Editor’s Note: At a time when many on the American Christian Right espouse the supposed “originalist” thinking of the Founders, it’s ironic that many show little interest in the “originalist” thinking of Jesus as recounted in the gospels.
Rather than embrace the pacifist message of “the Prince of Peace,” many of these Christians have a quick-draw reaction to launching wars, a corruption of their religion that Gary G. Kohls traces back to Rome’s embrace of Christianity:
There is no question that the Christian church of the first three centuries regarded itself as a nonviolent community. It makes perfect sense. Jesus clearly taught and modeled the nonviolent love of friend and enemy, and his earliest followers tried to do so.
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The first Christians tried to be faithful to Jesus’s commandments to “put away the sword,” ”do not repay evil for evil,” “do unto others that which you would have them do unto you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” “pray for those who despitefully use you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “love as I have loved you.”
Jesus’s earliest followers regarded the human body as the holy temple of God here on earth, and, knowing that violence to a holy place was considered an act of desecration (and therefore forbidden), they refused to kill or maim other children of God, and therefore they also refused, out of conscience, to become killing soldiers for Rome.
Martyrdom, in the first three centuries, was regarded as the ultimate act of social responsibility. And the church flourished!