Swords Into Plowshares

For those of you who are interested, Jay Guin over at One In Jesus has posted some great thoughts about the prophetic passages in Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 that herald the day when the nations will beat their swords into plowshares in the Messianic Kingdom. It’s a part of a larger conversation Jay is having on the topic of pacifism. Really good, thoughtful stuff. You can check it out by clicking here.

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6 Responses to Swords Into Plowshares

  1. Brooke says:

    Thanks for the advice on the ‘tooth fairy’ issue. LOL! I really think I might have done better by just saying…you figure it out! Love that picture of you and Jackson below…so cute!! Oh..and don’t worry about people watching, just change his diaper wherever you need to. 🙂 I know you’re worried about that somtimes! 🙂 te he he

  2. Jason says:

    I can tell you’ve been reading Sunny’s blog! 🙂 I have to admit, the truck bed thing was pretty funny. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

  3. owen says:

    swords into plowshares… that is a topic i still struggle with. i can’t honestly say that i am a pacifist, i have served in the armed forces and i have been something of a fighter in the past. i am not deluded in thinking that the “great” nation of the united states is “God’s nation” nor do i think that its government really has the people’s best in mind. i also, however, do not see the teachings of Christ in contrast with serving in the military as mr. guin does.

    “love your enemies”, “do not murder”, “turn the other cheek”, don’t speak to me of pacifism. i think that they speak of a greater subject which is love, and love is not necessarily passive. it seems that these quotes instruct those actions of an individual for themselves. self preservation and love are held up together and Christ is saying that it is better to give up your life or your dignity in the the name of love and the kingdom.

    in fact, Jesus does not address his views of military or government. these are organizations that have arisen from a corrupt world; man needs governing and justice provided by government and peoples need defense from those who wound attack them provided by military. unfortunately corruption follows corruption and the positive aspects of justice and defense at times are lost to these organizations and are replaced by a desire for power and hatred. we as christian are called to work and exist within a corrupted world, and at times we should civilly disobey whenever corruption arises. this does not indicate that government or military is intrinsically evil… so what does Christ say about defending others?

    how do we “defend the cause of the orphan and widow” and how do we seek to uphold justice”, which are also principles of the kingdom when under violent attack? i have done some missions in africa in the past and my desire is to be a foreign missionary, so i have taken a personal interest in things going on in africa. we all know about the genocides that have happened in sudan, uganda, somalia, rawanda… the list goes on. the hard question here is how do we view these events in places like these? a pacifist would picket and demand that action take place… what kind of action do we demand? what actions halt a “final solution”? these are the thing that make me doubt the ideas of total pacifism.

    i have heard it said that “no one hates war more than the warrior who has to live it”. i think that many pacifists (and i don’t mean all) see soldiers as eager murderers trained to take life and enjoy it. sadly some do, but i think that many do not. i believe that mr. guin’s statement about the teachings of Christ directly conflicting with military service is a dangerous one. because it automatically falsely labels men and women who stand for the active defending of the weak and the preserving of justice for others.

    please don’t misunderstand me, and think that war should be readily entered in such situations or even that all the wars of this country are just… far from it! i believe that peace and diplomacy should be pushed as far as it will go before resorting to war.

    perhaps mr. guin has experienced war and violence first hand has seen the innocent suffer and die at the hands of evil men and has still come to his conclusions. perhaps someone else has had such experiences and come to the same conclusions as mr guin. these are just my thoughts based on my own understanding and experience which are limited.

  4. Jason says:

    Good thoughts, Owen. Thanks for taking the time to share them.

    I’m not sure how much of this you and I have discussed over the past few months, but we’re probably on much the same page. I can’t reconcile the pacifist stance with some of the evil I see in the world and the biblical mandate to effort for justice on behalf of the oppressed (the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, etc.). But I respect those that hold such a position. I think it takes more courage than most people realize to subscribe to this kind of ethic.

    However, it is interesting to note that the earliest followers of Jesus seem to have been pacifists. What do you do with that? Also, people naturally equate pacifism with passivity, which is not always the case.

    To that end, the term that has more resonance with me is “nonviolence”. Nonviolence seeks peaceable reconciliation in the face of conflict. I like that. A nonviolent position maintains a healthy respect for the inherent value of all human life. However, nonviolence, as I understand it, is a more active way of engaging the world. You know that age old hypothetical regarding pacifism: if you happened to see an old woman getting beat up — or a child or your wife, etc — would you just stand by and do nothing to stop it? I know how I would answer that question. The pacifist is always accused of sitting idly by and doing nothing; the subscriber to nonviolence would find a way to defend the oppressed while not exerting an extreme measure of force as a counter measure. All of this may just be semantics, but that’s a good way to describe my personal philosophy on these kinds of issues. At least for now. 🙂

    Jesus could have taken the opportunity to stoke a militaristic revolution; if I’m reading the Gospels correctly, it wouldn’t have taken much for at least some subset of the Jewish people to fall in line with anyone desiring to pursue the Messianic office via bloodshed. Yet, Jesus chose a different way, the way of nonviolence. He absorbed within himself the world’s violence and, I believe, will one day reconcile this violent world back to the God of all peace.

