I’ve been collecting of some of the pacifist teachings of the early Christians. There are more, but there’s a lot to chew on just here don’t you think?

But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

– Tertullian, On Idolatry

Christians could never slay their enemies. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength.

– Origen, Contra Celsius Book VII

For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained. War needs great preparation, and luxury craves profusion; but peace and love, simple and quiet sisters, require no arms nor excessive preparation. The Word is their sustenance.

– Clement of Alexandria, Chapter 12 of Book 1

In their wars, therefore, the Etruscans use the trumpet, the Arcadians the pipe, the Sicilians the pectides, the Cretans the lyre, the Lacedaemonians the flute, the Thracians the horn, the Egyptians the drum, and the Arabians the cymbal. The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honor God, is what we employ.

– Clement of Alexandria, Chapter 4 of Book 2

Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct with violence.

– Clement of Alexandria, Fragments

We who formerly used to murder one another now refrain from even making war upon our enemies.

– Justin Martyr, First Apology

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

– Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 16:17-19

There is nothing better than peace, in which all warfare of things in heaven and things on earth is abolished.

– Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians, Chapter 13

Wars are scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood. And murder–which is admitted to be a crime in the case of an individual–is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not because they are guiltless, but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale!

Cyprian of Carthage

Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man’s piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.

Disputation of Archelaus and Manes

If only God were worshiped, there would not be dissensions and wars. For men would know that they are the sons of one God.

– Lactantius, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, p. 143

Why would [the just man] carry on war and mix himself with the passions of others when his mind is engaged in perpetual peace with men? Would he be delighted with foreign merchandise or with human blood–he who does not know how to seek gain? For the Christian is satisfied with his standard of living. He considers it unlawful not only to commit slaughter himself, but also to be present with those who do it.

– Lactantius, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, p. 153

If only more Christians were known for this shallom lifestyle today. Prepared to join me in this recovery of the ancient teachings and practices of our way?

4 thoughts on “The Pacifist Teachings of the Early Christians

  1. Here’s one more: Martin of Tours (4th century) was baptized while in the Roman army. Just before a battle with the Gauls, he declared to his superior officers, “I am a soldier of Christ; I am not allowed to fight.” To refute the charge of cowardice, he offered to stand, unarmed, between the Roman and Gaul armies. Released from the army, he later became a bishop and monastic founder in southern France.

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