Pacifists are opposed to violence. They fight for peace and justice, but in a non-violent way. Many Christians, especially Quakers, are pacifists because the Bible and Jesus emphasise love as the way to overcome evil.

Bible teaching used to support pacifism

The Old Testament is full of the message that God wants to see a world full of peace and justice. The Old Testament prophets often see the future Kingdom of God as a kingdom of peace.

Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34v14

The Prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would bring peace and justice to the world. Isaiah calls him “The Prince of Peace”:

“And he will be called a Wonderful Counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

The Prophet Micah looks forward to a time when God’s rule is established. God’s kingdom will be one of peace.

“They will beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.”

Micah 4:3

“You shall not murder.”

Exodus 10:13

Christians could use these verses to show that violence is never acceptable. Peace is a feature of the Kingdom of God, and God wants all people to live in peace and justice.

The teaching and example of Jesus

Jesus taught that the right response to aggression is love, not hate.

“Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Matthew 5:39

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 5:44

“Blessed are the peacemakers”

Matthew 5:9

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.”

John 14v27

When Jesus was arrested, he would not let his disciples use violence to prevent his arrest:

“Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who live by the sword will die by the sword.’ Enough of this, stop it!”

Luke 22:49-51

Christians who try to follow Jesus’ example might say that because Jesus would not allow people to use violence to defend him, then violence is wrong, and that peaceful methods should be used.

Other New Testament writers followed Jesus’ teaching

Saint Paul

“ If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, instead let God’s anger do it. If your enemies are hungry, feed them. Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.”

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

Colossians 3:15

Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12v21

Saint Peter

“ Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing….”

1 Peter 3:9

AGAPE should be shown unconditionally to everyone - family, friends, strangers or enemies. Jesus taught love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. He said love and forgiveness was the way to overcome hatred. For many Christians, how can loving someone include killing them in the war?

The sanctity of life - All people are made in the image of God, and loved by God (Genesis 1). This suggests that war is wrong, because it involves taking away a life that has been planned, made, and loved by God.

Quakers - a pacifist church

Christians should fight injustice and aggression, but in a non-violent way.

CND : Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

A pacifist organisation which fights for justice. Set up by Monsignor Bruce Kent, a former Roman Catholic priest. There is a Christian wing of CND called “Christian CND”.

Conscientious Objectors

Some Christians have become conscientious objectors who refuse, on the basis of conscience, to fight in a war. In the First World War 16,000 men in Britain refused to fight, on the grounds of conscience. Conscientious Objectors can serve in non-combatant roles. A Conscientious Objector does not need to be a pacifist – he may just object to a particular war.

William Harris, a Christian, was a Conscientious Objector in WWII. Why? He believed…