Monday was Memorial Day and Fox News showed a few people in Washington protesting the war in Iraq. A lady that was interviewed said she was a devout Christian and that the Bible was against war. Was the lady right- does the Bible teach that war is wrong? Should Christians condone the war in Iraq or any war for that matter?
The first record of war in the scriptures is found in Genesis 14, when Abraham battled four kings for abducting Lot. Abraham trained 318 men for battle and defeated the four kings. In Genesis 14:19-20, it says that God sanctioned the war and in fact was the source of victory.
In Luke 3:14, John the Baptist did not tell the solders to leave the military when they asked him it meant to repent. He instead exhorted them to live a godly life while in the military. In John 18:36, Jesus acknowledges the right of the sword to earthly kingdoms. Romans 13:3-4 and 1 Peter 2:13 grants governments the right to use force to restrain and punish evil.
So what was Jesus teaching on the Sermon of the Mount when he said that we are to turn the other cheek? He wasn’t telling us to lie down and let evil overtake us. The Lord is telling us that much of the time the most effective way to overcome evil is by not resisting. If someone says a mean word, it is far more effective to respond with kindness than with another mean word in return. However, I don’t think that Jesus is telling us never to respond to evil with force. Jesus himself drove the thieves away from the temple with a whip (John 2:15. Also understand the Lord is not talking to governments at the Sermon on the Mount, he is talking to individuals. Our personal response to evil should be to “turn the other cheek,” but government’s God-given responsibility is to punish those who commit civil crimes like murder, acts of terrorism and war.
Therefore, when a Christian is under the authority of the government and authorized to fight in a just war on the nation’s behalf, it is appropriate for him to fight. For he is not fighting as a private individual, but as a representative of the government to which God has given the power of the sword.
A Christian solider should strive to love one’s opponents in war as people, remembering that he opposes them as agents of the opposing government, not as private individuals That might be tough in battle, but it gives an idea of how personal and governmental sphere overlap one another in scripture.
When Rome begin to fall back in 410 AD, Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo viewed it from his vantage point on the North African coast and worried about how the fall would impact Christianity. He penned his famous defense, The City of God. In it, he wrote that for a Christian to participate in war, it had to be a “just war.” Augustine’s “Just War” doctrine has seven tenets.
(1)Competent Authority. A war must be declared by politically responsible authorities and not by private individuals. (2) Probability of success- A war should not be undertaken if there is no obvious hope for success. (3) Last resort- A war must be a last resort after sincere efforts have been made to resolve the controversy peacefully. (4) Just Intent- The object of a war must be peace and reconciliation and not the unlimited destruction of the enemy state. (5) Just Cause- The war must be an act of defense in response to armed aggression. (6) Proportionality- The good brought about by a war should outweigh its evils in cost and destruction to both sides and the means used should be proportional to the harm cause. (7) Discriminate means- Military actions should not be waged that directly intend to take the lives of noncombatants (civilians or innocents)
Throughout history, some have sanctioned the “Just War” doctrine, while others have condemned it. Some have used it to support almost every war their country has fought in- others have used it to oppose every war their country has fought in. I believe the war in Iraq qualifies as a “Just War.” Pacifists will disagree.
Pacifism is harmful. To let someone murder when it is in your power to stop them is completely contrary to our moral sentiments. If a Hitler or a Saddam Hussein is on the move and seeking to bind the world in tyranny and destroy entire ethnic groups, it would seem very clearly wrong NOT to oppose him with force.
Consistent pacifism would have to eliminate the police, not just the military. If we were to conclude that governments should always turn the other cheek and never resist evil, then we should logically commit ourselves to getting rid of the police force and the criminal justice system.