This Memorial Day, commit to waging peace

I was delighted when my parents told me that they had finally joined a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania.  I was glad, but one thing was on my mind: I wondered how my dad managed to join a church known for its pacifism.

“Seriously, Dad,” I said, “Your answer for every conflict in the world is, ‘Nuke ’em.’  How did they let you in at that church?”

Dad's answer to many a conflict...

Although there are times when I think my father is a rare breed among men, I do realize that his worldview is representative of so many Christians in our nation.  He, like so many others, has always been one to reconcile his faith with America’s gung-ho foreign policy.

My question to Dad, however, was about the deeper issue related to Jesus, who not only practiced nonviolence wherever he went, but urged his disciples to be peacemakers in a conflict-ridden world.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, “For they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9).

There was a time when I thought that warfare was the most effective means in combating evil in the world.  After all, I did grow up with my father, and we talked politics ever since my childhood.  But the more I got into God’s Word, however, the more I see that violence and war do not get us any closer to realizing God’s redemptive intentions for all creation.

This October will mark an entire decade in which America was at war with terrorists in Afghanistan.  Osama Bin Laden is dead, but politicians are still finding every reason to occupy a nation that has yet to become self-sufficient.  One more year of fighting, and Afghanistan will rival the Vietnam War in length and cost.

The impetus of Jesus’ peacemaking agenda is that violence only begets violence.  Forgiveness and diplomacy are not only effective measures for building networks for reconciliation, they are also means of breaking the cycles of violence in our midst.

Kim Phuc, caught on camera as a young girl in South Vietnam running from Nepalm bombing, will speak on forgiveness at this year's Baptist Peace Fellowship's conference

Just consider the possible implications of Bin Laden’s death: Yes, we rid the world of an evil mastermind, but there will be others who will take his place.  Our nation, like any other, is called to defend itself with military might, but I pray that the days of unilateral, preventative war are over.

Thankfully, we still live in the shadow of the empty tomb, a reminder that violence does not have the final say. Jesus’ resurrection was the subversive nonviolent resistance that broke the chains of violence forever.

In one of his memoirs, pacifist leader John Drear writes: “The nonviolent Jesus has risen above injustice, poverty, and violence.  He is risen despite war…Christ is risen above the culture of death.  A bold announcement–and we’re called to prove it.

“We prove it with the boldness of our own lives, our faith, our nonviolent resistance to the forces of death.  Which is to say, we must share the peacemaking life of the risen Jesus.”

This Memorial weekend, we invite you to worship at Trinity Baptist Church tomorrow at 10:30 AM.  Ours is a church that celebrates the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.  Ours is also a church that challenges people to live in obedience to God’s Word, whether they be folks who think like my dad, folks who think like me, and the plenty of folks who find a home somewhere in between.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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