Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:9-12)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:38-47)
The words spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are understood by Anabaptists to be a guide for the conduct of anyone who claims to be a follower of the Lamb. The verses quoted here are the basis of what is most often called the doctrine of nonresistance. There are many who seem to think that nonresistance only means a refusal to take up arms and participate in war. But these verses are saying much more than that — they say that a Christian should be peaceful and a peacemaker in all aspects of his or her life. This includes our speech, our conduct, our business dealings, our attitude towards those who do not see things as we do.
It means that we must be truly defenceless. If we are quick to take offense at the words or actions of someone else, then we cannot truly claim to be nonresistant. If we believe that we are entitled to some measure of respect because of our faith, the good reputation of our family or the colour of our skin, that is not being nonresistant.
There have often been instances in history where Christians who lived a non-resistant faith have suffered severe persecution. It would only have made circumstances much more difficult if they had tried to defend themselves. The only thing that would have satisfied the persecutors was a complete renunciation of their faith. However, more often than not, a peaceful person who does not pose a threat to others will avoid many of the difficulties that befall those who are contentious.
Anabaptists believe that no lasting betterment of society will ever be attained by force. Therefore we will not be found in political or social protest movements. We will be found endeavouring to help the wounded and broken-hearted people of this world, both by helping with their immediate needs and by sharing the gospel. For we believe that all the hurts of this world have their root cause in rebellion against God and that the only worthwhile changes in society will come from changed hearts.