Thoughts to Ponder

Is War ever an Appropriate Response?

Because we have troops in combat in Iraq this question comes up a lot. How is a Christian to answer such a question?

Many clergy and even whole denominations denounce the war as immoral. Are they right, or are they mistaken? Can we as Christians just close our eyes to the injustices happening around the world? Can we just close our eyes to the human suffering happening because evil men are abusing helpless people?

I want to look at something Paul said:

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 NIV) [1] Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, [2] not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. [3] Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. [4] He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
[5] Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? [6] And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. [7] For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.

Think about what Paul is saying. Of course he is speaking about the Holy Spirit being the One who is holding back the man of lawlessness. But we need to really think about what that means. How is the Holy Spirit working and how is He holding back the man of lawlessness? We have clues from right in the verse. He is holding back the man of lawlessness until He is taken out of the way.

We know that the Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of believers, and we know that Jesus promised us that He would never leave us. So for the Holy Spirit to be taken out of the way, I believe we have to be also taken out of the way. That is the clue, the Holy Spirit which indwells the believer uses the believers to hold back the lawlessness. But there is coming a day when that will no longer happen. The Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way, and I believe the believers will be removed from the earth.

But I want to look at the flip side of this issue for a moment. If the Holy Spirit is indwelling us and He is holding back the man of lawlessness, then we are one of His instruments to do so. That is my point about Christians not wanting to be involved. We can't just sit back and allow lawlessness to take over the world, it is our responsibility to do what we can to prevent it.

God has give us power and authority and we should use it to help those who are in need. God does not need us but He often allows us to be part of what He does, because He loves us. I think war is one of those issues that every person has to ultimately decide for them self, but I also think we can go to our guide book for some foundational answers.

I want to establish that God does not change. This is important because people will say that some of the things I will bring out are only mentioned in the Old Testament and therefore don't apply to us today.

(Hebrews 13:8 NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever

(Malachi 3:6a NIV) I the LORD do not change.

(1 Samuel 15:29 NIV) He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.

(Numbers 23:19 NIV) God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

There are more passages which show that God has not and does not change, but those should be enough to make the point.

We know that God is against murder:

(Exodus 20:13 NIV) You shall not murder.

The question is this, is all killing of human beings murder? To answer that question we can again go back to God's word:

(Deuteronomy 13:5 NIV) That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

(Deuteronomy 17:4ff-7 NIV) [4] If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, [5] take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. [6] On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. [7] The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.

(Deuteronomy 24:7 NIV) If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you.

There are many more that I did not quote, but this gives you the idea. God wanted the Israelites to purge the evil from among them. We are told by "experts" today that the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect on society. God disagrees!

Before I go on, let me make sure you understand my point to all this. I am not saying that we are still under that law and that if a person is found committing adultery, for example, that they should be stoned or put to death. We live under God's grace and when we find sin we should lovingly confront it and give the person a chance to repent before God. But I am trying to make the point that as precious as a human life is to God, there are circumstances which warrant the death of a person in God's sight.

Let me show you how we are to treat someone who refuses to repent of evil:

(1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV) [9] I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-[10] not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. [11] But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

(1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV) [12] What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? [13] God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

We are not to just look the other way. We are to take an active role when we see evil done by someone who claims to be a believer. God has not changed. He, in His mercy, has placed us under grace so that more people can come to know Jesus Christ, but He has not changed, nor has His view of sin changed.

Yet we have still not addressed wars. I could go quote a lot of passages from the Old Testament about the many wars that Israel was engaged in. Some of them were because of their disobedience, some were judgments upon other nations because of those nations disobedience.

I would rather look at how God expects us to deal with others. God has blessed our nation over the past couple of hundred years. Some people try to claim that it is by pure chance or human effort that the US has become the world power that it has. That is an intellectually ignorant position to take. Look at the differences between the US and Mexico. Are we that much smarter than the Mexicans? No. Is our land that much more fertile then their's? No. Do we have more natural resources then Mexico? No.

Look at Africa. Is North America more bountiful because we have more natural resources then Africa does? No. Again are we that much smarter then the people who live in Africa? No. They have much more in the way of natural resources then we do. Yet they, as a whole, live in abject poverty. There is no other explanation other than the hand of God. But with that blessing comes some responsibilities that we cannot ignore.

Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. How can we claim to be a loving, caring nation if we sit back and allow tyrants to murder millions of people? How can we look at ourselves in the mirror if we allow people to starve to death, not because their country is without natural resources but because evil men are in control who care nothing about human life?

(Proverbs 14:31 NIV) He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

(Proverbs 21:13 NIV) If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

(Proverbs 29:7 NIV) The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

(Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV) [8] "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. [9] Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

(Ezekiel 16:49 NIV) Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Those God has blessed have a responsibility to protect and defend those who are in need. Now the numbers vary widely, but one estimate is that up to 4,500 Iraqi children died every month since the sanctions were imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. Now don't miss this, these children died because they could not get enough food or medicines. The sanctions on Iraq had a provision for food and medicines, this was called the oil for food program. The problem was that the U.N. placed a monetary value on the amount of oil the Iraqis could sell, but then did not follow up on how that money was used. So the government of Iraq sold the oil but did not provide food or medicine for it's citizens, instead the money was used for the military.

Even if these figure are grossly over estimated, the fact remains that Iraqis were dying because of lack of food and medicine due to the government funding prohibited military operations instead of feeding their citizens.

