What are the Biblical Guidelines for War?
I know this is a loaded question. I don’t want to de-value the sacrifice of the men and women who have died for our country, but can a Christian really believe that war is justifiable? Shouldn’t Christians be pacifists? I know that Quakers are, but what about the rest of us? Your thoughts?
A Curious Pacifist
Dear Curious Pacifist,
Wars and rumors of wars fill the news, and our country is currently involved in international conflicts. I do not presume to have all the answers. But, since you asked, to the best of my ability, here are some thoughts on an age old question: “If God is both loving and all-powerful, how can He allow war to take place? Either He is not loving, or He is not all powerful, or He is neither”. While this line of reasoning seems so logical and irrefutable, a little more information from God’s revelation reveals another option. The answer is in the biblical world-view.
God never intended the world to be like this. Rebellion in heaven and rebellion on earth changed everything! Evil is now set free on earth. Satan now holds tremendous sway over the world. The battle against Evil is upon us. The Book of Revelation tells the final story of how God will one day take back the title deed to earth and once again restore it in alignment with His original intentions.
Let’s examine a true story parable: Grizzlies are in the woods.
Over the years Christians have argued about the proper Biblical way God wants us to handle the bears.
The Crusades—kill all the bears!
Pacifism—leave the bears alone and hope that love and a non-violent attitude will induce them to go away.
Just War—stop and/or neutralize the bears that cause trouble.
I Believe That The Just War Is The Only Response That Makes Sense.
God’s Ideal Is A World At Peace (Exodus 20:13).
Read 1 Chronicles 28:2-3; Psalm 46:9; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3 and consider Jesus’ general attitude of love and teaching of non-resistance.
God Determined That Some Circumstances Warrant The Just Use Of Force (Exodus 22:2).
Read 1 Chronicles 5:20-22; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; Matthew 21:12; John 2:13-16; Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51; Luke 22:36-38; Luke 3:14; consider God’s attitude toward first century soldiers in Matthew 8:10); Mark 15:39; and Acts 10; and finally, consider how God identifies Himself as the Lord of Hosts (literally, “of armies”).
IT IS CLEARLY THE GOD’S INTENT THAT WE STRIVE FOR PEACE. YET, SOME CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANT THE USE OF FORCE—BUT UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS? BIBLICAL, JUSTIFIABLE WAR HAS AT LEAST FIVE ESSENTIAL ASPECTS.
FIRST, THE PRIMARY PURPOSE IS TO DEFEND THOSE UNDER ATTACK.
Proverbs 24:8-12: “Care for those being marched off to slaughter.”
SECOND, VENGEANCE IS TEMPERED BY JUSTICE.
Romans 13:1a, 4: “But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Romans 12:19: “Vengeance is mine.”
THIRD, There must be a reasonable prospect of VICTORY—OF ACHIEVING the ends for which the war is fought.
Luke 14:28-32: “Consider your resources before you go out to fight a war—if you are not in a position to win, negotiate.”
On April 19, 1952, General Douglas MacArthur stood before a joint session of Congress to deliver his famous farewell address: “…old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” His speech, however, is much more than a farewell. It also includes the following thoughts on war and peace: “. . . It has been said in effect that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory.”
FOURTH, THE MOTIVES MUST BE PURE.
James 4:1-3: “Why do you fight? Because you have the wrong motives in your heart..
Hebrews 4:12: “God Judges The Thoughts And Attitudes Of The Heart.”
But, our real defense as a nation rests in the spiritual convictions, character, and commitment of our citizenry.
Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
FIFTH, THE POST-WAR ATTITUDE IS ONE OF MERCY.
Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
John Stuart Mill: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks nothing is worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than his own personal safety is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless he is made free and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Yes, some things are still worth living and dying for.
Bears still roam the wilderness of our world. May God help us.