    Maybe I misread Guin, but I didn’t get the impression that he was saying some of the things you understood him to be saying. I’ll go back and reread some of his posts.

    If you want some challenging reads on this topic, you should pick up Lee Camp’s “Mere Discipleship” and Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution.”

  5. owen says:

    Christ did come and establish a kingdom that was built on love, and he did not allow this kingdom to be built on bloodshed and violence as all other nations and kingdoms are. i have experienced several views of pacifism, and just like any idea those views can be hard to sort through.

    as you put pacifism, a seeking of nonviolent peaceful reconciliation, i see that as the way of Christ in scripture. he heals the guard’s ear after peter chops it off, and he clearly states that if you live by violence then you will die by violence. however, would not Christ’s actions of clearing the temple be considered an act of violence? violence is the physical force intent on damaging, hurting, or killing someone or something.

    maybe i am playing too much with semantics, but i wonder can violence exist in the love of Christ… now i must tread carefully here because when the word violence is used, we all immediately think of the child/wife abuser, the cold blooded killer or people such as adolf hitler. the definition of violence seems to be a very broad word that may be used to refer to force directed at anything living or inanimate, and it also seems to refer to actions both with intent to harm a person and also with intent to defend a person from one who would harm them.

    Christ’s message was one to transform the heart. it included but also went beyond action. i’m still sorting this out… but do you think that in the case of his teaching on nonviolence, it is possible that he was attempting to transform the heart of a people who up until his time was commanded by God to use extreme and brutal violence and felt that it was alright to hate? maybe he was doing this so that the new messianic kingdom would not become like the many other small revolts that were taking place against the romans at this time. i believe that Christ was attempting to make his disciples understand the value that God places on human life.

    we are supposed to place the Lord’s value on our fellow man making us very reluctant to enter into violent action against another soul, but at this point i don’t think it is forbidden to uses violence… the question is what is the intent behind the action.

    i guess the idea i’m trying to work out is being a Christian in the military. some of the newer movements in the Faith are complete nonviolence and they teach that it is actually sinful to engage in military activity. i have read “irresistible revolution” and i changed my life:) but i’m not convinced by his completely nonviolent stance. i don’t think men need to repent of their military service unless it involved action or even a state of mind that makes them men who love violence. maybe things are more complicated than violence and nonviolence…

  6. Jason says:

    i would never tell someone they need to repent of their military service or that it’s a sinful thing to be a part of. some of my closest mentors are former military and i have deep respect for them and the servanthood they willingly chose. in my opinion, it’s a really arrogant thing to do to tell these men and women they need to “repent of their service.”

    if i take the words of Jesus seriously, though, i think i at least have to consider whether or not i could take the life of another person. that’s some pretty serious personal inventory…but i think discipleship merits this kind of thinking. so, at the very least, i can appreciate those who raise these kinds of questions for me to consider, even if i don’t agree with every one of their conclusions.

    as for Jesus clearing the temple, i wouldn’t classify that as an act of violence against other persons. yes, he made a whip, but as far as we know he never used it on individuals; in fact, all it says is that he turned over the tables and drove the money changers and the animals out. i read once that the Greek that’s used in that narrative indicates that Jesus took time when he crafted the whip; it wasn’t like he just rashly pulled it out and started cleaning house as some sort of snap reaction to the injustice he witnessed. at any rate, i think this is a good example of Christ’s righteous indignation and inability to abide oppressive systems that keep people from knowing God. i think it’s a poor example to build a theology of violence around.

    your question is a good one: can violence exist within the love of Christ? if we believe Isaiah and Micah to be Messianic — with their imaginative depiction of lion and lamb bedding down together in a place where swords are beaten into plowshares — then i think we would have to acknowledge that in the coming Kingdom of God, there will be no bloodshed or violence, only peace. this stands as a dramatic reversal of the foundational narrative of Scripture where sin enters into the world (Gen 3) and violence quickly follows (Gen 4).

    the passage of scripture that i don’t know what to do with is Joel 3.10, where the prophet pretty much reverses the dramatic imagery of Isaiah and Micah:
    Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”

    I’ve noticed that Scripture doesn’t get as much play by Claiborne and some of the other guys I’ve read! If you can help me make sense of all of this, I’d appreciate it, Owen!

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