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painting of fishing by Carl Larsson

Insights on Peacemaking

from Charles Spurgeon, Jeannette Rankin, Pastor André Trocmé, Peace Pilgrim, and Albert Schweitzer


Charles Spurgeon

It should ever be remembered that we have no war against persons, and that the weapons which we use are not such as are forged for the deadly conflicts of mankind. The wars of a Christian are against principles, against sins, against the miseries of mankind, against that Evil One who has led man astray from his Maker. Our wars are against the iniquity which keeps man an enemy to himself. The weapons that we use are holy arguments and consecrated lives, devotion and prayer to God, teaching and example.… Ours is battling for the peace, and fighting for rest. We disturb the world to make it quiet, and turn it upside down to set it right.… We have no sympathy with any other war, but count it an evil of the direst sort, let it be disguised as it may.

Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) was England’s most renowned preacher in the late nineteenth century. At age twenty he became pastor of London’s New Park Street Chapel. His sermons reached an estimated ten million people. This piece is from his sermon “A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ” (Sermon No. 938), June 26, 1870 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

Jeannette Rankin

“Boundaries are contacts as well as limits. At what point do the interests of our country meet and possibly conflict with those of other countries? What are our real interests anyway and are they worth a war for their protection? And are the interests in question those of the nation as a whole or merely those of a small group of men or even of a single man? Are such clashes anyway settled better by heat and conflict or by a reasonable adjustment?”

Jeannette Rankin (1880–1973) was the first woman to be elected to the US Congress. A lifelong pacifist, she voted against US entry into both world wars. Rankin also championed the rights of women, children, and the poor. This quote is from “Peace and the Disarmament Conference,” in Two Votes Against War: And Other Writings on Peace (A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, 2001).

Pastor André Trocmé

“Perhaps it is true that certain violent remedies employed against tyrants have put an end to certain forms of evil, but they have not eliminated evil. Evil itself will take root elsewhere, as we have seen through history. The fertilizer that stimulates its growth is yesterday’s violence. Even “just wars” and “legitimate defense” bring vengeance in their train. Fresh crimes invariably ensue. But the future of the person who turns to God is not determined by the past, and therefore neither is the future of humanity. God’s forgiveness creates the possibility of an entirely new future. The cross breaks the cycle of violence.”

Pastor André Trocmé (1901–1971) led a nonviolent resistance movement in Le Chambon, France, during World War II. He and fellow villagers provided refuge for an estimated 2,500 Jews. After the war, he served as European secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. This piece is from Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution (Plough, 2003) 152.

Peace Pilgrim

“No one walks so safely as one who walks humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith. For such a person gets through to the good in others (and there is good in everyone), and therefore cannot be harmed. This works between individuals, it works between groups, and it would work between nations if nations had the courage to try it.”

For twenty-eight years, Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder (1908–1981), known as “Peace Pilgrim,” crisscrossed America on foot to share her simple message: “Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” She had one set of clothing, carried no money, and only ate when food was offered. After 25,000 miles she stopped counting and kept walking. This quote if from Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words (Ocean Tree Books, 1982), 31

Albert Schweitzer

“We live in a time when the good faith of peoples is doubted more than ever before. Expressions throwing doubt on the trust­worthiness of each other are bandied back and forth.…We cannot continue in this paralyzing mistrust. If we want to work our way out of the desperate situation in which we find ourselves, another spirit must enter into the people.…We must approach them in the spirit that we are human beings, all of us, and that we feel ourselves fitted to feel with each other; to think and will together in the same way.”

By age thirty Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) was already an acclaimed organist, pastor, and scholar. But the lack of medical care in Africa convinced him to devote the rest of his life to serving the people there as a physician. In 1913 he and his wife Hélène opened a hospital in present-day Gabon, where he worked until his death at age ninety. Schweitzer was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. This quote is from Peace or Atomic War? (Henry Holt, 1958), page 44.