Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JESUS: The Prince of Peace (4 of 4)

By definition, we who call ourselves "Christians" should be followers of Jesus. Our Lord is known as the Prince of Peace. We are commanded to "Love one another" and to be known for our love. Jesus pronounced a blessing to those who would be peace makers saying, "Blessed are the peace makers for they shall inherit the Earth."

Yet, somehow, we who are called by His Name are not known for our great love. We are not known for our expertise on the ways of peace. Even though we are given the ministry of reconciliation, we are not the ones people come to when they hope to resolve conflict and experience peace in their lives.

What has happened?

It was not always this way. In our New Testament we find a seamless flow of love from our Lord to His disciples and from his disciples to the world.

In fact, for roughly 300 years the followers of Jesus were models of peace. Even though they were hunted and beaten and pursued and persecuted and put to death by the sword and wild animal, they did not raise a hand in retaliation. They shared all that they had with anyone in need and gave up their own daily bread to feed the hungry in their midst. For 300 years they were people of peace and examples of love to everyone they met.

Imagine that. Imagine 300 years of Christian history where not one recorded instance of violence is found in the record books where a follower of Jesus took a sword to another person or raised his hands in violence.

Something happened to change our tune. Someone stepped in and rearranged the music, and the saddest thing is: We listened.

When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 A.D. and established himself as the "Pontifex Maximus" of the Church he effectively unraveled 300 years of Christian pacifism and ushered in a new era where Christianity would be re-defined as a belief system rather than as a way of life.

In 316, Constantine acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the validity of Donatism (a Christian sect). After ruling that the Donatists were heretical in their faith, Constantine led an army of Christians against the Donatist Christians. For the first time in Christian History, after 300 years of pacifism, a Christian took up a sword aganst another person - and those people were other followers of Jesus.

This radical shift created by Constantine set in motion a series of changes to the Christian faith that are still being felt to this day. While the early Christians peacefully opposed the Empire and lived a life of quiet subversion against the pattern of this world, the new Christians (under Constantine) became the tool of the Empire.

To this day the Christian faith remains the puppet of the Empire. In America, the Christian Church has alligned herself with the State and has adopted the party message, seeking to influence the world through political means rather than through the transformative power of the Gospel.

I've met Christians who cannot imagine their Christian faith apart from an allegiance to the Republican Party. I've spoken to Christians who feel that the use of deadly force against another person is not only acceptable, it would be endorsed by Jesus. I've debated Christians who support the use of torture against other human beings as long as it means we can sleep safe in our beds at night.

These views are not in line with the words of Jesus. We have to divorce our faith in Christ from such blind Nationalism and rediscover what it means to submit to Jesus as our Lord, placing Him on the throne of our hearts.

If our allegiance is to Christ, then we must take seriously his commands to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We must wrestle with these difficult issues of ethics and faith.

Our calling as followers of Jesus is not only to avoid violence, it is to take the initiative to show love to our enemies and to bless those who want to bring violence against us.

These are not political issues, these are personal issues. These are matters of personal faith and obedience to the words of Jesus.

Either we love Him and we believe His words to be true, or we must admit that we've found another way that is more attractive to us than the Way of Christ and embrace the American Dream. We cannot have it both ways.

My prayer is that Christians in America would rediscover their original DNA as peaceful, loving followers of Jesus and jettison the Nationalized Christianity that enslaves us to the Empire.

Let us place Jesus back on the Throne of our hearts, and crown him again as King of the Church. Let us pledge allegiance to Christ and to His Kingdom, not to any man-made creed or political system.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
- Jesus (Matthew 5:25-30)


Anonymous said...

G'day Keith, how refreshing to read this series. The gospel of peace is all about Jesus.
I was a contributor on neobaptist.com 's blog on Baptist Pacifists in Australia in mid July, but it attracted so much vitiol in only 5 days [from anti-pacifists] that the blog was closed to further comment. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in explaining this aspect of our life in Christ.
a small potato

Anonymous said...

more than bein a good post -- which it is-- its encouraging to those of us who die daily, which is what it takes to be able to love ur enemies and do good to those who persecute u...

and fa me, i thank God that ther are believas who not only believe, but who say so, out loud...

thx fa this post...i havent read all but ima read th rest of the series today... be bless... -g-

Al Baker said...

Keith, please read my latest book review that speaks to the historically inaccurate record of Anabaptists during the Reformation regarding the Donation of Constantine. This is what drives your comment and refusal to face and remove inaccurate history of Constantine leading an army of Christians against Christians. It is wrong and you have been approached about it more than thrice.

Keith Giles said...

From "Contantine the Great" by Michael Grant:

"A second historic aspect of the Donatist schism lay in the fact that, when Constantine saw he could not get rid of it, he had employed forcible coercion (316): for he felt, at the time that this decision was amply justified....True, as we have seen, his employment of force did not last long, because Constantine's basic tolerance reasserted itself. Moreover it was reinforced by two considerations. One was that Diocletian's persecutions has shown that forcible treatment of Christians did not work....Nevertheless, he had used force; and this did immeasurable harm, and set a bleak precedent for every century to come." - page 167.

AND from Robinson Souttar; A Short History of Medieval People. From the Dawn of the Christian Era to the Fall of Constantinople, p. 227:

"Irritated at the obstinacy of the Donatists in declining even yet to accept their defeat, Constantine now enforced the decision of the councils by the aid of the secular arm. The Donatists were proscribed, deprived of their churches, their property was confiscated, their bishops were exiled. When they still remained refractory Constantine sent an army, and for the first time in the world's history Christians slaughtered Christians. Fire and sword swept over the country. Such were the fruits of the alliance of Church and State."