GUEST POST: Pro-life like Jesus by Kaila Coon

I am a Christian, and I am emphatically and unapologetically pro-life.

Reading that statement, I know half of you are amped and uttering ‘amen’ to your computer screen, while the other half of you are beginning to work yourselves into an indignant furry.  But give me a second, because my idea of pro-life might not quite jive with your preconceptions of the term.

I just had a baby a couple months ago, and the whole process of pregnancy and birth was absolutely amazing.  So, when I say ‘pro-life,’ I do mean that it is important to protect and cherish the unborn. But that’s not all I mean.

As it turns out, life goes on after birth.  Crazy right?  But its true.  And being pro-life means valuing that life for its entire duration, not just for the nine months it spends in utero.

To me, being pro-life means valuing and protecting all lives at all times.

To me, being pro-life means being a peace-lover and a pacifist.

But ‘pacifist,’ like ‘pro-life,’ is another one of those tricky words.  What does it really mean to be a Christian pacifist?

Let me begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.

Pacifism is not the act of being passive.

It is not letting evil do whatever it wants to whom ever it wants.  It is not abandoning the weak, helpless or vulnerable in the face of oppression.  Nor is it a way to avoid serving one’s country, protecting one’s neighbors, or even giving one’s life for a greater cause.

Pacifism is not passive.  But is does require that we find creative and non-violent ways to engage.

Rather than joining the infantry, we can serve as doctors, nurses, chaplains, and mental health workers.  Rather than using violent means to defend the defenseless, we can demonstrate, fundraise, sit in, or use economic sanctions and incentives.  The possibilities for non-violent engagement are as limitless as our imaginations.

Now, before I explain what it is, let me tell you why it is.

I am a pacifist because of Jesus.

Because he valued every life he encountered – women, lepers, tax collectors and religious leaders alike.

Because his ministry was one of healing and restoration, not destruction and violence.

Because he taught his followers to turn the other cheek instead of taking an eye for an eye.

Because he modeled seeking a third way between the passive resignation of the pharisees and the religious violence of the zealots.

Because he left not room in his speech or actions for violence, and he didn’t tolerate it in his followers either (remember how he healed the soldier’s ear and rebuked Peter for cutting it off?).

I am a pacifist because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy.  He called love the greatest command and even summarized all of scripture as an imperative to love God and love humanity.

I am a pacifist because we are called to live and love like him.

And I don’t believe we show love when we practice violence against our fellowmen.

So what is this art of Christian pacifism?

It is, of course, the refusal to wield weapons or to kill.

But it is also much more than that!  It is a forsaking of all violence in all its forms.  It is a refusal to cause physical harm and a refusal to participate social, cultural, psychological, emotional and relational violence.

But pacifism is not simply a rejection of violence either, it is also proactive.

In place of violence, we are to participate with God in the restoration of all creation.  We are to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized in creative and non-violent ways.  We are to seek and create peace wherever we go.  Peace in our world, in our country, in our communities, our churches, our relationships, and peace in our own souls.  And how do we make peace?  By practicing love for our neighbors and our enemies alike, just as Jesus commanded us to.

And what is love?

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or brag, it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful.  It does not delight in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never ends.

So you see, to be a pacifist is to be pro-life in the fullest sense of the word.

It is to protect lives by refusing to inflict physical, psychological or emotional harm, but it also to promote true and full life by modeling peace and love even when it is incredibly difficult to do so.

It is much harder to be pro-life than it is to be anti-war, but it is my calling as a daughter of Yahweh.  Each day I ask myself what I can help restore, where I can bring peace.  Many days I fail to love like Jesus, and many days I do employ various forms of violence against the people and the world around me.  But every morning God graciously offers a new start and calls us once again to live and love like him.

Kaila Coon is a writer and a student of the Hebrew Bible.  She completed her M.A. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Old Testament at Denver Seminary in May of 2012 and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Denver.  You can read more of her writing at Old Testament 101.

4 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Pro-life like Jesus by Kaila Coon

  1. I disagree with your premise. “But is does require that we find creative and non-violent ways to engage.” How do you reconcile that statement with scriptures like 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ” or Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” ? Those are not very kind responses, yet they are Biblical and consistent with Jesus’ admonition to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. The scriptures you cite have a context of up-close-and-personal descriptions of peace vs. enmity. For example, when Jesus turns the other cheek, the context is that he is close enough to that person that the person could reach out and slap him. And aren’t those the relationships that make up 99% of the relational content of our lives? And have we not been given the capacity to exercise self-control in those situations as a fruit of the spirit? But I think you may be over-reaching to bring this line of reasoning to an all-or-nothing conclusion, that pacifism applies in all situations at all times. What about our law enforcement officials? Our judges? Our government officials? You seem to leave no room for the meting out of earthly justice, of the practical element of hating what is evil in a “this-side-of heaven” context. Who is going to stop evil from doing whatever it wants? How? When? With what practical tools? With what spiritual discernment? With what prayer support?

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    1. Hi Angie,
      Reading through your comment, I feel the need to clarify something. Being a pacifist doesn’t mean being passive, and its not the same thing as being nice, not creating waves, or ignoring justice. Jesus said a lot of hard things, but not violent things.

      The idea that everyone who participates in the social realm should also contribute to it (2 Thes 3:10) is a hard thing for a lot of people to hear, but I see no contradiction between working hard and refraining from the use of violence.

      We certainly should hate evil and cling to what is good, but i believe there are ways to express these sentiments without using violence. For instance, we can hate that there is rampant rape in Africa, but rather than sending in our military to kill all the “bad guys” and save the women, perhaps we can use political and economic sanctions against the perpetrators while also providing the women with work skills (like sewing lessons and machines) so they can be independent, providing asylum and counseling for victims, working with local care organizations to create safe and tight-knit communities, teaching people about the value of women and working to change the social view of women as property to be used and abused. The options for engagement are only limited by our imaginations!

      I would also like to argue that law enforcement and judicial officials are not automatically eliminated when one adopts a pacifist stance. Law enforcement officers are always supposed to use the least amount of force possible to accomplish their means. They are not allowed to “shoot first and ask questions later,” even when refraining from engaging in violence may place them at increased risk. Neither does the entire judicial system contradict a pacifist stance. It seeks to bring perpetrators of the law to justice, and that is accomplished by assessing fines, community service, jail time, probation, etc. These are unpleasant realities for criminals, but they are not violent and thus they are completely in line with a pacifist stance.

      Evil is rampant in our world, but I don’t think pacifism elimiates our ability to combat it. On a global scale, sanctions can and should be employed to limit and control evil. The massive amount of funding we pour into the military could also be redirected to relief organizations that work on the ground with locals to create both immediate and sustained change in living conditions by doing everything from providing education and food, to offering micro-loans, building wells, teaching sustainable farming practices, offering medical help, etc. I believe we should fight evil in all its forms right now, with every method available to us (excluding, of course, those that require us to kill or maim other men and women made in the image of Yahweh), and prayer support for that mission is absolutely essential!

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