This article originally appeared at WALReader.com, the website of our magazine.
The most common challenges to Christian pacifism are a host of hypothetical scenarios: What if someone broke into your house?; What if someone threatened your family?; What if someone [fill in the blank]?
The problem with these challenges though, is that they are aiming towards an entirely different goal post than than the one Christian pacifists are. All of these hypothetical challenges are predicated on the assumption that effectiveness is the goal: how effectively does pacifism protect you and yours?
But effectiveness isn’t a theological category or a moral standard.
I am not a pacifist because I believe the practice of pacifism is effective (though I do think that pacifism and peacemaking are a lot more effective than the world often gives them credit for being), I’m a pacifist because I believe that that is part of living in the way of Jesus. There are countless scenarios when the practice of pacifism can result in pain, loss, death even. But Jesus never promised security and strength to his followers (just the opposite actually).
I don’t think Jesus would be asking What do I do to the person threatening me?, but rather How can I help the person threatening me?. And if that answer likely would have resulted in his own harm, I don’t think that would stop him (see, the Crucifixion of Christ).
Furthermore, I readily admit that there are situations I can foresee where I likely would use violence. This however is not proof that pacifism is not attainable – it’s proof that I have yet to truly attain it. It’s not proof in the unholiness of pacifism – it’s only proof that there is is still plenty of sanctification left to be done in me.
The way of the cross is the rejection of violence, so any acceptance of violence is – at the least – a temporary denial of the power of Jesus’s way.