Someone I’ve known since the 80s when he was one of my high school teachers has become a local facebook star. He’s a Christian and a wit. His statuses are often very entertaining, like “I have a blackbelt in leather.” Sometimes the stati are religious. Very rarely are they political but about a week ago he posted this gem, “Ebola meet ISIS.” There are health workers who have died trying to fight this disease. And they’ve gone into harm’s way fully knowing they will likely pay with their lives. Our trillions of dollars, thousands of soldiers, drones, covert missions, unconstitutional actions… aren’t enough for the latest US-created “threat.” Let’s wish a disease on them. I was disgusted and very disappointed with the post and, hands shaking, initiated a fb chat. To post a comment would open me to attack from the 45 “Like”rs. Been there. Done that. Burned the T-shirt.
Chat Conversation Start
ME: I don’t dare post this in comments but I think wishing a deadly disease on anyone is hatemongering, pandering and beneath you. Didn’t Jesus cmand us to love our enemies?
HIM: My apologies, Dawn, that you were offended. War is a tool of God.
There are many unacceptable reasons for war. Imperialism. Financial gain. Religion. Family feuds. Racial arrogance. There are many unacceptable motives for war. But there is one time when war is condoned and used by God: wickedness. When calling the Israelites into battle. Moses carefully instructed them:
“After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say to yourselves, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are so righteous!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is doing it.” (Deut. 9:4)
Can people grow so wicked, so pagan, so vile that God justifiably destroys them? Can leaders be so evil and cruel that God, knowing the hardness of their hearts, righteously removes them from the earth? Apparently so. He did so with Sodom and Gomorrah. He did so with the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites.
“As for the towns of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession, destroy every living thing in them. You must completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will keep the people of the land from teaching you their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.”(Deut. 20:16-18)
God has used warfare as a form of judgment against the enemies of God. In fact, He uses warfare as judgment against his own people when they become enemies of God.
“O Israel, I will bring a distant nation against you,” says the Lord. “It is a mighty nation, an ancient nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you cannot understand. Their weapons are deadly; their warriors are mighty. They will eat your harvests and your children’s bread, your flocks of sheep and your herds of cattle. Yes, they will eat your grapes and figs. And they will destroy your fortified cities, which you think are so safe.” (Jeremiah 5:15-17)
God’s priority is the salvation of souls. When a people-group blockades his plan, does he not have the right to remove them? He is the God who knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10). He knows the hearts of men and protects his people by punishing the evil of their wicked neighbors. Is it not God’s right to punish evil? Is it not appropriate for the one who tells us to hate that which is evil to punish that which is evil? Of course it is.
Unpunished evil is, itself, evil.
But what of the teachings of Jesus? What about a passage like Luke 6:27-31:
“But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you.”(Luke 6:27-31)
Have we stumbled upon an inconsistency? Do we find God calling for war one time and “cheek-turning” another? Is this a double standard? I don’t think so.
The government is called to turn the other cheek. We call this diplomacy, negotiation, and compromise. If such efforts prove fruitless, and if the leaders feel their constituency is under threat, they can then take steps to protect the innocent.
Consider this truth from a personal standpoint. If someone criticizes me, I am called to “turn the other cheek.” I forgive. But what if they criticize my wife and daughters. What if they threaten them? What if a perpetrator tells me he is coming after my family? What do I do?
Simple, I protect the innocent. I take steps to insure their safety.
But, aren’t you called to love your enemies? Absolutely. And I will love him to the point of removing him from being a threat to those I’m called to protect.
Why? Because, to leave my family unprotected would be to abdicate my responsibility as family leader. It is a higher evil to let evil go unpunished than to punish those who would harm innocents.
Has the United States reached such a point with ISIS? Only the authorities of a nation can answer that question. But if they perceive a real and present danger, their godly response is to protect the country.
I agree with the view of C.S. Lewis:
Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace. It is no good quoting ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes that commandment he uses the murder one in all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same distinction in Hebrew. All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when he met a Roman sergeant-major—what they called a centurion. The idea of the knight—the Christian in arms for the defense of a good cause—is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken.”4
Again, the purpose of war is to punish the wicked and protect the innocent. Where does that leave us? That leaves us on our knees.
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. …So wherever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2, 8)
If ever we need to trust the promise of Romans 8:28, it is times like these:
“ And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)
Remember these key thoughts:
1. War is always dreadful—while never God’s ideal, war has been God’s idea.
2. War is justifiable only when other alternatives to protect the innocent have been exhausted. War is God’s righteous last resort.
3. War is divinely delegated to the government, God’s ministers who are called to protect the innocent and punish the evil.
4. A moral war is limited, not universal; national, not personal; defensive, not aggressive.
The role of a Christian, in such a time, is prayer:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)
Let us pray for our President and those in authority. Let us give thanks for our President who begins his day on his knees with an open Bible in his lap. And, let us pray for a speedy end to this conflict.
ME: Do you not think our imperialism and wickedness are factors in this ongoing “war on terror” that has so greatly benefited a few corporations. Many of the weapons ISIS has are American-made and were paid for with our tax dollars. Al quida and Sadaam were originally backed and funded by us and now we are again allied with al quida bc blowback has has made them the lesser evil. There may be a time for war as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, but I don’t think God has had much of a role in anything since WWII.
thank you for your thoughtful reply. I wasn’t “offended.” If I were offended by every jingoistic chant I hear, I couldn’t experience any other feeling. Just seems to me that those who are war’s loudest cheerleaders are the Christians. Jesus was called “Prince of Peace,” right? When is the “time for peace”? When will Christians show more compassion than anger?
HIM: My apologies for further offenses.
Our Hope in Christ is the substance of the coming peace which shall endure for all eternity.
ME: “Further offences”? I don’t know what that means. I truly wasn’t offended. I fought against saying anything. I just know many people listen to you, and I decided you might want to consider why one of them didn’t “Like” that status. If I offended you, it wasn’t my intention. And there is no reason for you to apologize to me. I appreciate you taking the time to consider and reply to me.
HIM: No offense here, either. We will continue our FB fun, but will have to disagree agreeably on this issue. Gal. 6:9
I wasn’t offended. Just disgusted and disappointed. I’m sure he felt the same about me and maybe he hoped I would be convinced by all his scripture-backed reasoning that God approves of the flippant post and our soul-crushing imperialistic warmongering.