Completing my examination of things we can all learn from the Anabaptists, with the core conviction on peace and non-violence.
Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
Peace is at the heart of the gospel
Anabaptists have generally felt that Jesus’ teachings on ‘shalom’ and love for enemies (e.g. Matthew 5:21-26, 38-48) were at the core of his message – it is hard to obey Jesus command to love our neighbour while choosing to kill him! Therefore his teachings on non-violence should be applied as faithfully as possible. Anabaptists have therefore tended to reject the Augustinian teaching of just war, and refused to join armed forces. This has often got them offside with governments and societies.
Anabaptists do not naively think that practicing pacifism will be easy or automatically lead to other people behaving peacefully. But they believe that following Jesus’ “way of nonviolent love is ultimately more realistic than embracing violence”.
Anabaptists have been at the forefront of developing creative ways of applying non-violence in the criminal justice system and elsewhere, for example:
- Christian Peacemaker teams are sometimes sent to conflict zones to support those working for peace and justice in their communities.
- They have developed “conflict transformation” initiatives to train people and communities in mediation and dealing with conflict in a more creative way.
- They have also developed “victim-offender reconciliation programs” and other restorative-justice practices as alternatives to retributive approaches.
- An inner-city children’s holiday club has helped children from different faith communities learn about peace-making and reconciliation.
For too long our western societies have accepted violent solutions to problems, from war as a means to solve international issues, through capital punishment to aggression in social relationships. A greater measure of tolerance and a lesser willingness to resort to conflict may (hopefully) be a feature of much postmodern thinking.
The Anabaptists may have more appeal to postmoderns than traditional church attitudes, and may be the way of the future as well as the way of Jesus.