Summary: We’re called to take a Chritian stand and not a political stand when it comes to war? Should we support it or oppose it?
“A Christian Response To War”
March 23, 2003
I’ve heard it said that one of the best ways to make God laugh is for us to make plans. I typically have my sermons planned in advance, which allows me to better focus my thoughts and coordinate worship, which probably made God chuckle this past week; for as I began preparing for worship, I could not focus my thoughts on the sermon I had planned. The words of our President on Monday night and the images of military attacks on Wednesday night kept running through my mind. We go to bed at night wandering what will happen while we’re asleep, and we wake up in the morning anxious to hear what’s happened. TV’s and radios are tuned to the war in Iraq.
As Christians, how should we to respond to war? Should we oppose it or support it? Would Christ oppose it or support it? What does scripture say? The third chapter of Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season…a time for war and a time for peace.” Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
I dare say that all of us have been thinking about this war, and some of us may have arrived at an opinion on how we should be handling the situation. I don’t come before you today to tell you what opinion to hold; rather I come before you today to encourage us to consider the Christian beliefs that should shape our opinions.
Robert Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, and this past week, he wrote a brilliant article about Christian citizenship in wartime. He said that we must preserve a high wall between Christ and culture. Matthew gives us an account in the 22nd chapter of Jesus being questioned by a Pharisee. The Pharisee approaches Jesus and attempts to butter him up. He tells Jesus that he knows that Jesus is a sincere man, who teaches the way of God in accordance with the truth, showing partiality to no one. He then asks him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
Jesus holds up a coin and asks him, “Whose head is this?” “The emperor’s.” “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus acknowledged that leaders are supposed to lead their respective states and countries, but Jesus refused to worship the political structure of the state. He worshipped only God, and he wanted to make it clear that God and God only is worthy of our worship.
Elected leaders of our states and countries will lead and make decisions, and Jesus is saying, “Respect them. Give them their due,” but politics, and the power that comes with it, can become seductive. War and the power that comes with war can become so seductive that it becomes idolatrous. War evokes many emotions, and our charge is to maintain a Christ-centered perspective so that our emotions, egos, and adrenalin don’t draw us toward idolatry. It’s easy to become wrapped up in what the state is doing to the point that we ignore what God would have us do.
We must also practice discernment. When Jesus commissioned the twelve disciples for their mission in Matthew’s twelfth chapter, he told them that he was sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves, and they needed to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Wisdom means prudent thinking, and careful consideration of all facts and details.
I can’t even begin to appreciate the weight that our President must have felt and is feeling in making the decision to go to war. I will not pass judgment on that decision, and I think we would all be wise to not do the same, because we don’t have all the facts and know all the details. My hope is that our President, as a self-proclaimed, born-again Christian, is being as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove.
And we must do the same. As I have listened in on conversations about the war, there are far too many people holding the opinion, “Let’s go over there and turn Iraq into a parking lot.” Would that be an exercise in wisdom and innocence? There are just as many people proclaiming that we should sit on our hands and do nothing. Would that be an exercise in wisdom and innocence?
Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to differentiate. Discernment is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, and purity from defilement. A Christian’s response to war must include discernment, that we might be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.