“When you hang from a gibbet, for the sport of your own crows.. THEN we shall have peace.” -Theoden, King of Rohan
In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the good guys have a conversation with the bad guy about peace. Saruman (the bad guy) has been defeated, and he asks the king of Rohan,
“Can we not have peace?”
The King of Rohan responds with an epic diatribe against Saruman,
“We shall have peace… when you answer for the burning of the Westfold, and the children that lie dead there! …when the lives of the soldiers whose bodies were hewn, even as they lay dead against the gates of the Hornberg, are avenged! When you hang from a gibbit for the sport of your own crows…! We shall have peace.”
I love this line. Especially when I was young. Back then I thought that this was how you got peace. The good guys kill the bad guys. And then peace is achieved. We’ve all heard the line. “The only thing needed for evil to win is for good men to do nothing.” And what are good men supposed to do? Kill the bad guy.
Society preaches this at us. Our entire political paradigm is based on it. We salute the flag. We clap for our veterans. And we all accept the idea that WAR is what it takes to achieve peace.
You believe it too. Tell me you don’t.
Now I’m no expert, but when I look at the teachings of Jesus this is not the message I see. Nowhere does Jesus talk about taking up arms to achieve peace. And yet he was the Prince of Peace. Wouldn’t you think he would at least give the military a shout out? “Turn the other cheek, but support our troops”? Instead he says crazy things like “Love your enemy,” and “Pray for those who persecute you.” When someone steals from you, Jesus says to GIVE them the stuff that they missed. What the heck, Jesus?!
And this kind of stuff goes on throughout the entire New Testament. The apostle Peter talked about suffering under unjust oppression, and his solution wasn’t killing. Or even self defense. Instead he talks about submission. Submit to the emperor, submit to those who enslave you, submit to abusive husband’s…
This advice used to really bothered me. In fact it still does. Sure all that love stuff is nice, but doesn’t Peter know that sometimes you have to fight and kill for what is right? What happened to King Solomon saying that for everything there is a season: a time to heal and a time to KILL? Didn’t Peter read that part of the Bible? Didn’t Jesus?
My whole life I’ve been told stories from the Old Testament about David, and Samson, and all the people they killed, and “Gee weren’t they just swell guys!” My whole life I’ve watched movies about action heroes that mow down bad guys without a second thought. And now Jesus is telling me to turn the other cheek?! To resist not the evil one? What is going on here?
I don’t know.
I don’t get it yet.
But in the mean time, I think its best if I not kill anyone. My hope for you this December is that you won’t either.
And in addition to that, I’ve started hating war. And this December, while we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and remember the words of the angels as they sang “Peace on earth,” I think you should too.
I’m not saying you have to rule it out completely yet. It took me a long time to stop supporting war. But I think, if Jesus and his apostles are telling us over and over again to live at peace with all men as far as it concerns us and to suffer for doing good, then we ought to at least have some questions.
Peter says of Christ, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” If this is our example, if we are supposed to take up our crosses and follow Jesus, then I think it needs to make us doubt our position on violence.
If Jesus loved the world how can we support our government when it declares war on an entire country full of people? If Jesus loved the little children, how can we read in our history books about America nuking Japan and boiling whole CITIES worth of children alive and say to ourselves, “It had to be done”? If Jesus hung on a CROSS FOR US! How can we pick up a gun and shoot another living person, even in self-defense?
All I’m saying is: If Jesus promised us peace, AND commanded us to turn the other cheek, while saying nothing about self-defense, then I think war does not bring peace. Maybe not fighting back will bring us more trouble. But Jesus said we’d have trouble. And yet he promised us peace.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33