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Confession of Faith - Article 22: Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance
We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God's peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world. Led by the Holy Spirit, we follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing nonresistance even in the face of violence and warfare.
Although God created a peaceable world, humanity chose the way of unrighteousness and violence.1 The spirit of revenge increased, and violence multiplied, yet the original vision of peace and justice did not die.2 Prophets and other messengers of God continued to point the people of Israel toward trust in God rather than in weapons and military force.3
The peace God intends for humanity and creation was revealed most fully in Jesus Christ. A joyous song of peace announced Jesus' birth.4 Jesus taught love of enemies, forgave wrongdoers, and called for right relationships.5 When threatened, he chose not to resist, but gave his life freely.6 By his death and resurrection, he has removed the dominion of death and given us peace with God.7 Thus he has reconciled us to God and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.8
As followers of Jesus, we participate in his ministry of peace and justice. He has called us to find our blessing in making peace and seeking justice. We do so in a spirit of gentleness, willing to be persecuted for righteousness' sake.9 As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service. The same Spirit that empowered Jesus also empowers us to love enemies, to forgive rather than to seek revenge, to practice right relationships, to rely on the community of faith to settle disputes, and to resist evil without violence.10
Led by the Spirit, and beginning in the church, we witness to all people that violence is not the will of God. We witness against all forms of violence, including war among nations, hostility among races and classes, abuse of children and women, violence between men and women, abortion, and capital punishment.
We give our ultimate loyalty to the God of grace and peace, who guides the church daily in overcoming evil with good, who empowers us to do justice, and who sustains us in the glorious hope of the peaceable reign of God.11
The biblical concept of peace embraces personal peace with God, peace in human relations, peace among nations, and peace with God's creation. The Old Testament word for peace (shalom) includes healing, reconciliation, and well-being. Peace is more than the absence of war; it includes the restoration of right relationship.
Justice and peace belong together, since right relationship involves both. According to Greek and Roman ideas of justice, people should get what they deserve. According to the Bible, justice involves healing and restoring relationships. That is a reason for the special concern for the poor and the oppressed evident in the Bible (Deuteronomy 24:10-22; Matthew 20:1-16; James 2:5).
Nonresistance means "not resisting." Our example is Jesus, who endured accusation and abuse without retaliating. Jesus did sometimes confront wrongdoers (Matthew 23:1-36; John 2:13-22), but he did so in a nonviolent way that shows us how to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21; see 1 Peter 2:21-24).
Peace and justice are not optional teachings, counsel that Christians can take or leave. They belong to the heart of gospel message. Sometimes the Mennonite peace position has been based only on the teachings of Jesus. A biblical understanding of peace is also based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ: the atonement is the foundation for our peace with God (Romans 5:10) and with one another (Ephesians 2:13-16).
Similarly, justice is based not only on Jesus' teachings (Luke 4:18-19), but also on his atoning death. Jesus' death on the cross accomplished justice. His crucifixion brought forgiveness and thus restored sinners to right relationship with God. On the cross Jesus cried out to God on behalf of a world mired in sinful, unjust relationships. This cry was amplified by the shedding of his blood, which creates a just, forgiving community of the new covenant (Hebrews 5:7-10).
In continuity with previous Mennonite confessions of faith, we affirm that nonparticipation in warfare involves conscientious objection to military service and a nonresistant response to violence. Our peace witness also includes peacemaking and working for justice. Peace witness is needed even when the nations in which we live are not at war. Ministries of mediation, conciliation, and nonviolent resolution of everyday conflict can express our commitment to Christ's way of peace.
There is no simple explanation for the practice of war in the Old Testament. The Old Testament repeatedly points toward peace (Exodus 14:13-14; Judges 7:2; Psalms 37; Isaiah 31; Hosea 2:18). Both the Old and New Testaments proclaim the vision of a coming peaceable kingdom (Isaiah 9:1-7), preached and revealed by Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36).
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- Genesis 1-11.
- Isaiah 2:2-4.
- Leviticus 26:6; Isaiah 31:1; Hosea 2:18.
- Luke 2:14.
- Matthew 5:44; 6:14-15.
- Matthew 26:52-53; 1 Peter 2:21-24.
- 1 Corinthians 15:54-55; Romans 5:10-11; Ephesians 2:11-18.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
- Matthew 5:3-12.
- Matthew 5:39; 1 Corinthians 6:1-16; Romans 12:14-21.
- Isaiah 11:1-9.