Summary: Examing war from a Biblical perspective, providing answers and encouragement during our nation’s involvement in the War on Terror.
Today we are beginning a new sermon series I’ve entitled “The Middle East Crisis.” I know that is a rather broad topic, but I chose that title because I wasn’t exactly sure what topics God wanted me to cover underneath this broad banner. So, I believe we will be covering a wide variety of these topics in the upcoming weeks. Today and next week, we’ll be looking at our own country’s involvement in the Middle East and our connections with Israel. Then we will look at the Middle East Crisis from the Bible’s perspective, historically and prophetically.
This morning, however, I want to revisit a teaching I gave a year and a half ago. It was a controversial subject then, and I believe it has become an even more controversial subject today. It is the subject of war. War is a very relevant topic considering the position our nation is presently in. And for Christians the subject of war is often confusing because the Bible appears to have contradictory passages about how we should respond to aggression. So this morning’s topic is “A Time for War: A Biblical Perspective on War.”
How can anyone justify war from a Christian perspective? Isn’t one of the Ten Commandments “thou shalt not kill”? (Ex. 20:13). Doesn’t the Sermon on the Mount include the words, “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God?” What about Jesus being called the “Prince of Peace”? And doesn’t Jesus command non-violence when he said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”? (Mt. 5:39)
With all these calls for peace in the Bible, can war ever be necessary or pleasing to God? Can Christians in good faith and conscience ever take part in war without violating their beliefs? These are some of the tough questions we’re going to try to answer this morning.
The war against terrorism has caused Christians from all backgrounds and denominations to grapple with the question, “Can war ever be just, or right in the eyes of a Holy God?” Massive anti-war rallies have happened in cities throughout the world, rallies that contain many Christians. Big name movie stars and athletes, the liberal media as well as liberal Congressmen and women are calling for our troops to be returned home now. During one rally a participant was asked to explain why he opposes the war. His answer was, “War is murder. It’s as simple as that.”
But I’m here to tell you this morning that it’s NOT as simple as that. The teaching of Scripture is much more complex.
Just as there are numerous references to peace in the Bible, there are numerous references to God-ordained war. Many of the heroes of our faith were warriors. Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Caleb, Deborah, Jonathon, and Saul. King David was a warrior king. He fought numerous battles and killed thousands in combat, yet he was not considered a murderer. In fact, he was called a man after God’s own heart.
You are probably familiar with these words of King Solomon from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1-8. Listen to them once again. Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 8, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:  A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;  A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;  A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;  A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;  A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;  A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;  A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of 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 people of that land. Sometimes He commanded them to totally wipe them out, not to even leave women and children alive. We have a hard time accepting the fact that God gave the Israelites these instructions.
I. What Makes a War Just or Righteous?
So, why would God give them instructions for war? What makes war justified or righteous in the eyes of a holy God? Let’s look at some qualifications that must be met for a war to be considered justified.