I was raised Mennonite. So as a young Christian, at the age of 17, I took it for granted that Christians should not go to war. But I was influenced by a godly relative who pastored a Christian sect, and eventually left the Mennonite church and its version of the Christian faith. Coming to embrace something of a Christian just war theory.
After reading N.T. Wright a few years back, my theology was revolutionized into a kingdom of God in Christ, new creation predominating paradigm. I had been prepared for this in some ways by George Elton Ladd, Vineyard and dissatisfaction with Christianity as I knew it (even thinking about considering Roman Catholicism). Scot McKnight has helped solidify my stance in this. And there is much more reading I want to do around this issue of theological paradigm in general, and application from it.
What has influenced me to go back to reading the Bible more the way I read it as a Mennonite, is the truth that as Christians we are members of a different kingdom, not from this world. And the Lord's "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). I believe both have been largely lost in evangelical theology. Through the influence of dispensationalism (which by the way, in the name of "progressive dispensationalism", today is far better). Dispensationalists have said that "the Sermon on the Mount" is not for today or for the church. And that the gospel of the kingdom is for the Jews to proclaim. That we live in the gospel of God's grace. Never mind that Paul preached the kingdom of God.
This is the groundwork for a few more thoughts on this, in (a) post(s) to come. Today I just leave us with the encouragement and challenge to get into the Sermon on the Mount. An excellent place to start is where the sermon itself starts, the Beatitudes. Let me say upfront that I certainly don't question that there are people in the military seeking to follow Jesus, who can end up walking just as closely to him, as the most ardent Christian pacifist. Regardless of what we think about Christians and war, we can find much help in understanding the kingdom of God come in Jesus, through reading and meditating on this passage (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:17-49 a rather parallel, "sermon on the plain"). This is at the heart of who we're called to be as the church. As the people of God in Christ living in this world.
I find the Beatitudes to be foundational as to what God's calling looks like among those who are following Jesus in this world. If these things are characteristic of those who are blessed, than we must look at our lives and churches, to see if this is characteristic of us.
How has "the Sermon on the Mount" impacted your life? What does it mean in your theology, thinking and life? Or what might you like to add here?