Summary: Should Christians go to war? (... in aftermath of World Trade Center)
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON WAR
Years ago, when I was in the military stationed in Great Britain, a zealous European accused me of being a hypocrite. He said, “How can you call yourself a Christian and serve in the U.S. Military?” (The implication was that Christians are to be peace-loving and passive, while the military exists for the sole purpose of war) I was young and easily confused - not to mention embarrassed because this happened in front of a small crowd. I didn’t know how to answer his question. And thinking I was a hypocrite wasn’t a very good feeling.
Fortunately, an English minister came to my rescue. He referred to a passage in the Gospel of Luke when two soldiers asked John the Baptist what was required of them in order to be right with the Lord. John answered, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely--be content with your pay." (Luke 3:14 NIV) Notice what John didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Find a new career.” He simply emphasized the need to be just and fair.
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
After the shocking events that rocked our Nation September 11, 2001, I found myself feeling like a hypocrite once again. Although I have been out of the military for quite some time, I’m still a Christian. And I’m very mindful of the Scriptures that command us to “Love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Luke 6:27-29 NIV) Quite honestly, I don’t feel like turning the other cheek! I don’t feel like loving my enemies and doing good to these people who have hurt our Nation so bad. But I am a Christian. And I keep hearing the words of Jesus as he asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord.” and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) The Bible goes on to say, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
Many Christians have studied these Scripture and concluded that war is never permissible. They would be considered conscientious objectors if drafted - not out of fear of dying for their country, but out of fear of God. Much of the persecution of Christians when the church began is attributed to Christians refusing to fight for the Roman Empire. As Emperor Septimius Severus tried to build up his military might in 200 A.D., the churches were preaching that Christians should not bare arms. Why? Because Christians were to live at peace with everyone… as far as it was dependent on them… if possible.
It wasn’t until St. Augustine addressed the subject around 400 A.D. that Christians realized, sometimes the way to peace required taking the road to war. Augustine said, “Peace is not sought in order to provide war, but war is waged in order to attain peace.” And with that, Augustine began laying the foundation for what we know today as the principles for Just War, which states:
1. JUST WAR can only be waged by legitimate authorities.
2. JUST WAR must exhaust all non-violent options first.
3. JUST WAR must have a reasonable chance to succeed.
4. JUST WAR must be fought with right intentions.
5. JUST WAR must discriminate between combative enemies and non-combative civilians (Death of civilians are considered justifiable only if unavoidable).
6. JUST WAR’s ultimate goal should be to re-establish peace.
Augustine’s rationale for war was nothing new. It was simply an elaboration of what the Bible had said all along… and what Christians had missed for 400 years. Romans 13:3-4 says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. ... if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Our rulers are God’s servants (agents of wrath) who have a responsibility to punish wrongdoers. Not only do our rulers have a responsibility to administer justice, everyone who calls themselves “Christian” has a responsibility to be just. Micah 6:8 asks, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly…“ It is our rulers’ responsibility to administer justice. And it is our responsibility to support our leaders as they carry out their responsibility. It would be unjust and immoral of me to not support our leaders as they carry out this God-given duty. It would be unjust and immoral of me stand by and do nothing as innocent lives are attacked. I can turn my cheek when someone strikes at me. But I can not turn my cheek when someone strikes the innocent.