One Hundred and Fifty-Five Years of Sharing the Gospel

Mark Russell has a wonderful story on his blog about his meeting with Sister Lily Thursh (aged 103) and sister Elsie Thrush (aged 98). Both have been commissioned evangelists in the Church Army for over three-quarters of a century; both knew the founder of the Church Army, Wilson Carlyle, and both continue to have a passion for the gospel and a joy in sharing it. Here’s a quote:

I asked them why they had joined Church Army. They told me their stories, how they had been inspired by an early film of Church Army, they watched Evangelists working with children orphaned in the First World War, they saw other Evangelists working with young women who were pregnant outside marriage and had been thrown on the streets by their parents, and they knew they were being called to help. Elsie said her life had been “an adventure” and although they never felt able or confident in each new post, they knew God would give them what they needed. Lily said her strength always was that she loved God, she knew he loved her, and she wanted to share his love with others.

And again:

Their energy and sheer life was infectious, I found myself sitting in the presence of two saints, and the world is a better place for their being alive. They told me story after story of people they had met, and shared God’s love with. Each of them had travelled with the forces in the 2nd World War and had been to Africa and India. Even now at their advanced age they are still sharing their faith with the staff in the residential homes where they live, and take an interest in the young staff who work there. They told me Church Army needed to root everything in prayer, and I was told on no uncertain terms, Church Army Evangelists were not to be “imitation curates!” I have met people 50 years younger with less life and optimism! I loved it so much, I stayed over an hour longer than scheduled!

Give yourself a boost by going over to Mark’s blog and reading this whole story! I hope that when I’m that age (if I make it!), I have half the joy and enthusiasm for the Gospel that these two sisters obviously have!

Stephen Cottrell: Praying through Life

I’ve recently read and thoroughly enjoyed this little book about prayerby Stephen Cottrell. He says quite categorically at the beginning that it is a book for novices, not experts, and having finished the book I’m inclined to think that after all these years of praying I must still be a novice, because I found a lot of his advice to be spot on for my situation.

This is particularly the case with regard to his thoughts around praying together in the family, and the use of set forms of prayer.

Let me explain a bit. In many ways Stephen starts at the other end of the stick from me. I was nurtured in the evangelical tradition in which the individual ‘daily quiet time’ was sacrosanct. Prayer together was encouraged, of course, but not at the expense of missing your daily private time with the Lord. And whether prayer was individual or corporate, the use of prayers written by others was frowned upon; true prayer had to be from the heart, and therefore spontaneous.

Stephen, however, starts from the other end. He says quite clearly that if we have the choice, we Christians should always pray together rather than alone, and his preference is definitely to encourage prayer in setting where people are already together (i.e. spouses, families), and adapting the forms of prayer to fit these communities, rather than trying to create artificial communities to fit the forms of prayer we have. And he says that beginners in the art of prayer often find the creation of spontaneous prayers of their own quite intimidating, but can find a great deal of help in the use of set forms.

The book is called ‘Praying through Life’ and the subtitle is ‘How to Pray in the Home, at Work, and in the Family’. This is a good description of the contents of the book. Stephen’s philosophy is that your life probably already has a natural rhythm to it, and you’re more likely to succeed at becoming a regular pray-er if you fit your prayer life to those rhythms. For most of us, those rhythms centre on home, work, and family.

One helpful feature of Stephen Cottrell’s books is his habit of giving a summary of the contents toward the end. In this book, that summary takes the form of a short chapter (all the chapters in this book are short!) called ‘Ten Golden Rules’. Let me quote the ten golden rules in full:
  1. Start. The hardest thing about prayer is beginning. So just start. Your longing for God, and your wanting to pray, are the beginning of a relationship that can grow and grow. Tell God that you want to know him and love him, and let him make the next move.
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to pray in you and teach you how to pray.
  3. Find time to pray. Set aside special times for prayer.
  4. Find people to pray with, especially your family, but also friends and work mates. We need one another’s support. Remember, there is no such thing as private prayer; we are surrounded by the prayers of others.
  5. Build prayer into the rhythms of daily life.
  6. Make your home a place of prayer.
  7. Find the way of praying that is right for you. Explore different ways of praying. Listen as well as speak; give thanks as well as make requests. Try to make sure your prayer is marked by adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication, but don’t let particular methods get in the way.
  8. Don’t look for results.
  9. Make your life a prayer. Use your times of prayer to make the whole of life prayerful.
  10. Don’t give up when it gets hard. Trying to pray is praying, and God is present even in the darkness.
I would highly recommend this book. There’s a preview on Google Books here.

