If our country were ever to enter into a war that
was unjust, what should your response be as a Christian?
Do you feel as a Christian you would be able to be
an active member of the military in a position where
you would have to kill opposing soldiers in battle?
Why or why not?
War: What It's Good For
By Elliott Ryan
I was driving into work listening to the radio when it happened.
One of my favorite songs was interrupted by a DJ delivering the
news. My preconceptions about our national security were shattered
forever. For the first time in my life, a major terrorist attack
was carried out on U.S. soil.
As a child during the 1980’s, I was afraid of a seemingly
unavoidable war with Russia. The years went by and it turned out
that Russia was not as big of a threat as my young mind had made
it out to be. By the time I reached high school, Russia was a
superpower no more, and we had decisively defeated Iraq in the
first Gulf War. And this gave me an incredible sense of security
as an American. Wars and terrorist attacks were something that
happened elsewhere – thousands of miles away from my reality.
But in the years since 9/11, our country has had to consider
many issues that didn’t concern us all that much in the
past. Security measures have been heightened. Terrorist attack
threat levels have fluctuated between high and extremely, frighteningly
high. War was declared on terrorism. And war has been a part of
our lives ever since.
I have always felt conflicted about the issue of war. Jesus warned
us that war would always be with us and, in fact, it would even
increase as time went on. He said, “You will hear of wars
and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such
things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be
famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6-7).
Things will get worse before they get better at Christ’s
Throughout history, God has used war to bring about justice and
defeat evil. For example, how many millions more people would
have been slaughtered by Hitler in the Holocaust if our nation
and its allies hadn’t defeated him in World War II? Force
was absolutely necessary to stop the ongoing evil in Germany.
Throughout Scripture, there are many instances of God using war
to accomplish His will. When the Israelites obeyed God in the
Old Testament, He blessed them by giving them victory over their
enemies in battle. But when they were disobedient and worshipped
false gods, the one true God punished them by allowing their enemies
to defeat them on the battlefield. In fact, the Israelites associated
their battles with their God to such an extent that they sometimes
referred to God Himself as a warrior (as in, Exodus 15:2-4).
But on the other hand, so much of who Christ was and what He
said in the Gospels seems to be in opposition to war. Violence
in general seems completely inconsistent with Christ. In Christ’s
Sermon on the Mount, He told His followers to love their enemies
and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48). He taught that believers
are to turn the other cheek when attacked (5:38-42). The Bible
teaches that God created all people in His image. If we really
believe that God loved everyone in the world so much that He sent
Christ to die so everyone would have the opportunity to have a
relationship with Him, then how can we go to war with these people
How do we as Christians reconcile these seemingly opposing views?
Obviously all of us are to work for peace. We are told it is more
blessed to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Scripture instructs us
to, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and
to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews
12:14). It is our duty to live in peace – in our homes,
in our neighborhoods, at school or work, and even around the world.
But sometimes war seems necessary. How do we decide whether a
war fits this description? A theory has been developed called
the just war theory to determine when war is appropriate. According
to this theory, a war must meet several criteria in order to be
considered just. These criteria include that the war must have
a just cause (never for economic or political gain) and be a last
resort (all peaceful alternatives must be attempted first).
There are strongly opposing views even in the church on whether
our current war qualifies as a just war. I believe that it does.
Saddam Hussein was a genocidal dictator who tortured and killed
people for many years prior to the first Gulf War. Since that
war, Hussein had routinely been uncooperative in meeting the demands
of sanctions that were placed against Iraq by the United Nations.
For years, the UN attempted to negotiate with Hussein as he thumbed
his nose at the agreed upon treaty that ended the first war. The
circumstances were unfortunate but Hussein had to be removed from
power. The cause was just, and peaceful negotiations had been
attempted for years.
Since Hussein has been removed from office, our enemy has changed.
Terrorists, often directly linked to the terrorist group that
claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks (al Qaeda), have now
become the enemy. Still the war is just. We can’t negotiate
with terrorists who do not mind dying for their cause. They want
the United States and its allies to vacate the Middle East immediately.
Of course, if they had allowed the peace process to take hold
in Iraq without opposition, Iraq’s government would be in
place and we could have vacated the area by now. Their violence
is keeping the war going. If we pulled out now, Iraq would be
in worse shape than it was when Hussein was in power.
Even though I believe our cause is just, I can’t help but
think the whole thing has turned into a mess. It seems no matter
how many terrorists we catch, there appears to be more waiting
in the wings to pick off more of our troops or innocent Iraqi
civilians. I feel powerless as I sit and watch the news reports
of war sometimes. What can we do about it?
First, we need to overcome our fears. The world is a dangerous
place. But “God did not give us a spirit of fear”
(2 Timothy 1:7). He has promised us that He will be with us through
everything we face in life. While we face the facts of war and
terrorism, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a God
who is in control, who will right all wrongs, and who will lead
us safely home to Him if we put our faith in Him.
Secondly, we should pray. We aren’t really powerless even
if it seems that way sometimes. The Bible says we have the power
of God at our disposal. We tap into that power when we pray. We
should pray for peace. We must pray for protection of our troops.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that
requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone
– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live
peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”
(1 Timothy 2:1-2). Pray for President Bush, his cabinet, Congress,
and military decision makers. Pray for Iraq. Even pray for the
terrorists. We are after all to pray for our enemies. Pray that
they will be unsuccessful in their attempts at evil. Pray that
their spiritual eyes will be opened and they will turn from evil
and to God.
God’s eye is on the situation in Iraq. He can see all sides.
He knows how this war will end. He will not be taken by surprise.
Take comfort in Him.
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