The Biblical call to peace is something that suffers from proof-texting. It is not difficult to make a list of Bible verses that talk about Jesus as Prince of peace and calling on his disciples not to fight. The problem with proof-texts is that they tend to be taken in isolation of their context. An even bigger problem is that it seems that for every proof-text, there is an opposing proof-text. If I wanted to look for brief quotes supporting violence, I could likely find them.
For me, the Biblical call to peace is found in Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom of heaven. The simplicity the Sermon on the mount calls us to, along with the nature of Christ’s Kingdom calls us to peace. The Earthly kingdoms are those that try to expand and endure through warfare. Christ’s kingdom holds hearts and souls through love instead of land by force. The biggest call to peace is the question of: “Can a man serve two masters?” Another way to ask it, “How is it serving the Kingdom of heaven to kill those who are part of it in the name of an earthly kingdom?”
In John 18:36 Jesus gives the reason why his followers must not fight to protect him, or to establish him as king: “My kingdom is not of this world”. Any kingdom that is established and held through the foundation of violence can also be disbanded through violence. There are no ancient empires that still stand. Christianity seems to be at its weakest spiritually when it has its greatest political influence. Jesus’ choice to separate Christ’s kingdom from Earthly politics separates my faith from the tools of this world. Violence becomes the worldly tool, peace becomes the tool of Christ’s kingdom.
I see genius in this because the tools of Christ’s Kingdom are lasting. The peaceful and meek do inherit the Earth, even though empires must die for this to happen. While nations, and even ethnic groups die off, the Kingdom of heaven endures; it crosses borders, racial lines and political ideologies. The kingdom of heaven is at hand for us to join but it is beyond the reach of the kingdoms of this world.
For me the Biblical call to peace is a call to a long term winning strategy. At first the strategy of the church must have made little sense. The Christians grew and grew but they never fought their persecutors even when they would have won. Christians died at the hands of the Romans, yet Christianity grew faster than the Romans could kill the Christians. In under four centuries Christianity conquered Rome without raising a hand against it. When Rome fell to the Barbarians Christians did not fall with Rome. Christians were never the government and they existed independently of the Government’s blessing. Because Christians survived the Roman persecution they were able to survive the fall of Rome as well. Peace kept Christianity ‘alive’, because peace comes from knowing that Christianity is not an empire.
The New Testament has no plans for how Christianity is to survive as a political entity; The New Testament was written in a time when the political powers of this world tried to remove Christianity from the face of the Earth. The model the New Testament provided served the Church well. Our greatest danger, now that Christianity is part of mainstream culture, is giving up that model, joining Rome, and falling along with the Roman Empire.