taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s Note: Video replay of the vigil is below.

** Transcript of Adam Taylor’s talk is below.


You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. — Lev. 19:18

As evangelical Christians in America, we are grieved by the violence that has consumed Israel and Gaza and we are troubled by the ways our faith tradition has been used to justify it. Yet even as we witness gross distortions of faith by Christian nationalists in public life, we also celebrate how people from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions around the world are coming together to cry for peace. So say cease-fire, some say a “cessation of hostilities,” some say humanitarian pause. Some just say, “Stop for the babies!” But the world is experiencing a kind of Pentecost as people cry out in different tongues with a unified call to end the violence.

Judaism teaches through the prophet Amos that God hears a united remnant against injustice. Islam teaches that “God is with the group.” And Jesus prayed that we all might be One, even as he and his Father are One. There is power in the unified cry of faithful people.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share moral convictions that ground our response to this moment.

We believe that every human being is created in the image of God. Both the Talmud and Islamic teaching say that to save a single life is to save all humanity, and Jesus extends the law of love for kin and neighbors even to those who are our enemies. Together we believe that every Israeli life is precious; every Palestinian life is precious; every single life is precious.

We also share the conviction that vengeance belongs to God. While governments have a right and duty to ensure security, our traditions insist on restraint and limits when the state exercises its power. No government knows enough to become the ultimate arbiter of justice.

Finally, our traditions share a commitment to justice, especially for those who are weak and vulnerable in this world. Whenever there is an imbalance of power, God hears the cries of those who are suffering and calls us to join their cry for justice.

Because of these shared convictions and our knowledge that a “three-fold chord is not easily broken,” we join our voices with Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world who are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the safe return of all hostages and civilian prisoners taken in the present conflict.

While “cease-fire” is a technical term of international law, our faith demands that we outline a basic moral call to CEASE-FIRE.

Confront and stop immediately indiscriminate violence against any civilian, especially women, children, and the sick.

End the denial of basic necessities to any population, including food, water, electricity, fuel, internet, and medical supplies.

Affirm the image of God in every human being.

Stop the practice of holding hostages and ensure the safe return of all hostages and prisoners home.

Exercise nonviolent power to build a just peace for all people.

Faithfully work as Jews, Christians, and Muslims to support a viable alternative to the brutality of Hamas and to challenge the Netanyahu administration’s practices of occupation and apartheid.

Insist that human rights for all people are nonnegotiable.

Raise a moral cry against murder, indiscriminate violence, war, and public policies rooted in vengeance, no matter which faith is used to justify violence.

Engage nonviolently to interrupt the violence that is being carried out against fellow human beings.

As people who are committed to manifesting beloved community and overcoming violence of any kind against any person or people, we steadfastly demand that justice be done and seek to protect the dignity of all human life regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or national identity.

We need a cease-fire for God’s sake, for the future’s sake, for the sake of the babies who are dying, and for the sake of our own humanity.

Jesus said, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword,” and, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made clear, in an era of nuclear weapons that can destroy the whole world, our ultimate choice is not between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and nonexistence. Killing our future is worse than wrong; it is an act of despair that denies God’s hope.

Our faith compels us to lift up this moral call for a cease-fire. We invite any who share this conviction to join people of faith around the world who are praying and taking action for peace.

Bishop William J. Barber, II
Center for Public Theology and Public Policy, Yale Divinity School
Repairers of the Breach

Shane Claiborne
Red Letter Christians

Mae Elise Cannon
Churches for Middle East Peace

Rodney Sadler
Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Union Presbyterian Seminary

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Center for Public Theology and Public Policy, Yale Divinity School

**Transcript of Adam Taylor’s talk at the vigil:

These remarks were drawn in part from the article published on Sojourners, Dear Christians, Cease-Fire Is Not Surrender.

Beloved—I want to thank Churches for Middle East Peace and all of the other faith leaders here tonight for this powerful witness. As we mark 44 painful and tragic days since the horrific massacre of Israelis by Hamas on October 7 and the estimated 12,000 Gazans who have lost their lives due to Israel’s bombing campaign, we continue to grieve and lament with all the families who have lost loved ones and we pray for an immediate end to the violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.  

This unconscionable suffering and violence breaks the very heart of our God.  While we pray that hostages can and will be a released through a temporary pause, we know that temporary is not nearly enough.  If our nation can negotiate a temporary pause, then surely, we can also negotiate a permanent one through a ceasefire to help end the war.  We also know that a ceasefire is not a surrender, instead it is a courageous step toward peace.   

Contrary to the misguided logic of war, we know that there is no true military solution to this crisis. Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” These countercultural words from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount reverberate across time and space are equally relevant and urgent today.  Yes beloved, this is a time for peacemaking — and that starts with a ceasefire. As peacemakers, we must honor the image of God in every Israeli and every Palestinian. We must be clear that our condemning of Hamas’ actions and ideology and our support for Israel’s right to security does not negate our deep commitment to justice and liberation in Palestine!  And while we must strongly oppose both antisemitism and Islamophobia, we must be clear that condemning actions by the state of Israel should not be conflated with antisemitism!

Throughout scripture, God commands both truth and action — and forbids their opposites. Leviticus chapter 19, verse 16 says: You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand idly by when the blood of your neighbor is at stake: I am the Lord.”  And now, refusing to stand idly by means advocating that our own government use its power rightly.

And that’s why we’re here tonight. We are here to pray and to call on President Biden and his administration to apply maximum pressure to negotiate an immediate and durable ceasefire in order to help end the current war and restrain a wider regional conflict. We are here to ensure that sufficient medical aid, water, food, and fuel can reach Gazan civilians.  We are here to call for the immediate release of all hostages.  We are here to call for political solutions that provide lasting peace, security, and justice for all Israelis and all Palestinians.  It is time to replace the misguided logic of war with the imperative for peace. 

God, we pray that you will swiftly bring comfort for the grieving, freedom for the hostage, and lasting peace and justice to Israel and Palestine. We are reminded that you are rock in a weary land and a bridge over even the most troubled water.  Help us to stand on your rock today as we embrace your call to be peacemakers.  In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and liberator we pray, Amen.  

Add Your Voice to this Call for a Cease-fire

About The Author


The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church and President of Repairers of the Breach. He has served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, since 2006 and sits on the National NAACP Board of Directors. A former Mel King Fellow at MIT, he is currently Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary. Rev. Barber is author of the best-selling The Third Reconstruction: How A Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.

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