Summary: War is going to happen whether we like it or not. Regardless of our position on war politically and theologically, we are all called to turn to God and to love our enemies.
The major thing in the news over the last few weeks has been all this business over Saddam Hussein and the allegations that he is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Every day another part of the drama is played out—George Bush or Colin Powell or Hans Blix or any one of a number of world leaders and diplomats make their accusations. An Iraqi leader or diplomat replies, saying that the allegations are false. Other world leaders start to make noises…and others remain silent.
I think we’re all getting used to the cycle.
There has been a lot of criticism of the Australian government because we have allied ourselves so closely with the US. We are one of three nations who has sent troops to the Middle East in readiness for an attack upon Iraq.
In all of this, God is getting mentioned an awful lot. Saddam Hussein repeatedly calls upon Allah, the god of Islam, to strike down his enemies. In a similar fashion, George Bush makes a big thing about how God will be on the side of the Americans and their allies.
It is a confusing time for Australians, for a whole number of reasons.
First, does America have any business fighting this war?
Second, should Australia be involved in the war?
And third, what does God have to say about it?
Several people have asked me to comment about these things this morning. This isn’t easy. This is a highly sensitive issue, and it is expected that a whole range of opinions will be found in the congregation. I can really offer only one perspective. Similarly, I don’t want to fall into the trap of preaching party politics. Suffice it to say, I am not here to push any one political line. I am here to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am here to call people to repentance and to show them how to turn to God. If political parties happen to agree with me, I’m happy. If any party disagrees with me on any point, I’m equally happy. It is their right to do so. I merely wish to comment on the rightness and wrongness of various aspects of this conflict.
And also let me say that I do not expect to come up with a fix to all of the world’s problems in 15 minutes. If I do, I’ve done something rather extraordinary!
So briefly, here’s what I intend to do. First, I’m going to describe some of the conditions in which war may be a moral solution to a problem. I will very briefly look at whether or not the war in Iraq as it is shaping up fits into this description. Then I will finish by looking at how we should respond as Christians and as a church.
**What is a just war?**
This question has plagued us since the first time somebody picked up a tree branch and clobbered somebody over the head. When is it right to bear arms against another nation? And when we do, under what circumstances should the war be fought? Over the centuries of debate Christians have come up with several approaches. One of the more obvious ones is total pacifism. In other words, it is never right to bear arms against another person.
Now pacifism is not as easy an option as some would like to make out. It is the option which says that when somebody strikes your cheek, you turn the other one. Although it might seem at first to be an easy way to get out of conscription, it can be a difficult and dangerous path to take. Many pacifists have taken roles in dangerous but non-combative roles in the Armed Forces such as stretcher bearers and medics. Remember Hawkeye on MASH? He wasn’t a Christian (as far as I know) but he was a pacifist who refused to bear arms, even in the face of obvious danger. But he would regularly risk his life for the sake of his patients, regardless of whose side they were on.
Pacifism isn’t necessarily the best option, however. Is it right to sit back and watch one nation invade another? Was it right to sit back and watch Germany try to extinguish the Jewish race? Another Christian approach to war (developed by Thomas Aquinas) is a set of five statements called ‘Just War Theory.’ Now these aren’t to be found in the Bible, but they are based largely on Biblical principles. Let me show you what they are:
†the cause must be just;
†that authority must have the right intention (e.g., not to expand territory or power);
†war must be declared by the legitimate authority;
†the war must have a reasonable chance of succeeding,
†the means of waging war must be in proportion to the goal of the war.