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Quotes About Non-Violence
Quotes about non-violence from throughout Christian History.
Letter to Diognetus, A.D. 80 - 200
Christians … love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life. They are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. (ch. 5)
Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150
"For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" [Is. 2:3]. And that this did come to pass, we can convince you.
For from Jerusalem men went out into the world, twelve in number and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking; but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God. Now we who used to murder one another do not only refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.
For that saying, "The tongue has sworn but the mind is unsworn" [a justification for lying used in Justin's time], might be imitated by us in this matter. But if the soldiers enrolled by you, who have taken the military oath, prefer their allegiance to their own life, parents, country, and all kindred, though you can offer them nothing incorruptible, it would be truly ridiculous if we, who earnestly long for incorruption, should not endure all things in order to obtain what we desire from him who is able to grant it. (First Apology 39)
We who were filled with war, mutual slaughter, and every wickedness have each, through the whole earth, changed our warlike weapons—our swords into ploughshares and our spears into implements of tillage. In their place, we cultivate godliness, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father himself through the One who was crucified. (Dialogue with Trypho 110)
Athenagoras, A.D. 177
For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. How, then, when we do not even watch, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? (A Plea for the Christians 35)
Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190
For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them; nor a sword, nor a bow, since we follow peace. (The Instructor III:11)
Tertullian, c. A.D. 210
The Christian does no harm even to his foe. (Apology 46)
Hippolytus, c. A.D. 225
They will inquire concerning the works and occupations of those are who are brought forward for instruction. If someone is a pimp who supports prostitutes, he shall cease or shall be rejected. If someone is a sculptor or a painter, let them be taught not to make idols. Either let them cease or let them be rejected. If someone is an actor or does shows in the theater, either he shall cease or he shall be rejected. If someone teaches children (worldly knowledge), it is good that he cease. But if he has no (other) trade, let him be permitted. A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. The prostitute, the wanton man, the one who castrates himself, or one who does that which may not be mentioned, are to be rejected, for they are impure. A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreams, or a charlatan, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected. If someone's concubine is a slave, as long as she has raised her children and has clung only to him, let her hear. Otherwise, she shall be rejected. The man who has a concubine must cease and take a wife according to the law. If he will not, he shall be rejected.(Apostolic Tradition 15:6-7; 16:1-16)
Origen, c. AD 225
This quote is to show that the early churches used the words of Isaiah 1:2-5 so regularly that all Christians knew the passage. To the early Christians this passage was fulfilled by Jesus and the apostles, who brought the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem to all the world, creating a kingdom that lived in peace and refused warfare.
Who among the believers does not know the words in Isaiah? "In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be revealed, and the house of the Lord on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills. All nations shall come to it. Many people shall go and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his way, and we will walk in it." For out of Zion shall go forth a law, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more [Isa. 1:2-5]. (Letter from Origen to Africanus 15)
Cyprian, c. A.D. 250
The whole world is wet with mutual blood, and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, yet is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not on the plea that they are guiltless, but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale. (Letters of Cyprian I:6)
Charles Spurgeon, d. 1892
The Lord's battles, what are they? Not the garment rolled in blood, not the noise, and smoke, and din of human slaughter. These may be the devil's battles, if you please, but not the Lord's. They may be days of God's vengeance but in their strife the servant of Jesus may not mingle. ("War! War! War!" [May 1, 1859, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens]; cited by "Charles Spurgeon: On War and Christians"; accessed May 19, 2013)
Before I proceed fully to open up this metaphor, let me say that though we shall use military terms this morning, and stirring speech, it should ever be remembered that we have no war against persons, and that the weapons which we use are not such as are forged for the deadly conflicts of mankind. The wars of a Christian are against principles, against sins, against the miseries of mankind, against that Evil One who has led man astray from his Maker. Our wars are against the iniquity which keeps man an enemy to himself. The weapons that we use are holy arguments and consecrated lives, devotion and prayer to God, teaching and example among the sons of men.
Ours is battling for the peace, and fighting for rest. We disturb the world to make it quiet, and turn it upside down to set it right. We pull down strongholds that they may not pull down the Zion of God. We dash down the mighty that the humble and the meek may be established. We have no sympathy with any other war, but count it an evil of the direst sort, let it be disguised as it may. Now with that caution, whatever I shall seem to say will not sound as though I loved or excused ordinary warfare—for nothing can be more abhorrent to the Christian man than wholesale slaughter. Nothing can be more desired by us than the promised era when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. (A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ)
L.B. Cowman, 1925
How often we thwart God's intervention on our behalf by taking up our own cause or by striking a blow in our own defense! (Streams in the Desert, March 18 entry)
Laurence M. Vance, 2005
If there is anyone who should be opposed to strife and bloodshed it is the man that names the name of Christ. Spurgeon considered the spirit of war to be absolutely foreign to the spirit of Christianity. ... Modern conservative, fundamentalist, and evangelical Christians, all of whom might claim him as one of their own, have much to learn from Spurgeon, not only for his example of an uncompromising and successful Christian minister, but also for his consistent opposition to war and Christian war fever. ("Charles Spurgeon on Christian War Fever"; accessed May 19, 2013)
Paul Pavao, 2013
Once you make every citizen a Christian by the choice of the government, you have to make huge adjustments to apostolic doctrine. Let pagans be pagans unless we can get them to deny themselves, bear their cross every day, and follow Jesus. All those who don't want to do that can defend the country. For those of us who do, we don't care what country we're in because we're carrying around an instrument of execution anyway. (Source: me on Facebook)