The starting point of pacifism – Mat 8:38-48

Yoder’s arguments all focus on the book of Luke. So, to be different, I will take my starting point from Matthew instead. Mat 8:38-48 is a close echo of Luke 6:27-32.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The question before us is: does this command hold literally for us today? Are there any conditions where this command is not applicable?

The method:

As an evangelical, there are options that are not available to me:

  1. Decide I don’t like this passage and so conclude that it doesn’t count anymore
  2. Use my personal experience (or that of others) to argue that this command is impractical and should be ignored
  3. Say “the world has changed”, that it was true then but not now
  4. Decide that Jesus didn’t really mean it (exaggeration, hyperbole etc) without support from the Bible.

Basically, the only way that a passage that seems to be clear command from the Lord can be determined to not apply is if close exegesis of the passage, or the application of other Biblical witness, shows that there are limitations to the text.

Thus the (proposed) method:

  1. Close exegesis of the passage
  2. Consideration of its context within the book of Matthew
  3. Examination of other biblical texts that could be seen to limit the scope of this passage
  4. Examination of other biblical texts that could be seen to reaffirm this passage

This method outline will probably change within the hour 🙂

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3 thoughts on “The starting point of pacifism – Mat 8:38-48

  1. Is Matthew really a good place to choose as a starting point for a Biblical theology of ~, unless you are opting for a economic or structural supersessionist theology?

    • Yeah, this is old stuff. That’s the problem with blogs, what you thought was a good idea to say three months ago no longer applies 🙂
      Matt is not a good place to start, which is why I rebooted and started again in Genesis.

  2. Pingback: catechism section 2358 - Page 5 - Christian Forums

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