The Way of Peace and Nonresistance
The story of human history is darkened by conflicts, strife, and bloodshed caused by jealousy, anger, and hatred. Unresolved conflicts result in broken relationships and emotional scars. Many people live with fear and mistrust. Many become bitter because of their circumstances or the things they have suffered.
Love resolves conflicts and builds bridges instead of walls. It helps to avoid clashes. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). To be filled with the love of Jesus will empower us to forgive those who have hurt us and to love our enemies.
Jesus Taught Peace through Love and Nonresistance
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the way of peace. No longer is it an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38). Rather, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus Lived What He Taught
Jesus displayed remarkable peace and grace in His unfair trial and crucifixion. In Matthew 27:11-14, it is recorded how Jesus was falsely accused and insulted, and how He quietly endured it. As He hung dying on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The Early Church Lived and Taught the Way of Peace
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a devoted believer in Jesus. He openly spoke of the peaceful kingdom that Jesus established. The religious leaders accused him of blasphemy and in their anger cast him out of the city. As he was being stoned to death, he kept his integrity and without retaliation demonstrated the way of peace and forgiveness. Acts 7:60 records, “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].”
The Apostle Paul writes, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
The Apostle Peter encourages us to be like Jesus, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself unto him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). (See also 1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
How is it Possible to Live the Way of Peace?
Determination alone is not enough to live the principle of peace and nonresistance. It is an inborn experience of conversion to Jesus Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ dwells in the heart, we experience the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The disciple of Christ will endeavor to practice peace in every area of life. There is power to live it because the Prince of Peace Himself dwells within the heart.
In the Home
Peace is a fruit of true love, and the home is an important place to practice the way of peace. Husbands and wives need open communication. Gracious understanding and daily forgiveness will help resolve differences. Children find security as parents submit to God and His order of love in the home. Children learn by example the grace of sharing and submission, and consistent child nurture will promote a peaceful home atmosphere. Instead of quarrelling, pouting, or being silently resistant, each family member should practice peace. (Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 4:31-32)
For those who find themselves in marriage difficulties, there is hope in the way of peace. Direction can be found in the Word of God and in consultation with a faithful Christian pastor or counselor. The power of prayer and resignation to God will work miracles. Troubled marriages can be revived and flourish by God's grace.
In the Community
A Christian will be open, reasonable, and kind regardless of his neighbor's attitude. Disputes can be resolved many times through surrender and peaceful negotiation. There are many opportunities to practice the way of peace in our business relationships. Financial discrepancies are often a cause of disagreements. A Christian places his faith in God and is willing to suffer loss in order to maintain peace. As an employee, he does not go on strike or participate in labor unions because of their forceful nature. Instead of using the law to force payment, the Christian will either work out a peaceful resolution or forgive the debt.
When a Christian faces a dispute, an unselfish, peaceable attitude often brings about a settlement. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes a Christian is served notice of a lawsuit even though every effort has been made to resolve the issue. Even if the Christian must unfairly suffer loss, a loving attitude will usually give a clear testimony to all. Although it is sometimes necessary to obtain legal counsel, a peaceable Christian will not retain an attorney to enforce justice.
In Issues of Abuse
Individuals can be physically or emotionally abused by those around them. Innocent children become victims of physical or sexual abuse. Relationships can be severely damaged by verbal abuse. The shame and emotional hurt often go unnoticed or are ignored by those around them, and the victim feels powerless to seek help and healing.
Jesus Himself suffered verbal and physical abuse. He willingly forgave, committing Himself to God. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus taught us to love and pray for those who despitefully use us. The Psalmist encourages reliance upon God when he says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Those who are abused and acknowledge their damage and pain can come to forgiveness and rest by looking in hope to the Saviour. Committing oneself to God is important and necessary. Reaching out to someone who is trusted and understanding can also be very helpful. With God, there is hope of restoration and recovery.
In Matters of Church and State
The Bible teaches the separation of church and state as well as the doctrine of nonresistance. The Christian belongs to a spiritual kingdom and ministers to the needs of mankind. It is the responsibility of the state to maintain law and order in society. (John 18:36) The Christian is nonresistant and cannot take part in warfare in any form, nor can he support the cause of war. He does not seek public office, vote in political elections, or serve on a jury. Rather, he will seek to contribute to the cause of peace and alleviate suffering in the world around him. This attitude is not one of disloyalty or disrespect to our country. We are to respect and honor those in authority, willingly pay taxes, and obey the laws of the land inasmuch as they do not conflict with the Word of God. (Romans 13:1-7)
In the Church Brotherhood
When the lamb-like Spirit of Christ prevails in the brotherhood, there is…
· forgiveness rather than holding a grudge.
· a word that ministers kindness to the hearer rather than gossip and evil speaking.
· mutual support and care rather than jealousy and envy.
· edifying discussion rather than heated arguments.
· charity and peacemaking rather than hatred and backbiting.
· reconciliation and restoration rather than divisions and schisms.
The beautiful blessing in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 sums it all up: “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.”