“Ain’t Gonna Study War No More” is one of those old songs we don’t hear sung much these days. It comes from some of the very insightful and meaningful verses in the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the first four books of the New Testament Bible

A number of Christians in today’s world are comfortable with a military Christianity. The Jesus of Holy Scripture is quoted with differing statements: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34). “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

We must not be like President Thomas Jefferson, who used his scissors to cut out the portions of the New Testament he did not like or believe. He was an active church-goer but he was more comfortable with his edited scriptures. Even if we may not agree, 21st century Christians should not edit scripture.

Jesus lived in a warring world. Israel and much of the ground east of there to Persia and west to the British Isles was under the occupation of the Romans. Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars throughout time. This one Bible prophecy that continues to be true. Jesus saw the need of paying taxes even though they supported the Roman war-like dictatorship.

Jesus was not only in conflict with the Jewish religious leaders but also the legions of Rome. He sent out his disciples to preach about God’s Kingdom carrying a sword (Luke 22:35-38). The sword was not to convince people of their message or defend Jesus, but in warring country a sword could be handy.

From these scripture selections (and others) some have made Jesus to be a militarist. Albert C. Winn, in his book, “Biblical Ambiguity and Abolition of War” says: “This commonsense Jesus recognizes and accepts war as a fact of life. He participates vigorously in conflicts with opposing viewpoints. He occasionally indulges in outbursts of anger and even combative behavior. He approves the use of weapons in self-defense. He is a good citizen of a state which he knows to be founded upon and sustained by violent military power.” (I highly recommend those who are serious about the scriptures, war and peace read Dr. Albert C. Winn’s book. Dr. Winn is the Pastor Emeritus of the North Decatur Presbyterian Church, Decatur, Ga. I am indebted to him for some of the thoughts used in this column.)

Ain’t gonna study war no more should result in a study of peace. The need to study peace is critical. The Gospels must be searched more seriously than ever regarding peace. Man has finally come to the place where, with just the nudge of an elbow, he can destroy most of humanity.

I feel sure that Jesus was familiar with the only Bible of his day, what we now call the Old Testament. The followers of Jesus learned early on that the war-like nature of the God of the Old Testament days was not to continue. They were not to go to war to further his cause. (Martin Luther and his followers and many of the Roman Catholic Popes and bishops did not see it that way and kept Europe in war and turmoil throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.)

A spiritual warfare as Jesus envisioned (see Ephesians 6:12) is not won by military machines. The churches carry on that war. But it is a war against hypocrisy, greed, injustice and selfishness. This spiritual war is helping those we have with us always — the poor.

Instead of “waging war,” how about “waging peace.” The tenor of the Gospels overall is waging peace. Christians are covert workers. Working openly and secretly (without politics) to create a better world. War, vengeance and hate have been with us from the beginning. On every continent, every island, and in every age war has been the theme. Resulting not in peace, but another war. Let’s do whatever we can to wage peace! Peace between husband and wife, brothers and sisters, children and parents. Peace between races, clans and tribes. “Peace I leave with you,” said Jesus. He meant for us to work at it. Peace does not just happen.

I hope the Boy Scouts are still singing “Down By the Riverside.” We need to start early on teaching our little ones that it is perfectly OK to study peace instead of war.

Gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

Gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

Ain’t gonna study war no more.

Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand;

Down By the riverside

Down by the riverside

Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand;

Down by the riverside

Ain’t gonna study war no more.

Britt Towery is a Brownwood native and free-lance writer. Send comments via e-mail to bet@suddenlink.net.