus’ kingdom physical through force. That was a terrible experiment which we are still suffering through today.

Jesus’ followers are to be set apart from the world, and a life lived the way of Jesus is very different from the way of the world. It is impossible to not be set apart when you only pledge your allegiance to God (Act 5.29), when you love your enemies and do good to those who oppress you. Everyone around you will know you are different when you begin treating every living human being as your neighbor (Luk 10.29-37), and love them as yourself (Luk 10.27).

We have seen these truly set-apart people throughout history. Two examples are the Quakers and the Anabaptists. During the Catholic church’s wars against the Muslims, the Anabaptists experience extreme persecution because they were unwilling to join in the fight. Their stance of non-violence made them stand out and they became seen as a threat and were dealt with violently. Then later, during the American Revolution, the Quakers stood their ground as pacifists yet were treated as enemies by the American “patriots.” History shows time and again that the nonviolent lifestyle brings violent persecution. Maybe that is why Jesus warned his followers multiple times that persecution would always follow them.

Today we have a chance to stand out once again, to truly live like Jesus and let our lives be a clear contrast to the world around us. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can live out Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. This is our chance to be salt and light (Mat 5.13-14) in a world set on its own destruction. This is a time for us to be set apart.

(originally posed at Simple-Truth.org)

Views: 245

Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 21, 2013 at 7:53pm

This is a recently approved minute by The Manhasset Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends:

The recent elementary school shooting at Sandy Hook, CT has triggered another wave

of anti-gun rhetoric, especially among the Country’s politicians who are quick to

promote any topic that will present them with a soapbox. While members of our

meeting might have different views on the need for the public’s need for access to

guns and the wisdom of including what is thought by many to be such a right in our

country’s constitution, there is no such division amongst us on our opposition to the

cult of violence spawned by the proliferation of violent Movies and video games.

While the Media is quick to rightly highlight the ease of the mentally disturbed’s

ability to acquire lethal weapons, they shunt aside the equally valid arguments that

the violence depicted in movies and video games depicting the “misunderstood”

outcast as a hero by violently attacking his enemies is playing an important role in our

society’s rapid descent into one marred by ever more frequent outbursts of

unexpected deadly violence in previously “safe” quarters such as schools and


Understanding that the Media is reluctant to criticize the depiction of violence

because of the reasonable fear of jeopardizing the right of freedom of speech so

intrinsic to their own existence, it is evident that those most affected by this

unacceptable violence have to take matters into their own hands by boycotting all

violent movies and video games until the purveyors of such no longer find it

financially expedient to operate in that business.

With liberty comes responsibility and rather than complain about what others should

do to solve the problem of unacceptable violence in our society we should recognize

our own role, passive or otherwise, in the creation of the present commercialization

of violence and take the necessary actions available to us to cut off the economic

blood stream of this burgeoning industry. We therefore urge all those who find the

current depiction of violence objectionable to refuse to spend any money on or invest

in any company that produces violent films and/or video games and to take whatever

action they deem necessary in good conscience to make known their objection to the

acceptance of the current cult of violence and to raise awareness of such objections

in their communities.

Comment by Syd Salsman on 1st mo. 22, 2013 at 12:07am

This is wonderful! I found the part about early Christian pacifism and pacifist Christians throughout history particularly interesting.

I could not agree more with this.

Comment by Randy Oftedahl on 1st mo. 22, 2013 at 8:12am

Friend James;

So...your Meeting "has different views on the public’s need for access to guns" but is unified in its objection to fictionalized accounts of the access to guns....ok, I won’t even go there.

My question to Friends, however, is whether "secularized" arguments or positions that advocate a political stand, whether collectively or individually, present a real witness to the world about who we are as Friends - and why we are? When Friends make any kind of corporate statement, is it only for internal consumption, a way for us to feel in agreement about some small thing, perhaps to feel good or righteous about ourselves? Or are we trying to say something about where Truth has led us in order to call the world to look toward that same Truth? And if we believe that Truth has been revealed to us by God, why don’t we say so? Why would we cloak this revelation in the vernacular of political debate and "rational argument"?

To put it another way, the value of the Queries to Quakers, IMHO, has never been in what it tells the outside world about what to do or what is right. The Queries are questions we ask ourselves (and/or our Meetings) about whether we are living up to the Light we claim has been given us. How faithful are we? What do WE need to change in ourselves? And if we have been faithful to that Witness does not our lives speak our witness sufficiently and make our need to take "positions" on "issues" unnecessary? Forgive me, Friends, these are questions I am asking myself and I’m taking this opportunity to share the struggle I’m having with collective political statements with Friends here.

Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 23, 2013 at 5:53pm

Friend Randy:  I think you missed the point of the minute or it's possible that the point got lost in the verbiage.  The minute isn't suggesting or recommending political action but asking those individuals who feel repulsed by violence to do something in their own life to reject it.  It is raising the question of individual responsibility on an individual basis, it is not calling for political action.  I agree wholeheartedly with you that Friends should be on a journey of individual transformation but as the letter of James points out (Faith without Works is dead) such transformation, if and when it occurs, should lead to an outward expression for good.

Comment by Randy Oftedahl on 1st mo. 24, 2013 at 7:43am
Friend James,

Thank you and of course what you say is true. I wasn’t really responding specifically to your Meeting’s Minute, though I realize upon re-reading my post, it sounds like it. Forgive me. My intent was to raise a more general question - one which I’ve been wrestling with for some time - about the Quaker practice of Minuting concerns. How do these concerns arise among us? Are they in response to the stirrings of the Spirit or are they reactions to the events of the world? Why do they often have such a feeling of “timeliness”, and is this a good thing or not such a good thing?

But I realize this was also not in response to Friend Ryan’s post, so perhaps this is not the appropriate place to raise this. So let me sit with this a while and perhaps I will ask some of these questions in a separate post. I would like to know if other Friends are struggling with these questions as I am.

Randy O
Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 24, 2013 at 9:31am

I think your questions about minutes is well worth expounding on.  I think it's very easy to prepare a minute on a topic based solely on one's political viewpoint on a "hot" topic.  I hope that isn't what has happened at Manhasset.  We have had two minutes in the two plus years I have been there.  Both concern political issues in some way.  However, the minutes themselves arose from the spirit rather than the newspaper or in this day and age the internet.  At least to the extent that I can determine.  As with the exercise of vocal ministry the subjects were wilfully put aside when they first arose but kept coming back and when put to pen flowed fairly easily.  Plus there was quick unanimity when put before the meeting.  "Fracking" on the other hand is brought up once in a while but there is no sense of the meeting to act on it.  Like many things it's a "sense" reading of the spirit and not an intellectual decision but it does take an acute awareness that there is a difference.  So your point is one that we must continuously be made aware of by yourself and others.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Comment by Jay Thatcher on 1st mo. 27, 2013 at 11:19am

Randy, I have shared your questions and doubts on the practice of writing minutes of concern.  I'll be interested in what you're led to as you sit with it. 

My questions about the practice have included yours, as well as, "Does it matter to anyone else what we can say together about an issue?  Would it matter to others if we did something practical?"

Thank you for your faithfulness in addressing this.


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