Did Yeshua teach pacifism?

All interests are subservient to the eternal interests of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:39 – But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The concept of forgiveness runs strong within the teachings of Yeshua. In order to not retaliate to aggressive behavior or a personal affront requires a measure of self-control and maturity to allow the insult, and sometimes injury, to pass.

But to what extent does the Bible teach that should believers remain non-retaliatory? Should a father protect his family from home intruders? Should a believer be engaged with a national military conflict? These are difficult questions because the Bible speaks to many different types of situations and has been used to support many different positions on this topic.

Even though I am a veteran of the American military, as I have grown in my biblical understanding over the years, I have gravitated toward a more pacifistic stance. From a philosophical standpoint, the idea of believers serving in opposing military forces would mean that believers are essentially killing other believers for the sake of their respective national interest. This would mean that the national interest has taken precedence over the universal spiritual kingdom of God. Under any other circumstance, believers would not be pitted against each other in a fight to the death.

In fairness, though, I must also admit that the passage quoted above about turning the other cheek is contextually about personal responsibility, and is not an absolute morality standard. If we believe love is the primary response for believers, we must remember that Yeshua also taught that the greatest love for others is self-sacrifice. Yeshua used the example of the good shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep; however, as King David was famous for, that was typically in protecting the sheep from the wild animals, not other humans.

But is that self-sacrifice to be exhibited in acts of aggression toward others? Is it morally defensible from the Bible to kill a human aggressor in order to save others?

1 John 3:16 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Once again, John is not setting up a universal morality standard here, as the context of this passage is in ensuring that believers are diligent in providing for one another’s physical needs. In that sense, we should put the interests of others above ourselves.

1 John 3:15, 17-18 – Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. … But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Paul reiterates this point, as well.

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

If I was to land upon a more definitive position regarding what might be called biblical messianic pacifism within the Kingdom of God, I would offer the following: in personal quarrels, forgive and do not retaliate. When faced with endangerment of others not able to protect themselves, placing oneself as a non-lethal protector and defender is justifiable and honorable.

Some may argue that God is not against war, as he commanded the Israelites to kill and essentially exterminate the Canaanites. But we must remember the campaign against Canaan was God’s judgment upon those nations for their detestable idolatrous practices, and was not primarily about Israel’s interests. Moses made this abundantly clear as he spoke to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan to take the land.

Deuteronomy 9:5-6 – “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations Yahweh your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, therefore, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

God’s use of Israel in war was a measure of physical judgment upon the Canaanites that was a metaphorical baseline within the over-arching biblical narrative: God’s enemies would be vanquished and his universal kingdom would be established in their place. However, to presume any war fought today is a righteous and holy war against idolatrous barbarians because of their wickedness and rebellion against God would require mental gymnastics beyond the scope of reason.

How we apply Yeshua’s admonition to turn the other cheek may lead us to differing conclusions regarding personal defense and national interests. But we must remember that even national interests are subservient to the eternal interests of the Kingdom of God. Doing what is biblically “correct” in any situation requires a holistic view of the entire Bible, not just cherry-picking proof-texts to support a personal or public agenda.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How Yeshua illustrates the ultimate trust in God

His hope and trust can become our hope and trust.

Luke 23:46 – And Yeshua called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Saying this, he breathed his last.

We can draw great insight from the final words of Yeshua as he hung on the cross. Everything related to those final hours and moments of his earthly life were drenched thick with meaning.

It is a common understanding that when a Hebrew speaker is quoting a section of Scripture, the hearer would instantly understand the context of the quote and recognize that the entirety of the passage is in view. In the case of Yeshua’s final words, we are hyper-linked back to Psalm 31.

Psalm 31:5 – Into your hand I entrust my spirit; you have redeemed me, Yahweh, God of truth.

Yet this statement of hope is embedded in the midst of some of the most dire circumstances, as other stanzas within that psalm describe.

Psalm 31:9-11, 13 – Be gracious to me, Yahweh, because I am in distress; my eyes are worn out from frustration — my whole being as well. Indeed, my life is consumed with grief and my years with groaning; my strength has failed because of my affliction, and my bones waste away. I am ridiculed by all my adversaries and even by my neighbors. I am dreaded by my acquaintances; those who see me in the street run from me. … I have heard the gossip of many; terror is on every side. When they conspired against me, they plotted to take my life.

By placing the words and full context of this messianic psalm on the lips of Yeshua, the psalm comes to life and describes his thoughts as he was in the throes of the most hideous of circumstances. Nevertheless, we can draw great hope and inspiration from faith and trust that Yeshua places in Yahweh, even amidst the most painful suffering and humiliation a human could be exposed to.

Psalm 31:7, 14-16 – I will rejoice and be glad in your faithful love because you have seen my affliction. You know the troubles of my soul … But I trust in you, Yahweh; I say, “You are my God.” The course of my life is in your power; rescue me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors. Make your face shine on your servant; save me by your faithful love.

