Pacifism is not a way to justify doing nothing.
Pacifism is not about doing nothing, it's about doing something different. Christ didn't merely condemn one course of action, He introduced an entirely different program for engaging evil in the world.
"Love your enemies." (Matt 5:44)
"Bless those who persecute you." (Rom 12:14)
"Overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21)
Rather than simply contribute to the evil already in the world, i have a new mission, a new strategy--to take evil out of circulation. Tit-for-tat just won't cut it in Christ's kingdom. But Christ, by no means, allows me to do nothing. i'm called to do something much more difficult than tit-for-tat. When people seem unloveable, i'm called to love them. When people do things that seem unforgiveable, i'm called to forgive. When people clearly seem to deserve bad treatment, i'm called to be kind to them. i have to love, forgive, bless, and be kind to people that do not deserve one drop of it.
Why? Isn't it obvious that some people just need shot? Isn't it obvious that some people just need the crap beat out of them? Isn't it obvious that some people just deserve to be slandered and ostracized? Isn't it obvious that some people need a taste of their own medicine? So why shouldn't i be the one who gives it to them? Why should i have to treat people completely differently from the way they treat me and others?
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:45-48)i may feel like beating someone's brains out because they're such a jerk, but do i deserve any different? i may think that people should get what they deserve, but am i ready for God to give me what i deserve? God loves me, forgives me, blesses me, and is kind to me even when i don't deserve any of it--even when i clearly deserve the very opposite. And, in fact, God showers such goodness even on people who will never change their ways or love Him. So am i better than God? God has every right to give people what they deserve, yet He chooses to shower them all with love, kindness, blessing, and forgiveness. How can i do any differently?
Loving someone, being kind to someone, blessing someone, and forgiving someone--these hardly constitute "doing nothing." When i'm being attacked, pacifism doesn't obligate me to do nothing. It obligates me to turn the other cheek, to love, to feed and clothe my enemy, to pray for him, etc. When my son is being attacked, pacifism doesn't obligate me to do nothing. Christ sacrificed Himself for my sake. i can certainly take a bullet or a beating for my son's sake.
Pacifism isn't about doing nothing. It's first and foremost about being willing to do something much harder than simply falling back on tit-for-tat. And it's also about the much more difficult work of finding imaginitive ways of overcoming evil with good.
Pacifism is not a cover for cowardice.
Violence and hatred is a cover for fear if anything ever was. When people have big muscles and big guns and big mobs and big armies and big amounts of anger and adrenaline coursing through their system, should we seriously conclude that their violence and retaliation is about courage and bravery? It's easy to be a "brave" man when you're on the "good" side of a gun barrell.
Take away the gun and how "brave" will that same person be? Strip it all away. Put yourself in a country with either a weak or non-existent military and police force. Suppose you neither own nor have access to any defensive weapons. Suppose you have no hand-to-hand combat skills and poor physical strength. Now, ask yourself, why would you choose violence and retaliation?
The root of this thing is fear. Fear of being powerless. Fear of being helpless. Fear of losing control. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of disrespect. We fear not having control over a situation. We fear things not turning out the way we want them to. We fear what other people will think of us. We fear suffering pain whether physical or emotional. Fear, fear, fear! But what did Jesus say?
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)Peter taught his readers to have no fear of people who mistreat them (1Peter 3:14). Paul taught Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2Tim 1:7). And Proverbs says: "the righteous are as bold as a lion" (Prov 28:1). [i love that last one.]
So, again, put yourself in that police-less, military-less country with no personal weapons or combat skills or physical prowess. It would be easy to think that what you need are weapons and fighting skills. And you could even pray, "Lord, please give me the means necessary to defend myself."
But what if this was God's answer?: "Sure. Here are your weapons: prayer, love, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and My word." What if that's all God gave you to face the dangers of the world? Now ask yourself, does it take more guts to rely on a machine gun to win your battles? Or to rely on prayer to win them?
Christian pacifism calls on me to stop being such a coward. --to stop being so afraid of everything as though evil people truly have any power over me. Christ is in control. God is on the throne. God will put the whole world to rights in the end. And God will raise me from the dead. Do i have the testicular fortitude to believe that or not? Derek Webb sings, "There's got to be a love stronger than our fear of everything being out of control." (It's a fantastic song!) There most certainly is. Christian pacifism calls me to be bold and courageous enough to believe that love is stronger than hate, that raising my hands in prayer is more powerful than clinching them into fists, that goodness and kindness really can overcome injustice and evil, and that Christ's way of doing things is superior to the world's way. Thus, my job is to wage peace, to bring hate to its knees, and to never be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. That's hardly a cover for cowardice.