A Prayer from a Pacifist on Memorial Day

prayer pacifist

God, help us to remember…

…that life is a gift. To call it a gift is to imply that we did not earn it. Life is grace. Peace preserves life. So on this Memorial Day weekend we remember that Your intention for this world is shalom. This would be a world where human beings find themselves in right relationship with You – God, with each other, with the earth, and to one’s own self. Life is indeed a gift both to companions and enemies. So on this Memorial Day we remember the gift of life that unites human beings everywhere. We know that in You, Lord Christ, death is the last enemy that will one day be defeated. This hope unites us, even as we mourn the loss of life caused by war.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that violence always disrupts shalom. Christ, You died, absorbing the violence of a military machine’s ultimate weapon for insurrectionists – the cross. This death unleashed the potential for shalom once again… something war can never bring. May we see this resurrection potential all around us!

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that noble men and women have died in war. Many whose motives were pure, believing that this sort of sacrifice was Your will. May those of us who claim to be peacemakers remember that soldiers of any nation usually believe that their fight is for a moral good. Therefore, help us to be slow to pass judgment and quick to offer hospitality.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that the way of Jesus has been marginalized from our Bibles since the days of Constantine. The day the cross and the sword went to bed with one another was the day that the church pushed further into its decline towards compromise. By turning her back to the red letters of Scripture, Christendom chose to perpetuate violence rather than follow Jesus’ own model of absorbing the wrath of the powers of this age. We pray that we would pacify violence with love.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that during the days of the Reformation Christian sisters and brothers killed one another over dogma. How can we learn to love our enemies when we can’t even love ourselves? Today we spew words of violence over similar disputes when our primary disposition, according to You O Christ, is that we might be “one” as You and the Father are One.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that radical Christians during the Reformation rediscovered the subversive nature of the kingdom of God. This is a way of enemy love, nonresistance, integrity, and countercultural community. May we lean into that vision that transcends the artificial borders of nations and those that often surround our hearts.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that Dr. King serves as a modern example that nonviolence and displays of love can in fact lead revolutions. When we pull out a sword, more swords get drawn. In the same way, love inevitably multiplies. May we spark fresh revolutions of love in our day!

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, help us to remember…

…that many soldiers come back from war with post-traumatic stress syndrome. PTSD reminds us that the ultimate remembering that happens for those in combat is the kind that brings forth nightmares. Help us to be prepared to comfort soldiers in their times of need.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Therefore, with Your Divine help, O God, we commit ourselves to being a community of RE-Membering.

RE-Membering…

…names the past and its residual effects, while also being committed to re-incorporating veterans into our Christian communities. God, with your help we commit ourselves to peacemaking by building bridges of reconciliation with veterans – refusing to live in judgment.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God, we pledge our allegiance to Your kingdom as we seek to…

…name evil and we discourage followers of Jesus from any vocation that might require violence. At the same time, we refuse to distance ourselves from those who have taken part in the way of Empire. God, help us to bring shalom to these people, Your children, as You have given peace to those of us who have never pulled the trigger. And prompt us to embrace the the families of the fallen, to deplore death, and celebrate life. May we mourn with those who mourn and trust that death has in fact been defeated by Love.

May we be people who lay down our pacifistic pride, and follow the model of our Savior by stretching out our arms as a gesture of love, openness, and hospitality. Never condoning violence but always choosing forgiveness and reconciliation in spite of it. In this way, may our God of peace, Jesus Christ, receive all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise.

Glory to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning
Is now
And will be forever,

Amen.

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  • Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. As a pastor, I have a difficult time with these nationalistic holidays in religious worship scenes. I am uneasy with that type of syncretism. This I could share and be comfortable with.

    • Thanks Timothy. Yes. I cringe a bit when churches celebrate days like this. I’ve seen churches I love show videos featuring flags, crosses, and tanks. Heartbreaking. But, I still love folks who in the worldview they’ve adopted, believe that what they do (in war) is a moral good. Their motives are often fine — but so often they miss the centrality of enemy love and peacemaking in the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and even in Revelation. I can love and be friends with such people… even where we disagree.

    • Allen Simpson

      But you’re ok liking and commenting on a site that worship commercialism and advertisements for tarrot card reading. Maybe you should take a look at what you’re passively supporting. Especially if you are a pastor at any kind of Christian church.

      • Again: “DISCLAIMER: Third-party advertisements are not endorsements or recommendations by Patheos or our bloggers.”

      • The ads are random and normally based on the viewer’s own search history and cookies. So in the advertisements that are on my page, I see nothing about tarot cards and the occult. Advertisements are everywhere. I’ve learned to ignore the vast majority of them.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Kurt Willems for affirming Jesus and the Greatest Commandment, no matter how politically offensive it is to do so. Jesus and the Greatest Commandment will always be greater than the military power of Caesar’s swords and chariots.

