by Earl J. Prignitz
For several hundred years following the death of Christ, there is absolutely no question that his followers were certain that he had forbidden war. As a result of many Christians refusal to participate in war they suffered the consequences of imprisonment and/or death. These facts are indisputable. A learned writer of the seventeenth century said, "It is as easy to obscure the sun at mid-day, as to deny that the primitive Christians renounced all revenge and war."
There are innumerable records of men who were put to death because they refused to be enlisted in the army. There are also countless examples of men who while serving in the army became Christians and subsequently laid down their arms, regardless of the cost.
Hence it is indisputable that the early Christians who lived nearest to the time of our Savior, believed without any doubt, that he had unmistakably forbidden war. They were so certain of their belief that, in support of it, they were willing to sacrifice their fortunes and their lives.
It wasn't until after the time of Constantine that Christians began participating in the army. Christianity had deteriorated to that extent by that period in time.
The departure from the original faithfulness was certainly not sudden. Like every other corruption, war crept in by degrees. In the first two hundred years after the death of Christ, not a single Christian soldier is to be found on the records. In the third century, as Christianity became partially tainted, Christian soldiers were common. The number increased from that period on. Only occasionally were there voices raised for peace, and the idea that war is unlawful finally came to a halt in the (professing) church.
The only exceptions were the Anabaptists from whence the Mennonites and Brethren have their roots and the Quakers who began a century later under their founder George Fox plus a few others scattered about in other churches. Since I am a Quaker I wholeheartedly support the peace testimony of Friends.