“I mentioned to you once on the ultimate Frisbee field that I was doing some of thinking on the idea of Christian warfare, especially given what Christ says about turning the other cheek, or how the Kingdom of God being one in which the lion and the lamb will lay down together and even what the prophets say about how swords will be so useless that they will be beaten down into plowshares (Micah 4:3).
How it should look for a Jesus follower to pilot a war machine like an jet? I realize through the Ten Commandments that God’s character abhors injustice and murder, but is it against Christ’s teachings to shoot a gun at someone because their government is at war with your government?>>>>>>>>>>>
First, an existence in which there is eventually no need for violence, predation, real competition, etc. is coming.
There will be a day for believers in which there will be no more sorrow, death, mourning, or pain, and God will wipe away their tears. (Revelation 21:4). I believe that the Micah passage and the Lion and the Lamb are about that existence which Jesus Himself will usher in to place (Isa 65:25, Isa 11:6).
Sadly, this is not yet that existence.
In fact, though that day will come, God is certainly cognizant of this fact… His character never changes. His character will not be different in the New Jerusalem from what it is now, nor was I different back in the days when He commanded His people to kill every human and most animals in a city (Dt 7:2, 13:15).
Apparently God is of the opinion that there is a time to kill and destroy; there are times when that is the morally right thing to do… and there are times to refrain from violence at all; there are times when not being violent is the morally right thing to do. Consider how men of war are recognized and honored by God and morally upstanding men in the Old Testament; in an appropriate way, war and killing in a combat situation has its place.
So, let me make clear, I am not at all saying that killing in combat is always right, but am just making the case that it CAN be right. How do you know when it is? We will look at that in a minute.Now, does a government have the right to call on someone else to kill? We have established that God has that right, and that thus, there must be times when it is morally right to kill… but does a government have the right to call upon someone to kill an enemy of the state?
In Romans 13, government is described as “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Rom 13:4, NASU) The New Testament biblical mandate to follow authority is clear in this passage and others (Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13,14)… unless, of course, the authority of the governing body is over-ruled by the ultimate authority of God (like in Acts 4:19).
So, unless one believed that Jesus, in the New Testament, seems to prize a non-violent response to the world. This makes sense from the perspective He describes to Pilate just before the cross,
“Jesus answered, ” My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36-37, NASU)
This concept is certainly played out in numerous places – insults, even physical insults, like a strike on the cheek… a reminder of servitude/enslavement to the Romans, like walking a mile with a soldier’s pack… etc. I believe Jesus’ guidelines for insult and persecution is non-violent.
Apparently early Christians took Jesus’ teachings to mean that they should avoid fighting for the Romans. Some think that had more to do with the requirement to swear fealty to the Caesar (maybe even to him as god) than the actual fighting, but it is hard to know for sure what motivated them to try to avoid battle.
Finally, how does one know that it is ok to fight for one’s country? Each person has to make the moral decision as to what makes a war a morally appropriate war themselves. Saint Thomas Aquinas is famous for making a strong biblical and ethical argument for war… and being one of the first serious philosophers to take on what is called “Just War Theory.”
One modern and simplified version of it looks like this:
There are 6 things that need to be considered in order to decide if a war is just or not:
1. What is the cause – why are you fighting?
2. What is the intent – what are the goals?
3. Do you have the legal authority to do fight?
4. Do you have specific and achievable goals?
5. Will the casualties be legitimate; how many will there be?
6. What is the cost and destruction? How do these last two weigh against the rest?
It is interesting to me that given all else, Jesus requires the disciples to carry at least a couple of swords with them (Luke 22:36-38). I don’t think anyone knows exactly what Jesus is talking about (though I think that it had something to do with random acts of violence that might be committed against them, like wild animals or bandits or such, not persecution or insult).
In conclusion, my personal stance is that the Bible reveals God as holding that war can be morally right. It is the responsibility of each believer to determine through the Holy Spirit and scripture their personal role in a governmental war, while avoiding the taking of non-combatant life and seeking to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ with your fellow soldiers… and, remember, loving your enemy and praying for him. There is a crazy one to apply, eh? (Matt 5:43-47).
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