  • EthanRogati

    If we ignore the times that God the Father has not only used what was meant for evil for good in the context of war, but explicitly commanded that violence be done to enemies to forward His purposes, then we ignore large portions of the Bible and do so with violence to the foundations of Christianity, that being the history of the Jewish people.

    There may be a brief acknowledgement in this prayer that pacifists shouldn’t look down on those who would defend themselves and their countrymen with weapons, but it’s about one sentence and frankly seems grudging that it’s there at all.

    I am a civilian and I have not picked up a gun for more than a couple of shots at a Boy Scout event decades ago. I do not worship war and I do not view killing someone as a good thing. At the same time, when nations and peoples have sought to do harm to other nations and peoples, I have viewed it and do view it as a worthy thing to pick up arms and make them stop.

    Not all of the wars that Americans have entered into have been just or wise. Not all of the violence done in the name of God has had the hand of God remotely near it. Peace is a good thing. Avoiding war is a good thing. But to put down those who have fought wars and picked up arms in defense of those who are, for various reasons, unable to defend themselves, is not good.

    The United States was birthed out of a war, a revolution against another sovereign nation. We would not have a Constitution without that war. We would not have government sanctioned freedom of religion without that war. We, ironically, would not have the ability for this sermon, this prayer about pacifism, without that war and a number of the wars (admittedly not all) that this country has fought since.

    Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have died in just (and unjust) wars throughout the history of this country born out of war. I went to a ceremony in my town today where I was reminded of the cost of violence in war. I watched my father-in-law, a veteran of one of the United States’ most infamous, and in my opinion, unjust, wars serve in the color guard. I watched him hold back tears as he remembered his comrades in arms who never came home. He went to Vietnam idealistic and ready to fight for his country. He came home alive, but emotionally and mentally shattered. Decades later, he’s still putting the pieces back together. Does he wish that he had never gone? Yes. But he would not be the man that I know today without that service. My wife, his daughter, would not be who she is today without it. I wish I could give him and my mother-in-law the man he was back, before going to serve in that war. At the same time, God has used what was meant for evil for good. God has used that violence, that war, to give me love and a family. I wouldn’t have it quite the same otherwise.

    I will end this reply here. I apologize for its length. Like your post, your prayer, it’s not just a simple thing to say. War isn’t simple. Neither is peace.

    • Read Matthew 5… which you might be tempted to ignore: “you have heard it said… but I say to you…”

      Or Romans 12 that calls us to defer vengeance and wrath to God… and to “pagan” human authorities–but never in the name of the church.

      Or tons of other portions of the New Testament.

      Or at least read this: http://www.seattlepangea.com/nonviolence-101/

      To attribute war to God is quite risky… it assumes that God shows favoritism… Not sure that can be justified in New Testament theology….
      Thanks anyway for reading.

      • EthanRogati

        I do not attribute war to God in the present. I do not assume that God shows favoritism today, specifically regarding the United States. I am an American by birth and choose to support the country in which God placed me, but I do not necessarily believe it is a country chosen by God above all others or anything like that.

        In the past, before Christ, I believe that God did show favoritism for the Jews and as God’s chosen people, used violence at times to establish their presence in the land that He had promised them.

        I do not draw an equivalence to the modern secular state of Israel, however, and do not buy into the current movement that as American Christians we should support the modern secular state of Israel.

        I believe Jesus when he said “blessed are the peacemakers”. I agree that vengeance is God’s alone. As a Christian, I find no command or compulsion to pick up arms in defense of any one nation or secular ideal. I am not trying to say that going to war should have anything to do with God or that I should try to justify it as being in the name of God.

        As an American citizen, however, I do believe that, at certain times in its history, it has been entirely appropriate for the United States to have gone to war in defense of its citizens or of allies. That is an entirely earthly perspective. I am not trying to justify it with Scripture or say that God has commanded it.

        I don’t know if that clarifies anything for you or makes my opinion more or less worthwhile for you to listen to. I just wanted to fill in some gaps that my first response may have left.

        Thanks for reading.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Awesome preachable prayer psalm for the ages. Love it.

  • Allen Simpson

    Yep cause nothing says pacifist Christian prayer like an add for brats, hotdogs, hunday cars and the occult (tarrot card reading )
    Thanks I’ll pass for something that worships commercialism and the occult less than God himself.
    This sure is disgusting. With it’s bowing down to occult advertisement and pure commercialism.

    • “DISCLAIMER: Third-party advertisements are not endorsements or recommendations by Patheos or our bloggers.”

    • JD

      Allen,
      As was mentioned above, the content of ads are typically driven by the viewer’s own search history/cookies. if you are seeing ads for tarot card readings, then that’s likely due to something you’ve looked at on your own computer. Patheos, and the bloggers here, do not sit in a room picking and choosing which ads to place on their page. Ads are generated based on your viewing tendencies.

  • Ken Steckert

    A great prayer that does not seem judgmental of others who have a different view. Looks like a prayer from a humble heart!