taking the words of Jesus seriously


…that life is a gift. To call it a gift is to imply that we did not earn it. Life is grace. Peace preserves life. So on this Memorial Day weekend we remember that God’s intention for this world is shalom. This would be a world where human beings find themselves in right relationship with God, with each other, with the earth, and to one’s own self. Life is indeed a gift both to companions and enemies. So on this Memorial Day let’s remember the gift of life that unites human beings everywhere.


…that violence always disrupts shalom. Jesus died, absorbing the violence of a military machine’s ultimate weapon for insurrectionists – the cross. This death unleashes the potential for shalom once again… something war can never bring.


…that noble men and women have died in war. Many whose motives were pure, believing that this sort of sacrifice was God’s will. Those of us who claim to be peacemakers must remember that soldiers of any nation usually believe that their fight is for a moral good. Therefore, let us be slow to pass judgment and quick to offer hospitality.


…that the way of Jesus has been marginalized from our Bibles since the days of Constantine. The day the cross and the sword went to bed with one another was the day that the church began its decline towards compromise. By turning its back on the red letters of Scripture, Christendom chose to perpetuate violence rather than follow Jesus’ own model of absorbing the wrath of the powers of this age.


…that during the days of the Reformation Christian sisters and brothers killed one another over dogma. How can we learn to love our enemies when we can’t even love ourselves?


…that radical Christians during the Reformation rediscovered the subversive nature of the kingdom of God. This is a way of enemy love, nonresistance, integrity, and countercultural community.


…that Dr. King serves as a modern example that nonviolence and displays of love can in fact lead revolutions. When you pull out a sword, more swords get drawn. In the same way, love inevitably multiplies.


…that many soldiers come back from war with posttraumatic stress syndrome. PTSD reminds us that the ultimate remembering that happens for those in combat is the kind that brings forth nightmares.

Therefore, let’s commit ourselves to RE-Membering.


…names the past and its residual effects, while also being committed to re-incorporating veterans into our Christian communities. Those of us committed to peacemaking have the opportunity to build bridges of reconciliation with veterans, by refusing to live in judgment.

Yes, we name evils and we discourage followers of Jesus from any vocation that might require violence, but we refuse to distance ourselves from those who have taken part in the way of Empire. Such folks need to experience shalom as much as any of us who have never pulled the trigger. Therefore, may we be people who lay down our pacifistic pride, and follow the model of our Savior by stretching out our arms as a gesture of love, openness, and hospitality. Never condoning violence but always choosing forgiveness and reconciliation in spite of it.

Kurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is an Anabaptist writer preparing for a church planting project with the Brethren in Christ. He writes at the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.


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