Fundamental Change

Wednesday night Alex’s open stage moved to the south end of the city for a one-off event at A.J.’s new Second Cup location on the corner of Ellerslie Road and 111 Street. That’s my neighbourhood – a two minute drive from the church – and it was nice to welcome all the performers to the area!
Rob Heath sang his song ‘Dragonfly’ and introduced it with a personal story. He said that in everyone’s life there is a defining moment – one that sets the course of the rest of their life – and in his case it was when, as a young man, he gave up doing drugs. He was into some pretty hard stuff and, by his own admission, headed for a future either in jail or in an early grave – until one morning he just woke up and decided that no, he didn’t want his life to be all about that kind of thing. And so he chose to quit, and that choice has been the decisive factor for the rest of his life.
The song ‘Dragonfly’ is about that sort of experience. The change a dragonfly experiences when it moves form the larval state, spreads its wings and takes to the sky, becomes a metaphor for the change a human being goes through when we leave behind a lesser way of life and take to our own personal skies. For Rob, that change was clearly not only life-changing but also life-saving. So, no doubt, it is for many others as well.
As I was listening to Rob explain what the song was all about, I reflected that I sometimes give people far too little credit for being able to understand metaphor. Take Jesus’ statement that ‘no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again’. Detach yourself from the unfortunate and well-publicised antics of TV evangelists who have shown by their actions that the change in their lives isn’t as fundamental as they claimed. Forget (if any of my readers actually remember!) old theological debates about whether ‘new birth’ happened automatically at (predominantly infant) baptism, or whether some further conversion experience was necessary. Forget all that and come to the metaphor with fresh eyes, and it becomes obvious that what Jesus is talking about is fundamental, life-defining change – what Rob called the ‘defining moment’ in a person’s life. That change is too radical to be contained in either what is often a conventional religious ritual (baptism) or the simple act of just praying a prayer accepting Jesus as one’s ‘personal Lord and Saviour’. It is not just life-changing but also, in a fundamental sense, life-defining.
On March 5th 1972, at the age of thirteen, I sat on my bed in my room and prayed a simple prayer giving my life to Jesus. It seemed a very minor occurrence in the life of one who was after all a child of the vicarage, brought up in the church, baptised as a child and presumably one who had an inside track when it came to religion. And yet, when I look back now, I can’t deny that it was a life-defining moment. Before then, although I was a regular Sunday churchgoer, my ‘religion’ was purely superficial and conventional; I had not met God in any personal way. But on that night Something from Somewhere else invaded my life. I must have meant what I said, or (more importantly) God must have meant what he said, because in a very quiet way, for the first time in my life, I did meet God that night. From that moment on, the passion to know God and to follow Jesus became the central story of my life.
When I was in England last month my friend Mark Barnes wore a tee-shirt given to him by his daughter Komi with the words ‘I AM FROM SPACE’ on the front. A highly appropriate tee-shirt, in my view, because, in the nicest possible sense, Mark does sometimes act as if he’s from Somewhere Else! We all know people like that, people whose behaviour is somehow different from the conventional folks around them, people who march to the beat of a different drummer. They really do seem as if they’re from somewhere else!
The Greek phrase in the Gospel of John that we customarily translate ‘born again’ can also mean ‘born from above’ – born, in other words, from Somewhere Else. There is no right or wrong way to translate it; in Greek, it can mean either ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’ (or, perhaps, both), and I’m grateful for this double meaning. ‘Born from above’ is another way of describing the fundamental change Jesus is talking about; it’s meant to lead to the sort of life that can no longer be adequately explained by the outward circumstances of one’s birth. I’m not only from here, you see; I’m from Somewhere Else. Furthermore, that Somewhere Else is quietly colonising Down Here; there are more and more of us around, and our goal is that our life together will gradually change things so that life ‘down here’ reflects more closely the dream of the One who made it.
Because, you see, the life of the world has also had its defining moment. As I mentioned, my own defining moment seems rather low key, but it has affected absolutely everything that followed. The world’s defining moment looked rather low-key on the outside, too – the life and death of a Galilean carpenter and Jewish messianic pretender who was put firmly in his place – with nails – by the powers that be of Rome and Judea. Hanging up on the cross, he looked pretty foolish to the Jews who were used to talking about God’s mighty acts (which, by definition, didn’t include getting so badly defeated), and pretty weak to the Romans (who were used to celebrating the great victories of their armies against people like him).
But the defining moment happened quietly, some time between nightfall on the day after his death, and daybreak the next morning. His followers who came to the tomb the next day found it empty, and as one scenario after another played itself out before their disbelieving eyes over the next few days, they gradually came to the amazed conclusion that he had defeated death by the power of God and was in fact alive forever. And this changed everything: it meant that he was right in what he claimed, it meant that death was no longer a fearsome enemy, and it meant that the call to people to give him their allegiance had to be sounded to the ends of the earth. And sound it they did, giving birth to a movement that outlasted the mighty Roman empire and continues to exercise its (admittedly far less than perfect) influence on the world two thousand years later.
The powers that be have tried (often successfully) to tame that movement down through the centuries, muting things like its call to love your enemies and avoid the accumulation of possessions and give one’s ultimate allegiance to God before all human pretenders. Followers of Jesus have become simply ‘religious’ people rather than the committed revolutionaries he clearly had in mind when he challenged them to put his revolution ahead of even the most fundamental family ties and to be willing to lay down their lives for the kingdom he was proclaiming. For a church – or for individuals in it – to grasp again the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ challenge, and to begin again, by the power of God, to live their lives accordingly, would be another defining moment. And that defining moment is not optional. Jesus said to a committed conventional religious man, Nicodemus, ‘you must be born again’. Not, ‘I’d like to suggest that you consider this option’. No; the world is too far gone for the luxury of that sort of leisurely talk over coffee at Starbucks. It’s a matter of urgency. Wars tear us apart across racial and political lines. Children are torn from their families and taught to be soldiers before they are even in their teens. In urban ghettos drug dealers prey on the young and destroy their lives for profit; families are torn apart by infidelity and violence and the grinding treadmill of contemporary busy-ness; people across the globe live in poverty and destitution while others contemplate whether it’s going to be an iced cappuccino or a fat-free latte today – and so it goes on. Something is wrong, something needs to change. If it doesn’t, the consequences are too frightening to contemplate.
Christianity teaches that this change begins with individuals. As each of us lets go of our own personal agenda and turns to God, the God who Jesus revealed to us, for the inspiration and energy to be what we can’t be by ourselves, we are touched by something from somewhere else. Bruce Cockburn wrote about it once in a spiritual song:
Somebody touched me, making everything new;
Somebody touched me, I didn’t know what to do.
Burned through my life like a bolt from the blue –
Somebody touched me; I knew it was you.
If you have once felt that touch, you are spoiled for everything else for the rest of your life. You can never be satisfied with any of the cheap imitations pedaled by religious hucksters or the pain-relieving materialist fixes distributed by marketeers desperate to stop people catching on to the fact that, since all the things they already own haven’t made them happy, it’s a bit illogical to believe that more of the same will do the trick! Once having glimpsed the reality of God, you can never be satisfied with anything less than a life lived in growing relationship with him. That’s what Christianity is meant to be all about; it does indeed make everything new, and once it touches you, you can never really be the same again.

