Unfortunately many Quakers oppose war based on the armament potential of the secular contestants rather than on the testimony of Christ Jesus, who removes the occasion of war within us if we hear and obey His commandments. For example, during the “Cold War” peace groups, including some Friends, noted that the US had greater nuclear power than the Soviet Union. These groups urged our government to reduce, but not eliminate, our weapons of mass destruction, hoping that our adversaries would follow our example. The secular need for arms reduction was emphasized rather than inviting heads of state to wait on the Lord together to discern His tenderness and guidance.
Of course there were individual Christian pacifists who, in their love for and obedience to the Lord Jesus, would neither produce nor use weapons. They proclaimed the sinfulness of physical as well as psychological violence, but their voices did not permeate the peace movement.
Today this secular opposition to war continues, as people compare the evils of our government with the crimes of the former Iraqi leader. Is that what the Christian Quaker peace testimony elucidates? Are we so bereft of spiritual insight that we cannot be motivated by the Lord to refrain from violence because He commands us to love our enemies and forgive our trespassers?
George Fox declared that Friends must live “in the virtue and power that took away the occasion of war,” and his fellow preachers likewise urged peace. The early Friends witnessed to gospel order by living in the peaceable kingdom, even when they were challenged by Satan and the governing powers to renounce their commitment to Christ’s peace. They knew “that the Spirit in Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads unto all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the Kingdoms of the world.”
Those Friends were peacemakers, ready to turn the other cheek in conflict situations. They followed Christ’s admonition that we love our enemy, even those who crucified Him. Because Fox and other first generation Friends were cognizant of God’s teaching in the scriptures of truth, they realized that the Lord required them to “turn their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Early Friends provided schools for deprived youngsters, teaching them trades that offered opportunities for working on farms and in factories producing goods that were peace oriented rather than armaments of war. This enabled young people to receive Christ’s peace. Can we not learn from this?
Those Friends, in their quest for peace, reminded potential Christians receiving the gospel that Paul in his letter to the Ephesians urged Christ’s followers to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6: 11-12)
Fox often spoke of the need for the power of God to overcome evil within and without. We peacemakers should wait on that same power ourselves. God, not we, has the spiritual love needed for reconciliation.
This does not preclude the possibility of our suffering in our quest for true peace. But Fox and other Quakers knew that eventually Jesus would relieve our pain if we follow Him. Remember that Fox suffered cruel imprisonments but everything became clear in his understanding of the gospel of Christ.
As long as we follow politically inspired leadership in our desire for God’s peace, we will fail. Once we recognize what Fox knew clearly – that we desperately need God’s love in our peace work – then we will engage in prayerful waiting to discern what the Lord requires from us and, when we are obedient, we will be true peacemakers in the Lord.
- Arthur Berk
Reprinted from The Conservative Friend, Number 25 for Eight Month 2006