“We must win the peace,” advocated the associate editor of the Pentecostal Herald in the wake of World War II. The writer’s concern was for those persons who became the rubble of war. While the Allied nations had won the war, the carnage of war remained. If care is not given for those torn by war, “the oppressed people of Europe and Asia will be filled with greater hatred than ever before, and will long remember our bombs and tanks.”[1] The writer concluded by stating,

“The peace of the nations cannot be won by force, and it can only be the results of love among the people.”

The writer represents the predominant, overarching tradition of Pentecostals that God has called us to love all people, including those whom we have identified as our enemies. The reason we are to love our enemies, many early Pentecostals contended, is we have a common citizenship, a heavenly citizenship.[2]

A forthcoming publication looking at American churches during World War I, edited by Gordon L. Heath, and published by McMaster Divinity College Press, incudes an article in which I was asked to look at the perspectives on war by Pentecostal churches.[3] Therein I argued that during WWI, American Pentecostals variously advocated one of three positions toward the war. Some were absolute pacifists. Others contended that young Pentecostal men should faithfully serve their nation as it goes to war. A third group contended that Americans could be patriots. They could be faithful to the nation where they were born and live, the nation that they love, but can faithfully engage that loyalty by challenging the value and viability of the war in Europe.

During the Cold War era, I served in the navy. In my present office are expressions of that service. A ship’s bell reminds me of the sounding of the hours at sea. My ceremonial sword hangs above my office door. Below the sword are the words of the prophet Isaiah, “They will hammer their swords into plowshares … Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Is 2:4 NAS). As I look back to my first days in military service, where we were learning war, I recall the words from the commanding officer of the training facility. The Captain was calling us to recognize that our first and overarching role is to be that of peacemakers:

“When we fire our weapons in anger, we have failed in our first role.”

This commitment to peacemaking should not be limited to addressing nation-on-nation aggression. Consideration needs to be given to domestic violence. I recall that in my youth, police officers commonly referred to themselves as Peace Officers. While wearing a uniform and carrying a badge that authorized them to make arrests, with force if necessary, they identified themselves as participating in a community of Peace Officers.

Recently, the Assemblies of God Presbytery called clergy and membership to a renewed commitment to peacemaking.[4] Significant contributors to the writing of the position paper are two professors at Southeastern, Robby Waddell and Robert Houlihan. Within the paper, Pentecostals’ historic commitment to evangelism is identified as standing alongside “the social evils and injustices of our time, about which the Bible speaks so powerfully.” The presbytery recognized that persons differ in regard to their perspectives on combatant, non-combatant, and pacifist actions. Further, the presbyters reiterated a historic commitment of observing “loyalty to the government of the United States in war and peace.” Yet, the presbyters emphasized that the call to be makers of peace is a biblical call, a call that is also consistent with the historic commitments of Pentecostals.

As Pentecostals enter a second century, with wars of terror pervading our lives and thoughts, Pentecostals must reconsider what winning the peace means. We continue to face a residual of the Cold War, particularly the possibility of nuclear warfare. We are confronted by the present violence delivered via guerilla warfare abroad and within our nation, what we commonly identify as terrorism. We face recurrent expressions of lethal and terrorizing violence on university and elementary school campuses, at airports, and other gathering places.

Concern and debate should be given regarding how to reduce such violence, and how to protect persons from such violence.

At the forefront of that discussion, however, should be a call to winning the peace, to advocate for peace in such a way that the evangel of Christ, the good news, is extended to all people. Winning the peace becomes predicated upon God’s commitment to loving all people, a commitment in which we are to participate.

[1] Oscar Vouga, “Editorial, Pentecostal Herald (December 1945): 2 [italics in original]. The Herald is a publication of the United Pentecostal Church.

[2] For example, see Stanley H. Frodsham, “Our Heavenly Citizenship,” Weekly Evangel (Sep 11, 1915), 3.

[3] Zachary Michael Tackett, “As Citizens of Heaven: Peace, War, and Patriotism among Pentecostals in the United States during the First World War,” in American Churches and the First World War, edited by Gordon L. Heath, McMaster Divinity College General Series 8 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016), 71-86, reprinted and adopted from “As Citizens of Heaven: Peace, War, and Patriotism among Pentecostals in the United States during World War I,” Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity 4., no. 1 (2013): 27-43.

[4] “Church Mission and Peacemaking,” General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God, August 2015.