Jesus and Conflict
Is Jesus for or against conflict?
For many Christians, the teaching and example of Jesus provides the most important basis for their ethical decisions. So what was his perspective on conflict?
Jesus lived through tough political times. In the first century, Israel was occupied by the Romans – a strong and cruel empire that ruled through oppression. Many Jews had taken up arms to fight their enemies. The nation was looking for a leader who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel’s fortunes. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks clearly about loving enemies and blessing those who persecute you; turning the other cheek to one who hits you rather than hitting back. He did not advocate violence, even in the face of very real oppression (see Matthew 5:38-48). He famously declared:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Jesus’ entire ministry was about bringing life and healing, not death and destruction, as shown in his miracles. When Jesus was about to be arrested, his disciple Peter pulled a sword on the soldier who tried to take him. Jesus told him to put away his sword – a sign of his opposition to violent measures – and warned him: ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.’ (Matthew 26:52)
Moreover the gospels show Jesus as a perfect example of someone unwilling to compromise his belief in forgiveness and love, dying rather than retaliating and forgiving those who crucified him (Luke 23:26-49). The early Christians were pacifists, ready to die at the hand of oppressors rather than to fight back. Many of the early Christian leaders were martyred for their faith.