How does a Christian View War?
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister on Mar 26, 2009, 13:58
How does a Christian view Operation Iraqi Freedom?
A Biblical Perspective on War
We live in what some people consider to be dark and frightening times. The United States is at war and for the first time in all of human history we are seeing coverage of the war around the clock on news service outlets. We watch our troops leave, we hear of victories, we hear of heartbreaking defeats. We have watched protesters, heard speeches for and against the conflict, and heard commentators offer their own opinions. In the midst of all that is going on, we are also hearing the Christian community ask, “Is there a proper Christian perspective in looking at war?”
Over the past few months I have been asked to address this topic in a variety of settings and the request has come from different groups. Let me offer to you a study of sorts to spark your thinking on this subject. I must also say this at the beginning of the study; it is bothersome to me to find that many people are basing their support or dissent for the war in Iraq based upon political affiliation. Any person who does this is nothing but a parrot that is offering up another’s talk points. You are either in favor of military action or you are not. It has nothing to do with whether there is a democrat or republican in office. It has nothing to do with what cable news channels you watch or whose talk radio shows you listen to. Hollywood has spokesmen that make the news but we find they have very little of worth to say when they are speaking from their own personal script. But those opinions come from people who are very out of touch with the real and complex world that we live in. Opinions are opinions…(I will have mine and you will have yours...they are worth about the same..not much) I think the core issue is and will always be, what does the Bible reveal about the topic (because that is where we find truth)…and can we find the direction we need to come up with a Biblically based, world-view opinion?
Christians have struggled with war for centuries. Before Jesus came, all good people wrestled with war and the existence of evil. The Bible is not silent on this subject. Many people have used the Bible to give validity to their understandings of war. Those who are war-mongers have used the Jewish and Christian scriptures to give credence to their tyranny. Those who are pacifists have quoted scriptures to support their stance against war of any kind. So, who do we believe? What does the Bible say about war?
Here is a bit of background to remember. The Bible sets out for us what I think could be referred to as a Priority of Peace. (If I were preaching right now, this would be an entrance ramp.) One of God’s primary traits is peace. Isaiah said the Messiah would bear these names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NLT). God’s design is for all people to live in peace. That is how he created the universes. There was complete, total peace.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, encourages all Christians with these words: Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much possible (Romans 12:18 NLT).
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.” (Matthew 6:43-45 NLT)
Christians are to be people of peace. There are many other references to peace in the Bible. There is a priority of peace. This moves the question specifically in the case of Iraq, did the world, or did the United States give Saddam Hussein the opportunity to resolve this conflict through peaceful means? I think the answer to that has been well documented. Since 1991 Iraq has been given the chance to do certain things that would ensure the safety of the regime and improve the potential for safety in that region of the world. The United Nations over a dozen years passed resolutions and gave many chances to the ruling power of Iraq. These were met with defiance. It is easy to think that all of this has just unfolded over the past few months. The truth is that it runs much deeper than that, and if you are going to be honest and balanced in your approach to this war, then you cannot ignore that.
Question One…has peace been attempted and been a priority? I think that history shows that it has.
But what about war? Is there ever a time when it’s right to go to war? Are there times when we are to draw our weapons and fight?
Yes. Just as there are numerous references to peace in the Bible, there are numerous references to God-ordained war. Perhaps you have read these words of King Solomon from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1-8. Read them once again.
There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
Throughout the Old Testament, on many occasions, God directed the people of Israel to go to war, especially when they crossed into the Promised Land. God instructed them to completely remove the peoples of that land. We have a hard time accepting the fact that God gave the Israelites these instructions. So, why would God give them instructions for war? If you take the time to study these closely you begin to see a patter or criteria for war. This has been the basis of what has developed in Christian History as the Just War Doctrine. Lets dig in and look at this and try to discover is the timing of the war in Iraq on a timetable that lines up with the Bible.
The second question is then answered…there is a time to go to war and fight. So then we must determine whether this is one of those times.
When is there a time for war?
1. A time for war is when freedom is to be defended.
Throughout the book of Judges, God calls the Israelites to go to war against the Midianites and Philistines. Why? Because these nations were trying to conquer Israel. They were called to defend themselves.
The birth of our nation involved war. The freedom our ancestors deeply felt was theirs didn’t happen without a war. It is that very freedom that gives room for people to hold and express different opinions about issues and topics…like war. Does Saddam Hussein threaten the freedom of the world? Certainly…he has proven to be a ruthless, self-serving dictator…who does not hesitate to do anything to anyone to further his own needs or agenda. This has nothing to do with a system of government. It has to do with a clear and present danger and threat. He is a threat to the world and a threat to the people he rules.
2. A time for war is to defend innocent people.
Solomon gave this advice in Proverbs 21:15 (NLT). Justice is a joy to the godly, but it causes dismay among evildoers.
Circle the word justice. We are interested in more than peace. We are concerned about justice as well. Peace without justice is appeasement. God is not only a God of peace, he is also the God of justice.
In the Book of Genesis chapter 14, God led Abraham to deliver Lot who had been captured by Kedorlaomer and his army. Abraham took 318 men and attacked them at night and defeated the enemy.
Read God’s scathing rebuke to his people in Amos 5:21-24.
“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.