Winter in Madrid

I’m a sucker for historical novels and also a big C.J. Sansom fan, so it’s a mystery to me why I’ve waited so long to read Winter in Madrid. I suppose I found it difficult to imagine that the man who had so masterfully recreated the world of Tudor politics in the Shardlake series – and obviously spent so much time on reading and research doing it – could do the same thing as convincingly in an entirely different world four hundred years later. But he has done it, there’s no doubt about it.

This book has been described by some reviewers as ‘action-packed’; I’m not quite sure where that description came from. This is no Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler novel; it’s a subtle, beautiful and horrifying story about wartime Spain, with a clever plot (including a sting in the tail) believable character development, intelligent dialogue, and just enough interesting back-story to give depth to the narrative without derailing it.

The basic premise is well-described in the blurb on the back of the book:

1940: after the Spanish Civil War, Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, as Germany continues its relentless March through Europe. Britain now stands alone, while General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.

Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett, a traumatized veteran of Dunkirk turned reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of old schoolfriend Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Harry finds himself involved in a dangerous game – and surrounded by memories.

Meanwhile, Sandy’s girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged on her own secret mission – to find her former lover, Bernie Piper, a passionate Communist in the International Brigades who vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama.

No spoilers here; if you want to find out what happens, read the book! And I do recommend that you read it. If you have already enjoyed Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series you will be surprised and delighted to find that he can turn to another time and place to paint just as convincing a picture and tell just as compelling a story. And if you’ve never tried Sansom before, this book would not be a bad place to start.


When a member of my youth group suggested that we watch the movie ‘Doubt‘, I found myself somewhat skeptical. I was expecting the sort of movie that gets its jollies from bashing the Catholic church; ‘It probably has a strict conservative priest who turns out to be a paedophile’, I thought to myself.

