Christian/Anabaptist Perspective on Peace and justice

by Florence Driedger

One of the distinctions of Anabaptist contributions to the larger Christian community is our understanding and perspective on peace and justice. Discipleship and community which is integral to our understanding of the messages in the Sermon on Mount continues to be plumbed for their meaning in today’s world. It is important for us as women to explore these concepts as well. It is a very large topic, so the comments which follow only touch very briefly on some aspects of it. 

In A Peace Reader edited by E. Morris Sider and Luke Keefer Jr. 2002 are a series of articles on Peace. J. R Burkholder’s article very succinctly articulates how we are to live based on the life and death of Christ. He suggests Jesus taught a new way to live: instead of vengeance – forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 17:3-4, 23:34); instead of violence -- readiness to suffer (Matthew 5:38-39); instead of greed – sharing (Luke 12:33-34, 18:22); instead of domination – service (Luke 22:24-27); and instead of hatred—love (Matthew 5:43-45; Luke 6:27-31). 

These were the signs of the Kingdom, but it took, and continues to take a life time to emulate these signs in our lives. The move from the legalism of the faith of the day to a faith based on principles of Love God, love you neighbor as your self and love your enemy was a major shift for those who followed Jesus. 

Love is a way of life, not a rule. Its focus is on relationship – relationship to God, to others and to oneself. The question is “do I love God, the other or myself?” not “have I broken a rule or a law?” Paul suggests there is no law against love or the qualities growing out of love such as kindness, peace, joy, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) 

Living this life of love as Disciples of Christ is our calling as women, mothers, sisters, grandmothers and all who call ourselves Christians. It is this life of love which calls all to reject violence and evil in our lives, families, communities and society. 

So the troublesome question arises when violence occurs in our lives, families and communities which also include our congregations. How do we respond to victims and those who use violence? What is the practical application of love in all spheres of our life? 

There are many resources to draw on, whether you are a victim, a friend, or one who is dealing with violent tendencies in your own behavior. More will be said about this at the end of this article. 

A very important fact is you are not alone. There are many who have dealt with the issues and moved on to live a healthy life. There are ways of dealing with members of one’s family, community or church home. The important action is to seek support from someone to help you through dealing with violence. It is confusing and frightening.

Another important fact is that conflict and violence are two separate issues. Conflict is part of life. It can stimulate good discussion, help clarify issues and challenge each other to look for solutions which will enhance the life of all concerned based on the principles of love and fairness.

Violence is another issue completely. Violence is harmful, it negates the value of the one violated, it harms. It is NOT an expression of love. God says “vengeance is mine.” And what did God do with vengeance – Christ carried it to the cross on our behalf. So how is one to respond to someone who is violent? In the Bible book of Romans Paul says “Repay no one evil for evil” This does not mean becoming a door mat. In fact accepting violence is a way of saying “I am not worthy of respect”. But God did not create “junk”—all are made in the image of God. 

Children continue to be vulnerable to being abused or become abusers. In the last number years, the peaceful schools movement has been gaining momentum. It is helping schools, teachers, children and parents reduce the violence in schools by mutually working at relationships, dealing with conflict and issues of bullying. It has been found, children have the ability to take leadership in resolving issues if given the models, tools and encouragement by adults in their school environment. 

Family abuse of children is not new. Discipline is important, but discipline must flow out of love and kindness, not hostility, vengeance or degradation. 

Resources:

There are a huge number of resources which can be found on the internet. Church resource centres, Mennonite Central Committee and Christian publishers also carry materials for use by individuals, groups, pastors, Sunday school teachers and parents. In most communities there are libraries, safe shelters and family serving agencies for further assistance.