This is enough, I believe, to justify the war to liberate the Iraqis, but this is not the only reason for the war. The government of Iraq has also obtained, and even used in the past, weapons of mass destruction on it's own citizens. And they fund and support terrorist groups. One example is payments made to terrorist homicide bombers in Palestine. This is a brutal, murderous government and the normal Iraqi citizen is being held captive to its repressive nature. They are truly destitute and needy. If we turn our backs on them, then we have not upheld what I believe God has said He wants us to do.

But this discussion is not just a defense of the war in Iraq. I hear people who are against the war say, what is next, do we send troops to Rwanda and the Sudan? My answer to that is that I think we should.

The U.N. is a sham and I personally think we should get out of the organization and tell them to leave our country! Several years ago the U.N. sent troops to Rwanda to "protect" innocent life. There were hundreds of people being killed. It sounded like the right thing to do and many people were glad that the U.N. stepped in.

Belgian troops were sent in along with French troops. The problem was that they were not allowed to help the citizens of Rwanda. In fact when the Belgian troops returned home they took their U.N. berets and cut them into pieces with their knives to show their contempt for what had happened. The International Red Cross estimated 500,000 people had been killed by mid-May 1994 in Rwanda. Sadly the United States government did not raise a finger to help those being slaughtered, to our shame.

In Sudan the Islamic government is killing the citizens in the south of the country. Slave trade is in full swing. The poor are being exploited and abused. Men are killed and the women and girls are sold into slavery, often a fate worse then death.

Yes we should do something about this suffering! Are we the Policemen of the world? Maybe we should be. It is wrong for any country to impose their values and ideas on other people, but it is not wrong for any country to help free those who are oppressed and abused, tortured and killed. We have a responsibility as the world power, in my opinion, to use that God given power to help those in need.

On this subject, where is the outcry? Where are the black leaders in America on this issue? They are silent. They will get in front of crowds of people and claim that slavery that occurred in this country a hundred and fifty years ago was horrible, and it was, but where are they when slavery is alive and well today in Sudan? They demand to be called African-Americans yet they could care less about the suffering of the real Africans. Many of these so called leaders go about with the title Reverend in front of their names, but I fail to see compassion and love in their rhetoric.

Many of the people in the south of Sudan are Christians and are being killed because of those beliefs, but even if they weren't Christians this would still be an area that I believe we have a responsibility to step into, with or without the U.N. The U.N. has shown that it does not care about suffering, time and again. The U.N. has an agenda and it is plain to see for anyone who is willing to look. They could care less about the poor and abused of the world. They only use them in name to brow beat prosperous countries like the USA.

So to answer the question, is war ever an appropriate response, I would have to say yes. Either we stand up for what is right or we allow evil to grow and destroy innocent lives. How can we show the world the love of Christ while sitting back and ignoring their suffering? Aid is wonderful and I am glad our country sends as much foreign aid to the world as it does, but aid without hope is just another meager meal and continued dependency.

John the Baptist was baptizing people and telling them to repent for the Kingdom of God was near. Many asked him what they should do. I want to look at one group that did just that and what John's answer was:

(Luke 3:14 NIV) Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely-be content with your pay."

Notice that he did not tell them to get out of the army or to refuse to serve. He told them to be honest and content. Again I will say that this is an area where each person has to decide for them self whether service in the Military is appropriate for them. But I think it is wrong to say that a Christian can't serve in the Military. I have even been told that a Christian should not be a Police Officer because they might have to take a life. That too is off base as this passage shows:

(Romans 13:1-4 NIV) [1] Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. [2] Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [3] For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. [4] For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

He does not carry the sword for nothing. He is God's servant... Does that sound like something that is wrong for a Christian to be involved in? I don't think so.

Many Christians think that you have to be a pacifist to be a true believer. I don't buy that. If you refuse to help those in need you are not doing God's will. Look what John tells us:

(1 John 3:16-17 NIV) [16] This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [17] If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

I don't see pacifists willing to lay down their lives to help hurting and abused Iraqis, or Sudanese. I am not trying to glorify war or death, but I am telling you that there are things which are worth laying down your life for.

This brings me to a point I want to make. If you struggle with these issues then read your Bible and then think about not only what God's word says but also what the opposition to God's word says.

Here is what I mean. God's word says that we should purge the evil from our country. Yet the other side says that capital punishment for any reason is wrong, all the while supporting abortion on demand. They don't want the guilty punished but they don't mind if the innocent are murdered.

God's word says that we should help those who are oppressed and abused, but the other side says that we can't assume that people truly want to be free. They see us as more of a threat than the evil regimes of the world. They would like to see a one world government. Of course to do so they would take our freedoms away, not give the rest of the world the same freedoms we enjoy.

They also see Christianity as one of the most vile and evil religions on earth. We are intolerant, they say, and should be forced to accept all other views as just as legitimate as the Bible. With all these wrong views why would we care what they think about the war in Iraq? They claim that they are the only ones who care about the innocent lives which might be lost, yet they prove themselves wrong by not having cared about the innocent lives which were lost before we took on this battle.

If America had gotten into World War II sooner we might have been able to spare thousands if not millions of lives. Never forget there are some things worth fighting and even dying for.

We need to support our troops, who are acting on our behalf. These young men and women are being asked to do things most of us don't want to soil our hands with. They need our prayers, they need our support and they need to know that there is no prohibition in the Bible for helping those in need even if it means taking the life of the person who is abusing and suppressing those people.

Our leaders need our prayers too. No leader wants to send young men and women into harms way. It takes a heavy toll on those leaders, but they act as they feel they must act and need our encouragement and prayerful support. If our leaders ever order our military into an immoral war then we as Christian must stand up against such a war, but don't listen to the liberal nay sayers find out the facts for yourself, pray and ask God for guidance.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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April 2003