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A Religion of Peace

     One of the frequent criticisms of the Christian religion is that it is responsible for wars. I disagree with this criticism very strongly. The Christian faith is a religion of peace.
It is true that in Old Testament times there were wars and that God commanded the Israelites to wage war against pagans. The Old Testament commandments, however, were for God’s people during a particular time in their social evolution. (Some of these commandments still apply today — the Ten Commandments and Lev. 19:18, for example.) God permitted people to do certain things and gave them certain commandments to regulate their social customs and practices without requiring them to abandon such social conventions entirely. After the coming of Christ, a higher standard of morality has been imposed upon man. The greater the revelation, the more is required. This increase in moral standards by God over time is called progressive moral revelation.
The teachings of a religion should clearly show the nature of the religion. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (St. Matt. 5:9, NKJV) He also said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” and “Love your enemies.” (St. Matt. 26:52; 5:44, NKJV) St. Paul said, “Pursue peace with all people” and “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Heb. 12:14, NKJV; Rom. 12:18, NKJV) St. James said, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:18) St. Peter said, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” (I Pet. 3:19,20, NKJV)  St. John the Theologian said, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23, NKJV) He also said, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:7,8, NKJV) These do not sound like the words of a religion that encourages war.
Some critics of Christianity have pointed out certain passages in the gospels like the following:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (St. Matt. 10:34-39, NKJV)

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (St. Luke 14:26, 27, NKJV)

In the first passage, Jesus quotes from Micah 7:6. He is talking about how His followers will be persecuted by their own family. In the second passage, Jesus tells those who wish to follow Him that their love for Him should be so strong that their love for their family members should seem like hate in comparison. He did not tell them to actually hate their family. It is remarkable that critics of Christianity are often more fundamentalistic in their interpretations of the Bible than a Christian fundamentalist. Not all Scripture should be interpreted literally. The passage just cited from St. Luke’s Gospel is one such example.
The Church is an instrument of peace. The Church does not possess an army, navy, or air force. Earthly governments do. The only kind of war the Church wages is a spiritual one.  (See Eph. 6:10-18) She does not “wrestle against flesh and blood.” (Eph. 6:12)
If any Christians started any wars or mistreated anyone in the past, they were not living their lives according to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. It is not fair to judge the whole religion of Christianity by only looking at those who profess to be Christians but do not live like Christians. The Church has a long list of Saints. One should read the lives of the Saints if one wants to know how the Christian faith has been best lived out. St. Juvenaly, for example, was killed by Indians while traveling down a river in a boat. He gave the Indians his priestly blessing while they continued to shoot arrows into him.
Many Old Testament practices and teachings were tailored to a society at a lower stage in its social evolution. Such practices and teachings do not apply to a society which has received a greater revelation from God after the coming of Christ. The teachings of Christ and His apostles show that Christianity is a religion of peace.  Some critics of Christianity often misunderstand and misinterpret some passages in the Bible. Their lack of understanding results in a harsh, but unfair, criticism of Christianity. The Church does not possess a military. Her only war is a spiritual one. The conduct of hypocritical Christians should not be used as a basis to judge the Christian religion. The lives of the Saints provide models of Christian behavior. The Saints are a better indicator of the nature of the Christian faith. Christianity is a religion of peace.

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