A few days ago one of our missionaries was driving to the church where she works, when she heard two loud explosions close by. At first she thought they were fireworks, but then she noticed that all the pedestrians were quickly clearing the street. A lady on the sidewalk grabbed her baby from its stroller and ducked into the nearest house, leaving the stroller on the curb. Suddenly, our missionary colleague noticed a man running in her direction. She had to swerve to miss him, and as he went by she saw that he was carrying a pistol. Later she found out that what she had witnessed was the robbery of a gas station, during which there was at least one fatality.
In the Grangeiro neighborhood of Crato–our city–the husband of one of the members of our congregation was walking home at night. Without warning a man jumped out of the shadows behind him and hacked at his head with a short sickle, nearly decapitating him.
Every week we hear accounts like the ones above. Things like this make me look askance when Brazilians insist that they are a “pacifist” nation. While this may be true in terms of external policy, it has not translated into Brazil being a peaceful nation.
I have been thinking much about this recently, ever since speaking at a conference where the theme was decidedly military (and, to be fair, the ones who came up with the theme and invested heavily in making it work were the Brazilian young people of the church). There is a decided hesitation on the part of Brazilian believers to use military analogies or speak of Christian warfare.
As I told the young people, you can be pacifist in your politics if you want, but you cannot afford to be pacifist in your spiritual life. Our enemy is not pacifist (I Peter 5:8), and neither is our Commander. The Old Testament–which is for our example and edification–is full of accounts of God’s people going to war against His enemies. Christ said that he came to bring not peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). In these New Testament times we no longer take up the sword against God’s earthly foes, but that does not mean the war is over. If anything, it has intensified, because now our fight is against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12), and against our own flesh (I Pet. 2:11). We also know that true peace will only come once Christ has won the final victory over His enemies–peace through superior firepower, if you will.
Mark Driscoll once said “If you are a pacifist, that’s ok. Those of us who aren’t have got your back.” That pretty much sums up my politics. It is interesting to see how a pacifist philosophy has wreaked havoc on Brazilian society. Take, for example, the local supermarket (think Wal Mart) which, upon catching a shoplifter, politely asks them to return the items and then lets them go their merry way. This is because if they were to prosecute they would risk reprisals from the criminal element. So they are reduced to negotiating with the bandidos.
The result of this philosophy is not peace. Rather, it is a population that lives in fear of the criminal element.
I am much more concerned, however, that we as Western Christians (not just Brazilians) have lost our battle-mentality. It is time for us to stand up, suit up (referring to Ephesians 6, not suits and ties), and step up to the front lines. The only peace in this war comes through victory, and there can be no negotiation with the enemy.