Christian Non-Violence

On Veterans Days, Memorial Days, etc., (especially at a time like this, when our country is at war) it’s not uncommon for Americans to make a point of expressing their sincere thanks to the memories of U.S. soldiers who have paid “the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” — that is, those soldiers who have died on the battlefield.

It’s the most natural thing in the world for a citizen to feel indebted to the sacrifice of a soldier. And, on its surface, the phrase “the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” seems a most fitting description for such an act.

But, in recent years, I’ve noticed how some politicians are quick to conflate this secular and patriotic use of the term “freedom” with the Christian understanding of spiritual freedom.

For instance, I’ve often heard George W. Bush declare that “God’s greatest gift to mankind is freedom.” The implication being that God’s gift of spiritual freedom is very much the same as the physical and worldly freedom a government might provide its citizens — or a soldier might die for.

But, as a Christian, I can’t go there.

In the early history of the Church (the first 300 years or so), I don’t see Christian communities seeking to secure physical freedoms.

No, they endured prison, peacefully lived under oppressive governments, and even accepted martyrdom. Indeed, their lack of concern for physical freedom was conspicuous.

To add familiar context: It would be accurate to say the Roman government “taxed” these early Christians “without representation.” Yet they paid those taxes, regardless of whether the Roman government had an unrighteous or sinful purpose in store for their tax money. And regardless of whether the government unjustly executed their brothers or sisters.

Theirs was the path of Jesus.

An imitation of His life.That meant a life without violence, and in some cases, to bear His cross in the strictest sense, it meant a laying down of one’s life. Peacefully.

That’s God’s idea of “the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”