Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 29
XXIX. Of Revenge and War.
We believe we do not err when by nature we judge that avenging or retaliating of every injustice is but just. Nevertheless, it is certain that though the Lord our God permitted His people in the olden times to exercise revenge (Matthew 5:38, 43), by reason of their hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8), yet it primarily and properly belongs to God Himself (Romans 12:17-21; Hebrews 10:30; Leviticus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 32:35) who also is alone able correctly and with exactness to judge of the measure of the evil and of the just punishment (Isaiah 28:17; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 12:47, 48) for which we are often incapacitated by our imperfect knowledge, our unbridled self-love, and excited passions. James 1:20; Proverbs 27:4. For this reason, we believe, our Lord Jesus Christ, when He would establish His spiritual and heavenly kingdom in accord with the will of God as it was from the beginning, forbade His followers not only all practice of revenge (Matthew 5:38-44) but even all vindictiveness (1 John 3:15), as did likewise His apostles after Him. Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9. On the contrary, He insisted on their putting in practice the law of love to a degree far in advance of the teaching of nature (Luke 6:32, 33) or of the Jewish Rabbis (Matthew 5:20), as well as on an exercise of patience that should be perfect (James 1:4) after His own example (2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:21-23); that is, instead of violently resisting the evil with the object of destroying it, rather to suffer repeated wrong (Matthew 5:38-40); rather put up with material loss and injustice than to be quick to quarrel (1 Corinthians 6:1-8); to render to no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17, 20) not even reviling for reviling (1 Peter 3:9); but always to follow after that which is good toward one another and toward all; to overcome by doing good (Romans 12:21); to manifest love even to our enemy: if he is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink (Proverbs 25:21, 22; Romans 12:20); to bless them that curse us; to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that do violence to us and persecute us. Only as we do this shall we be children pleasing to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-48), and true followers of Jesus Christ (John 12:26), who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not; but committed all to Him that judgeth righteously (1 Peter 2:21-23), in all of which He left us an example that we should follow in His steps. Philippians 2:5.
Hence it is, as we think, self-evident that the use of deadly weapons and the carrying on of warfare to the destruction of our enemies -- and even of innocent ones who have not wronged us but upon whom in war often falls the burden of misery and sorrow -- is entirely unseemly for a true follower of Jesus and therefore not allowed (Matthew 5:39, 40, 43, 44; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). For we are persuaded that war, as we know it, cannot possibly be carried on without manifestly violating the fundamental principles of Christ's kingdom (John 18:36; Ephesians 4:31, 32) and without nurturing vice and practices contrary to those principles (Galatians 5:19-21), whereby there is often manifested the likeness of wild beasts and of devils, rather than of followers of the Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:7) and of those that show forth His excellencies. 1 Peter 2:9.
We therefore hold that it is our duty carefully to abstain from the use of all war-like weapons and from the above mentioned hostile resistance; that it is allowed to flee from the evil as much as is in our power (Matthew 10:23), to adopt such measures against an enemy that without working to his destruction we may prevent and bring to naught his hostile purposes (Acts 23:6-9), and by means of defensive reasoning and good words (John 18:23; Acts 4:8-13, 19, 20) and manifold kindnesses to bring him to reflect and be at peace (Matthew 5:25, 26; Luke 12:58; Genesis 21:25-27. Moreover, we are of the opinion that all malevolent treatment that we experience must serve to exercise us in the faith and patience of the saints, as we follow the example of Jesus Christ, His holy apostles, and many thousands of Christians in the early and later centuries, who when for conscience sake they had to suffer adversities (Matthew 5:10) experienced in this the grace of God making all things work for their good (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 4:17, 18; 6:10), not to mention that the merciful God often gives an issue and an escape (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) beyond all human thought (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:11; 4:17, 18). Besides all this, it was plainly prophesied that such a peaceful and non-resistant life (Matthew 10: 16; Luke 10:3) would be found among the subjects of Christ's kingdom (Isaiah 2:4; 11:6-8; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 9:9, 10). Wherefore we pray that this blessed kingdom may come (Matthew 6:10) and come soon, Amen!
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