Summary: Just like another Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, Saddam Hussein has to do God’s will, like it or not.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news for the last few weeks, you’ve probably concluded, as I have, that we are marching inexorably toward an imminent war in Iraq, regardless of what the U.N. may do. President Bush and various cabinet officials have said as much in their public statements – that, unless there is some eleventh-hour change of heart on Saddam’s part, resulting in active compliance with all U.N. resolutions; or unless Saddam is deposed, or exiled, or assassinated – we are going in, guns blazing. We would like to have the backing of the U.N.; we would prefer to have explicit authorization from that body to use military force, but it is not essential. We will act as we deem is necessary to protect our national interests. With or without another vote in the Security Council. With or without the support or acquiescence of countries such as Germany, or France, or Belgium. Barring some unexpected turn of events, this war is going to happen. Soon.
And that is very troubling, no matter which side of the issue you’re on; whether you’re pro-war or anti-war; whether you’re one of those who argue that we should give inspections more time to work, or whether you feel that any delay will only make the inevitable war to come more dangerous and costly. But whichever position you take on the necessity and the timing of war, I trust that none of us takes any satisfaction in the fact of war itself. Because, although war may bring about a desirable outcome, and although war in some cases may be morally justified, war is not in itself something to be desired. It causes suffering and death; not only to those who bring it upon themselves, and who perhaps deserve it, but also to innocent civilians, and to the soldiers who are only doing their duty. It causes great suffering. War fractures the thin veneer of civilization; it loosens the restraints of civil society, creating an environment for all kinds of crimes and atrocities to be committed. War destroys, and ruins, and kills. There is nothing inherently good about it.
However, for those of us in this room, our position on the war, for or against, is of little practical consequence. General Tommy Franks is not waiting for our permission to begin the invasion. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not sitting by the phone, waiting for us to call. What matters, for us, is how this war affects our own lives. We may not have much influence over the movements of armies and the decisions of military commanders, but we can control how we respond to all this personally. Will it affect our peace of mind? Will it influence the way we live? Will it change how we relate to God, or to one another? Will it alter our values and priorities? Questions such as this became even more urgent this week, as the nation went to a "code orange" state of alert, and we were advised to stock up on duck tape and plastic sheeting and drinking water, so that we could seal our doors and windows in the event of a chemical or biological attack, to at least give ourselves the illusion of protecting ourselves from danger. Almost daily we hear of new threats to safety, not just for servicemen who are stationed in the gulf, but for us right here at home. And so, even if we have no loved ones "over there," we have to deal with the possible danger to ourselves and to our families "right here". What do we do with that knowledge? How do we deal with it? And specifically, how do we deal with it as Christians? What difference does our faith make; what difference, if any, does it make in a time of war, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ? That’s the question I’m going to address this morning.
The first thing to remember is that God is in control. Period. That may seem obvious; it may even seem irrelevant. But an understanding of God’s sovereignty, and a firm confidence in God’s sovereignty, is essential for us as Christians. Without it, we may be tempted to fear and anxiety; we may give in to the overriding impulse toward self-protection and self-preservation. We may trust in the wrong things, and hope in the wrong things. We may look to our duck tape and plastic sheeting to protect us. We may place our trust in America’s superior military power, rather than trusting in God. Failing to embrace the absolute and complete sovereignty of God may produce apathy, and despair, and hopelessness. Or it may produce just the opposite: an ungodly activism and self-reliance; a sense that "I’m on my own, so I have to do whatever it takes to protect myself, regardless of what the Bible says." That response tends to pride and self-reliance.