Some of the most powerful statements of trust in God that can be uttered are, “into your hands I commit my spirit,” and “the course of my life is in your power.” If we really believed that the course of our life, our very existence, is within the power of God, I believe that we might live differently with a unique and much more powerful perspective. To commit our spirit into the hands of God is the ultimate act of de-throning our Self and allowing God to guide us in a way that seems best to him.

Is this what Yeshua would want for us, to love Yahweh enough to fully commit our whole being to him? Well, if we consider the psalm as being in his mind and on his lips as he hung on the cross, he tells us so himself within its final verses:

Psalm 31:23-24 – Love Yahweh, all his faithful ones. Yahweh protects the loyal, but fully repays the arrogant. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in Yahweh.

When we accept Yeshua’s admonition to faithfully love Yahweh, his hope and trust become our hope in trust, no matter how insurmountable our own circumstances may appear.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Remaining in the Way

The Way of holiness is a definitive path leaving no doubt as to the right way to go.

And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

Isaiah 35:8

In the time that these words were written, what was called a highway was what we would consider today a well-trodden trail. It was a definitive path that left no doubt as to the right way to go. Being on this trail brought with it a sense of confidence: all one had to do was to follow the trail to reach their destination.

The path of holiness is here called the Way. When one is on this path, one is separated from the rest of humanity that is choosing to follow its own desires.

Depending on which version of the Bible you may read, the last part of the verse can be viewed in a couple of meaningful ways. In some versions, like the Berean Study Bible quoted here, it gives the impressions that the fool will not accidentally stray onto it. This would imply that the Way is intentional; one chooses to be on it and does not fall upon it by whim or chance.

There are also versions that provide a different shade of meaning, such as “even a fool will not stray from it.” This gives the meaning that the Way is so clearly defined that even if one is foolish they have the ability to remain on the path.

In either view, the Way is something that is distinct from where the rest of the world travels. Being on the Way of holiness means one is traveling within a way of life that is intentionally set apart for God’s purposes, and this Way can keep even our foolish inclinations in check.

Peace and Forgiveness

This episode explores the topic of forgiveness by looking at Yeshua’s admonition for believers to be peacemakers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 7 – Peace and Forgiveness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness by looking at Yeshua’s admonition for believers to be peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

I have paraphrased this verse as “Make peace; do peace, and you will be blessed, being recognized as a child of God.” It is our obligation as believers to be the vanguard of peace among the lives of those around us.

What’s interesting in this verse is the active nature of what is being expressed. Yeshua appears to be emphasizing the doing or the making of peace. By this reckoning, peace is not something that just happens; it involves work and effort to bring it about. That’s what we are discussing today; what is involved in bringing about peace in our lives and the lives of those around us?

So let’s explore the definition of peace, to find out what it is that we should be actively working towards in our relationships with others.

The word in the original Greek is eiréné (i-ray’-nay) meaning oneness, peace, quietness, rest. In usage it conveys peace, peace of mind. It is also the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom, an invocation of peace and a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraic sense of the health (welfare) of an individual.

HELPS Word-studies focus on the wholeness aspect of this term as coming from a root word which means “to join, tie together into a whole”. It essentially conveys when all necessary parts are joined together there is peace (God’s gift of wholeness).

Through these definitions you can see that the biblical notion of peace brings so much more to the table than just attitudes of non-aggression; it has to do with a sense of wholeness and essential unity. Wholeness and unity can only come about when individuals are in agreement or have a common purpose or emotional bond. If this is the case, and if we are to be peacemakers, it is our responsibility as believers to bridge disagreements and work to bring others towards common purposes and feelings towards us and towards each other.

One aspect of being a peacemaker is to be reconciled to a family member or someone you are close to.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-34

This word for reconciliation carries the idea of changing or exchanging something for something else. It means to thoroughly experience change, such as where people in conflict come together through meaningful change. Enmity or disagreement has been exchanged for friendship.

Many times, disagreements between friends or family exist because no one wants to be the first one to budge from their position of perceiving they have been wronged by the other. But according to Yeshua, we as believers need to actively work towards these types of resolutions. It is our responsibility to initiate these exchanges; that’s what makers of peace do. So if we have unresolved conflict in our close relations, then it is upon us to to be the ones who begin to pave the way toward resolution of these conflicts.

However, if we continue to be caught up in dissent and factionism by pressing our righteous indignation at every offense, we are denying our heritage as makers of peace in the character and likeness of Messiah and his kingdom.

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this [way] serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” –

Romans 14:17-19

When wrongs are committed between individuals, the faithful believer must look beyond the immediate injury to the larger objective of peace and unity. There is no denial a wrong has been committed, just a positive affirmation that is intentionally offered to overcome the sting of whatever injustice was perceived to have been incurred.

