A recent article on an online news source read: “A second day of U.S. air strikes on Libyan positions came amid deepening anxieties among coalition partners about the means and objectives of the effort there1.” War has been a constant presence in our world over the past several years. Yet the debate over war has been present as well. Is this war just or unjust; is any war just or unjust? Just this past weekend I drove by a “peace rally”. Ironically it was held at the same place a “pro-military” rally was held a few weeks earlier. The presence and threat of war in our world today should force Christians to seriously contemplate the issue from a Biblical perspective.
Historically Christians have come to various conclusions concerning what the Bible has to say about war. Yet at the outset let me say that this topic is deeply connected to the issue of politics and revolution. Without a firm understanding of the Biblical role of Government it is difficult for one to come to any conclusions about war. Furthermore if if difficult to act on one’s beliefs without a good understanding of the ways in which society can seek to change public opinion and legislation concerning war. (I encourage you to read my two previous posts for insights into these areas).
Christian Positions on War:
While pacifism has several forms the basic idea is that it takes literally the passages, particularly within the New Testament, that prohibit killing. This, proponents argue, leads them to be against war. Pacifism displays itself as a refusal to serve in the armed services and a refusal to support the armed services. Romans 12:17,21 factors strongly in their perspective: “Do not overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good”. For the pacifist, violence only begets violence and is counter to the commands of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 and elsewhere.
Other Christians have come to embrace the Non-Resistance concept. Believing that obedience to God and Government should be sought as much as possible these individuals seek to live in conformity to both. They value life and, like the Pacifist, believe it is wrong to kill yet they also understand the inevitability of war in a fallen world. These individuals therefore will serve in the military in non-combatant roles. They may serves as Chaplains, medics, doctors, or office workers. All in all their hope is to obey God and government in the midst of a fallen world.
3. Just War
Finally some Christians believe that war, at times, can be just and therefore a viable option for Christians. These individuals take seriously the role of Government in the New Testament and look to Old Testament books like Joshua and Judges to find certain criteria that would make a war just. There are several indiciators that make a war just according to the Just War advocate. These indicators are: just intent, last resort, formal declaration, limited objectives, proportionality of good vs. evil and non-combatant immunity. If all of these indicators are present, the just war advocate would argue that war is moral in the eyes of God.
As Christians it is imperative that we pray, study the Word of God, and come to hold convictions in regard to war. We live in a society that allows us to impact the perspective of war by participating in Government through ways in which we have already discussed in parts 1 and 2 of this series. War, just or unjust, is horrible, on this all Christians should agree. The more we can do as followers of Jesus Christ to avoid the brutal devastation that is involved in war the better. Further we need to make sure that during times of war we as Christians are doing all that we can to limit human suffering. We need to help offer valuable solutions and participate in the ongoing discussion that seeks peace. Further out convictions should be the seeds of our actions.
If the only reason we hold convictions about war is so that we can debate others Christians we’ve missed the point. To a certain extent this is good, but not so if it causes us to miss a world full of suffering the exists around us. God does call us to engage our minds, it’s true, but He calls us to engage our hands, feet and heart as well. Given our global reality today how can you mobilize your hands and feet to help the thousands of refugees fleeing war torn countries? Have you ever empathized with the twenty something who is serving in a war torn country because he joined the National Guard to pay for college? What about those who have lost sons and daughters in recent battles near or far?
We may enjoy peace in our country today but peace always has a price. While you engage your mind and spirit in asking God to guide your understanding of war ask the Father to engage the rest of your faculties as well. People all over the world are hurting right now because of war and we need to offer them the hope of Jesus Christ.
Having looked at the options, which position do you believe is most in line with Scripture and why (please no hobby horsing)?
How are you making helping those impacted by war around you right now?