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FIRST-PERSON: Jesus — a pacifist?

WASHININGTON (BP)–The White House Press Briefing Room seldom allows for theological debate, but a last-minute question from an “unbiased” journalist turned the White House press corps into unsuspecting seminary students.

As Press Secretary Ari Fleischer finished his work on Feb. 6, a final question flew toward the podium. A reporter referenced a letter sent to President Bush from the National Council of Churches expressing “unease” regarding the president’s “moral justification for war on Iraq.” Fleischer responded that the president was a “deeply religious man” and would act to protect the nation as commander-in-chief.

Stepping up to the pulpit, the presumptuous reporter began his sermon: “You just said the president is a deeply religious man. Jesus Christ was an absolute pacifist. How does the president square his militarism with Jesus’ pacifism?”

Several of his colleagues erupted in protest. “No, he wasn’t,” one reporter shouted. Another sought to educate the uninformed. “How about the time at the temple with a whip, where he beat those money-changers? Does that sound like he’s an absolute pacifist?”

Journalism as theology aside, was Jesus a pacifist?

Holy Scripture teaches that Jesus did not ultimately seek to bring about a better version of a fallen world, but to inaugurate a new kingdom where the present heavens and earth would be re-made with no trace of sin at the end of time. The nations will be his inheritance as all mankind bows to his authority. The drama of history marches on to bring to fulfillment all Christ accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Jesus achieved his goal through unconventional war. He came not to battle the visible pawns of power — the governmental leaders and tyrants of his time or ours — but the invisible principalities and powers of the world as presided over by Satan. Undoing the impact of mankind’s fall in the Garden of Eden demanded that he destroy not the fruit but the root of sin. Spiritual force had to be used to cast out sinful power — the sole source of all earthly tyranny, murder and war.

In the proper light, Jesus is seen as a mighty warrior who stopped at nothing to conquer evil. Jesus is revolutionary.

To suppose that this present age understands Jesus in ways contrary to John the Baptist and the apostles Paul and Peter is to think that eyewitnesses to Christ’s words and actions are less reliable than the opinions of modern theologians. C.S. Lewis said, “If Our Lord’s words are taken in the unqualified sense which the Pacifist demands, we shall then be forced to the conclusion that Christ’s true meaning, concealed from those who lived in the same time and spoke the same language, and whom he himself chose to be his messengers to the world, has at last been discovered in our own time.”

The very idea that Jesus was not a pacifist goes against the grain of prevailing liberal myths. He did instruct his followers to live peacefully with one another without vengeance, for God has delegated the power of the sword to the state as his authorized agent against the evil powers of the age. Yet many modern theologians and pastors tell the story of evil as the saga of vast impersonal forces at work with only the church to speak up for peace. War, a remnant of the fall, will remain constant in human existence until the end.

As tragic and horrible as war is, those ordering or involved in conflict with a moral justification can be assured that God is not against them.
Douglas Baker is a writer who lives and works in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

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