Well, paedophilia is indeed a theme in the movie, but the strict conservative turns out to be the nun who is hunting the (alleged) paedophile, and her character is probably the least sympathetic (although perhaps also the most interesting) in the movie. Superbly played by Meryl Streep, Sister Aloysius is the principal of a parochial school in the Bronx in 1964 (the date is identified precisely by one of the characters, who refers to the assassination of President Kennedy ‘last year’). Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is one of the parish clergy, a man who wants to move the Church toward a more open and sympathetic stance and who tries to build warm relationships with the children at the school. It is he who is accused of an ‘improper relationship’ with a young black altar boy, and the question of his guilt or innocence dominates the movie. Despite his profferred explanation of the circumstances, Sister Aloysius refuses to believe in his innocence, and eventually succeeds in driving him from the school. But the question of his actual guilt or innocence remains open at the end of the movie where, in a final scene, Sister Aloysius reveals to young Sister James (Amy Adams) that, despite her apparent absolute certainty (about faith in general and about Father Flynn’s guilt in particular), she is in fact plagued by doubts herself.

This movie raises all sorts of issues. The protection of children from potential abusers is such an urgent imperative, but does this mean that mere suspicion, with no hard evidence, should be enough to remove the suspect from his position? And might the preferred explanations that sound so convenient (and so well thought through) actually be true? Is Sister Aloysius’ obsessive and inquisitorial determination to ‘bring Father Flynn down’ an appropriate response to the supposed risk she believes that he represents to her students? Or is it a witch hunt which eventually punishes an innocent man? Are Father Flynn and his (male) superiors employing the all-too-familiar strategy, so often used by the Church in these situations in the not-too-distant past, of covering up the truth and moving the offender on to a new position without addressing the issue of his (alleged) behaviour? Or is he in fact telling the truth about the nature of his relationship with the young altar boy?

Father Flynn comes across initially as a warm and genial man who spends time with the young people in the school, invites groups of boys over to his rectory for conversations, tells engaging stories in his homilies at mass, advocates a more relaxed attitude to the children, and is not afraid to hug a young black boy whose books have been trashed in the school hallway even though he has already been accused of an improper relationship with the boy. Is Father Flynn right? Is this an appropriate way to minister in the modern age? Or does Father Flynn not understand the importance of proper boundaries – his own, and other people’s?

As I watched the movie I found myself thinking about my own ministerial practice. When I first started out as a parish minister in 1979, I thought nothing of going to visit women alone in their homes during the day; it was a normal part of pastoral ministry and a good way of creating space for honest conversation and the addressing of important issues. Nor did anyone in my parish see anything wrong with such visits. Nowadays, in the wake of widespread suspicion in society as a whole, and frequent lawsuits and accusations against clergy, I find myself much more reluctant to do this sort of visiting; I’m far more likely to suggest to a woman that we meet for coffee or lunch in a public place, or that she meet me in my office while the secretary is in the building. And there’s a price to be paid for this approach; conversations in public places are far less open and honest, and self-consciousness so easily becomes a barrier to a true expression of thoughts and feelings. Yes, something has been gained, but something important has been lost too.

I remember my father leading family services in the 1970s in a church full of children; when one of them ran to the front, Dad would scoop them up and give them hugs. Nowadays schools have policies forbidding teachers from hugging or even touching their students, and I know many clergy follow the same rules. Personally, I love hugging the kids in my parish, and I find that most of them respond well to this approach. Is this wrong? Should parents be suspicious of my motives?

Suffice it to say that I found this a compelling and somewhat disturbing movie, and I’m glad I watched it. I’d give this one eight out of ten.

Spiritual Reflections on My Friends’ Songs #1: ‘What if They’re Right?’

My good friend Rob Heath has recently released his fourth album, One More Day Above Ground. ‘What if They’re Right?’ is the closing track; here are the lyrics:

Last week Israeli soldiers shot a young Muslim boy
They didn’t know his rifle was just a toy
They rushed him off to Haifa on the Israeli side
They tried their best to save him, but tragically he died

Some people say with just one life
You can change the world
What if they’re right?

His father said young Ahmed was a forgiving soul
So in the name of peace and of his twelve year old
They would donate his body to save Israeli lives
Ignoring voices claiming that that’s who took their child

Some people say with just one life
You can change the world
What if they’re right?

In worlds like theirs where violence rules
You turn the other cheek, you’re marked a fool

His dad said, “If we want peace somewhere it has to start
With this my son has entered every Israeli heart”
The army said they’re sorry, they braced for violence
This time unlike the others, there would be no revenge

Some people say with just one life
You can change the world
What if they’re right?