Micah 6:8….He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
There are times when war must be fought to defend the innocent. Real peace cannot happen without justice. It has become obvious in the unfolding of the war in Iraq that the United States is using a battle plan that is designed to protect and liberate Iraqi citizens, keeping innocent citizens as safe as possible. While this certainly changes the way you defeat an enemy, it reflects the value that the coalition forces are putting on the lives of innocent Iraqi people. The value that the United States is placing on their lives is far greater than the value that Saddam Hussein places on them. This places US troops at greater risk, but the reason is because of the philosophy of liberation and protection of the innocent.
John Stewart Mills said, "A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free."
3. Another time for war is to stop the spread of evil.
Here is the reason for Operation Enduring Freedom. After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, we declared war on all terrorists, everywhere. The ultimatum President Bush and our allies gave Saddam Hussein was an ultimatum to stop the spread of evil. Evil will not stop on its own. There comes a time when evil has to be fought.
Matthew records an event in the life of Jesus and his disciples that states one of the purposes of the Church, the Body of Christ. In chapter 16, verses 13-19 we read “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven.”
Caesarea Philippi was located at the source of the Jordan River. It was the place where the people from the cities known as the Decapolis worshipped their fertility gods. The water that makes the Jordan River comes from a spring that is located inside a cave. The people of the region believed this to the birthplace of all life. Jesus and the disciples were standing before this pagan place of worship. The Jews looked upon this region as a literal hell. It was from this place that evil originated. When Jesus told Peter that he would build his church upon this rock, some think he was pointing to the rock out of which flowed the headwaters of the Jordan River. When he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, he wasn’t speaking of a passive, do-nothing church. Walls and gates were built around cities to protect them. The ones who were prevailing were the ones who were on the offensive to capture the city. Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that we are to be on the offensive against evil. Wherever evil is found, we, the church, are to be present doing all we can to stop it from advancing. In fact, we are to battering down the gates of hell. Somewhere, we got the notion that we are to step aside and let evil "run its course." And we have decided that in doing so we are being obedient.
One of the things the church must strive to do is to stop the spread of evil, sometimes at the cost of human lives. If we do not stop the spread of evil, many innocent lives will be lost and the kingdom of God suffers.
There are three facts about human life.
· We live in a fallen world.
· Every person has sinned.
· Wherever there is sin, people hurt one another.
There has to be laws to stop those who are evil. If the laws and resolutions are not kept, then evil will continue to flourish. There is justice, there is a price for liberty, and there is a price for freedom.
Will we ever have permanent peace? Yes. Isaiah painted a beautiful picture of the peace we look forward to. The LORD will settle international disputes. All the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. All wars will stop, and military training will come to an end (Isaiah 2:4 NLT).
Outside the United Nations building is a sculpture of a man hammering a sword into a plow. The story of the sculpture is amazing. The bronze sculpture was created by Soviet artist, Evgeny Buchetich and presented to the United Nations in December 1959 by the Government of the USSR. On the sculpture are these words from Isaiah 2:4. Consider the time in which the sculpture was made and who made it.
When the time is right, Jesus will come again. When he does, all war will end. Notice that Isaiah said God will settle international disputes. Not the United Nations. The United Nations has become bogged down in the quicksand of political debate and special interests.
So, how do we respond during times of war? What do we do?
Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 with these words. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity.”
- Trust God.
Listen to the words of Psalm 27:1, 3. The LORD is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid? The LORD protects me from danger—so why should I tremble? Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident.
We can be confident in times of war, because we know that we can trust God. We may not understand all that is happening. We may not understand how God is working. But, we know we can trust God.
- Seek peace.
Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much possible (Romans 12:18 NLT).
We must do all we can to work for a peaceful solution, but you must understand, and this is something that doesn’t make sense to those who don’t take the time to understand Scripture, but sometimes the solution involves war. War may have to come before peace!
- Support each other.
Paul told the Galatians to Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 NKJV).
During times of crisis we need to pull together and support one another. Our military personnel need our support. Their families need our support. Our nation, our leaders, our President….and we must support and encourage one another…with hope that this conflict will soon be over and there will be a new day in Iraq.
What about the protesters?
I am not sure about the protesters. It has been well documented that most of the large scale protests we have seen covered in the news that are “anti-war” have been organized by very anti-American groups. But you must understand that since war has begun, no matter what you’re feeling, the protesting time has passed. It is time for our nation to be united and support our leaders, troops, and one another. It is time we become grateful to God for the freedom we enjoy in this country to protest. Protests do not happen in Iraq; disagreement is dealt with by imprisonment, torture, or death.
Protesters take on a more evil and subversive nature when you find them protesting against violence then violently refusing to obey law enforcement officers trying to secure the safety of the public. There is another agenda when the anti-war becomes pro-evil in nature. No rational person could possibly argue a case for why Saddam Hussein should be allowed to remain in power. When the signs read sayings like “no shedding of Iraqi blood”, the end result of not going to war will be the continued shedding of innocent Iraqi blood at the hands of the cruel and evil dictator that rules the country.
So I suppose that the day for protesting has passed. It must be understood that the war is not political in nature. Jesus is not a Democrat or a Republican. There is a Biblical world-view that believers must take to heart. We have a responsibility to be informed and to learn to think about what we see, read, and hear. And above all else we must strive to flesh out our faith in a way that brings HONOR and GLORY to God, whether people agree or disagree with what we think. The way we handle ourselves is a reflection on Him.
Here is some additional reading on the subject...
When God says War is RIGHT
(A Christian Perspective on When and How to fight)
by Darrell Cole
How Now Shall We Live
by Chuck Colson
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