Theology of Peace

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The idea of nonviolent resistance, sometimes called the way of peace, is an important piece of Christian theology as Mennonites understand it. It may seem odd, but historically, Mennonites would not even fight to protect their own beliefs.

Mennonites believe that they should not use violence in any situation. Many Mennonites throughout the ages – though certainly not all – have traditionally refused to serve in the army or defend themselves with force. Jesus said, “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek.” Mennonites try to live out this instruction, even at great risk and sacrifice.

Here is what Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonite Church, wrote about war:

The regenerated do not go to war nor fight. They are children of peace who have beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks and know of no war. They give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God's Their sword is the sword of the spirit which they wield with good conscience through the Holy Ghost.” [Yoder, For Conscience Sake , 32]

Living a life of peace is not easy. Mennonites have always struggled with that problem, and some have tried other options. For most Mennonites, however, the Bible gives clear guidance on the matter of peace.

What the Bible Says About Peace

Here are two versions of some verses from Matthew, a book in the New Testament. The first one is from the New International Version. The second is from a translation called the Message.

Matthew 5 (NIV)
An Eye for an Eye
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Love for Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5 (The Message)
Love Your Enemies
38 "Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: "Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

43 "You're familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.' 44 I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

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