Sometimes our perceptions are incorrect, or we misunderstand someone, and we react to a perceived injustice. This is why we must exercise care. If we focus on peace rather than justifying our perceptions, we are saved from potentially creating an issue where there was no real threat to begin with.

Another aspect of being a peacemaker is in reconciliation with an adversary:

Reconcile quickly with your adversary, while you are still on the way to court.

Matthew 5:25

Your adversary can be anyone who is simply working at cross-purposes with you, or who could be actively working against you at every turn. In the example Yeshua provides, this adversary would be someone taking you to court over some legal issues. This adversarial behavior can be frustrating and can cause our emotions to run high, wanting to reflexively do them harm, or to avoid them at all cost so no interaction has to occur to continue to feed into your emotional distress.

And yet, Yeshua says we need to be the instigators of reconciliation; we need to be the ones who begin the process of trying to find common ground for the establishing of a stronger relationship.

The type of reconciliation mentioned in this verse about our adversaries is a form of being well-minded toward someone else, to think kindly of them or to be favorable toward them. Who wants to do that with an adversary? Wouldn’t we rather want to respond in kind by trying to see how much harm we could do them because they were escalating things in the legal court system?

That may be our initial emotional response, but it should not be our continuing motivational attitude toward that individual. We are commanded by Yeshua to initiate reconciliation, to look kindly toward those who might be trying to do us harm.

These are the types of peacemakers we are to be: to be coming together with those who are near to us through exchanging our enmity for friendship, to be well-minded towards our adversaries. Being a peacemaker involves all others we interact with.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:14-18

Notice how Paul says our responsibility is towards everyone. That word is a primary word meaning all people, every person, the whole of everyone we interact with.

This goal of peace is so much more than just joining hands and singing kumbaya around a campfire; this type of exchanging enmity for reconciliation or being well minded towards others involves a difficult and sometimes emotionally painful exercise of a typically latent faculty that we all possess: forgiveness. When it comes right down to it, forgiveness is the basis of all peace.

So let’s explore this idea of forgiveness as a driver of the making of peace a little further.

Forgiveness comes from the Greek word charizomai (khar-id’-zom-ahee) which means to show favor or kindness, to give freely. It’s root meaning comes from the word xaris (char’-is)  which is where we get our word for grace, that is, freely giving favor or to grant forgiveness or pardon. (xarízomai) literally means, “to willingly (“graciously”) bestow.

I think you can begin to get the idea of where this topic is heading.

Now, we love all of these definitions as we apply them to our relationship with God: he forgives us, extends his mercy when we don’t deserve it, there is nothing we can do to earn it, but it is freely given.

But when we look to others who may have wronged us, we are not necessarily as quick to apply those same principles towards them. Why not? Because forgiveness isn’t something that is a natural response; it has to be intentionally bestowed upon someone else. This takes effort, and in some respects doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t reflexive. It has to be thought about and not carelessly offered.

Additionally, forgiveness involves another quality that does not always come easily: humility. It takes a humble person to not take action in pressing their potential advantage over someone else. To be willing to concede a perceived wrong is generally thought of as a weakness, but in God’s eyes  this is a strength.

The saying is that we may have lost the battle but we win the war. Forgiveness and humility both give us an opportunity to step back from the immediate conflict and gain perspective on the overall relationship. From the larger perspective, “losing” a battle for the sake of maintaining the relationship has real value, even if it doesn’t seem like it at that time.  Forgiveness is full of hope because it looks to a future of reconciliation, even if it isn’t readily apparent in the moment.

Now, the caveat in all of this is that while we may do all of these things from the truest intent of our hearts, our overtures of reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness may still fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. Those we are attempting to exhibit peace with may still remain at odds with us.

I believe this is why it says in Romans 12:18, “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”

The phrase literally says “if possible, out of you, with all men live at peace.”

This implies that “out of us” should always be coming overtures of peace, even if met with resistance. It also implies that it may not always be possible to be at peace, at least not at the present time, due to whatever else the other person may be dealing with. But that doesn’t mean that their emotional state won’t be changed at some future point. For this reason, we are commanded that our  stance should always be one of unending peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In short, we should always act in love.

If we are to be mimicking God and representing his character and values in this world, then we should adopt the stance of God towards us. He constantly continues to offer his reconciliation, forgiveness and peace, even in our most rebellious and hard-hearted times. Yeshua admonishes us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Perfection in this instance refers to a measure of completeness. When we are agitated toward others, we are in a sense incomplete, however, when we advocate for peace and reconciliation, we are pursuing wholeness and unity, and we ourselves become whole in the process.

We are to be the makers of peace, the doers of peace. When we do this faithfully, we will be considered the children of God, because we will be doing what he does with us.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground today that I hope provides you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Being a peacemaker can be hard work, and forgiveness does not come naturally or easily. But we need to keep in mind that forgiveness is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.

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