This song is based on a true story, which you can read
here. To sum it up, twelve-year old Ahmad Al Khatib was mistakenly shot in the head by Israeli forces at a distance of 130 metres; it was later shown that he was carrying a toy gun that looked very realistic. His family, rather than crying for revenge, donated his organs to three Israeli children who were waiting for transplants. His father said that his decision was rooted in memories of his brother, who died at the age of 24 while waiting for a liver transplant, and that he hoped the donation would send a message of peace to Israelis and Palestinians.

Ahmad died of his wounds on Saturday Nov. 5th 2005. On Sunday Nov. 6th, three children underwent surgery to receive his lungs, heart, and liver.

The father of 12-year-old Samah Gadban, who had been waiting five years for a heart, called the donation a “gesture of love.”

Khatib said he hoped to meet the recipients of his son’s organs. “The most important thing is that I see the person who received the organs, to see him alive.”

Gadban said he will invite Khatib and his family to a party for Samah when she leaves the hospital. “I want to thank him and his family. With their gift, I would like for them to think that my daughter is their daughter,” Gadban said.

Read the rest here. There’s also an article on Mid East News blog here.

Rob’s song pretty well tells the story straight, but he adds his own slant in the chorus:

Some people say with just one life
You can change the world
What if they’re right?

Cynics might ask how this action changed the world; after all, Israelis and Palestinians were busy killing each other again a few weeks ago, when the IDF responded to Hamas rocket attacks with an invasion of Gaza that killed over a thousand people, including four hundred children like Ahmad Al Khatib.

But fifty years of tit for tat between Israelis and Palestinians haven’t changed the world either. Both sides have been working for five decades on the assumption that they could deliver that knockout blow that would forever destroy their opponents’ capacity to hurt them. It hasn’t happened. All they’ve managed to do is to deepen the hatred of a new generation of potential soldiers and potential terrorists.

How is this hatred to be changed? Jesus told us how:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45).

To those whose hearts are full of hate and the thirst for revenge, these sentiments seem foolish, as Rob points out:

In worlds like theirs where violence rules
You turn the other cheek, you’re marked a fool

Are they right? Were Ahmad’s parents foolish? Perhaps – but think about this: When the parents of Samah Gadban think about Palestinians, they will no longer think only of the terrorists who fire rockets into southern Israel or the suicide bombers who blow themselves up in crowded restaurants. They will also think of Ahmad and his parents. For all I know, they might even have kept in touch with them over the last couple of years. And so, in a small way, a bridge has been built between the two races; for the four families involved, demonisation of the other is no longer the last word.

Yes – in a small way, the world has changed. Just think how much more it might change if we all put Jesus’ teaching into practice.

(By the way, you can listen to this song on Rob’s website here; simply go to ‘The Listening Post’ and follow the links).

Christians and War: The Early Church Speaks

‘We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.’
– (Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4 – written about 160 AD)
‘To begin with the real ground of the military crown, I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. What sense is there in discussing the merely accidental, when that on which it rests is to be condemned? Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine, for a man to come under promise to another master after Christ, and to abjure father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself, to whom the gospel, too, holding them only of less account than Christ, has in like manner rendered honour? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he, forsooth, either keep watch-service for others more than for Christ, or shall he do it on the Lord’s day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself?…

‘…Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed’ (i.e. in believer’s baptism), ‘there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured’ (i.e. martyrdom) ‘which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept’.
– (Tertullian [c. 160-220 A.D.], ‘De Corona’ Chapter 11)

‘Chapter 19: Concerning Military Service’

‘In that last section, decision may seem to have been given likewise concerning military service, which is between dignity and power. But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters— God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier…’
– (Tertullian, On Idolatry [c. 200 A.D.])

‘From the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight. If therefore another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, brought in such a peace among the Gentiles which received it (the word), and convinced, through them, many a nation of its folly, then it appears that the prophets spoke of some other person. But if the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these’ (i.e. Christians throughout the world) ‘did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten,offer also the other cheek, then the prophets have not spoken these things of any other person, but of Him who effected them. This person is our Lord, and in Him is that declaration borne out’.

– Irenaus, Against Heresies IV.34 (c. A.D. 180)

‘In like manner, as the statement is false “that the Hebrews, being (originally) Egyptians, dated the commencement (of their political existence) from the time of their rebellion,” so also is this, “that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers;” for neither Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defence of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors…’

– Origen, Contra Celsus Book III Chapter VII (c. A.D. 218).

‘For what wars should we not be fit, not eager, even with unequal forces, we who so willingly yield ourselves to the sword, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?’

– Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.), Apologeticum, 37.