Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Was Christ a Pacifist?

There is a difference between being a Pacifist and a Peacemaker. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Peace. He is the peacemaker. In the Sermon on the Mount He taught His audience how to become sons of God "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). He also taught us "Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another" (Mk 9:50).

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Mt 5:38,39).

"If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt 5:38-45).

Resist not evil is what our Lord taught His people and His disciples, but He was not necessarily talking about governments. St. Paul said, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Rom 13:3,4).

Our Lord taught that one should avoid conflicts and wars and try to make peace "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace" (Luke 14:31-32).

We should also note that the first gentile convert Cornelius was a Roman centurion. He was a captain who had a hundred men under him. He was the first gentile that the Holy Spirit fell on. Our Lord Jesus Christ praised the Centurion who had asked the Lord to heal his servant saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" (Mt 8:10). He never told that man to quit serving in the army. He never told him to be a pacifist.

Jesus Christ commanded forgiveness (Mt 18:22). Instead of the pagan ideals of violence  and power, He offered the Christian ideals of humility and meekness (Mt 5:5). Our Lord Jesus advocated love and patience as opposed to hatred and revenge, but not total pacifism that forbids even self-defense. In the Holy Gospel of St. Luke 22:36, our Lord Jesus Christ seemed to be advising the disciples to use self-defense when necessary, but nothing more. He didn't advocate violence as a way of doing things, for he said that two swords are enough for the eleven disciples and in the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew 26:52 He rebuked St. Peter for attempting to start a violent revolt. Self-defense isn't contradictory to the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew 5:39, for that passage refers to a slap or insult, not a hard punch that would constitute an attack.
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