Is there ever cause for war - a just war? Some believe there is not, that all disagreements and contests of will not only should but can be resolved with compromise and reason. In dealing with man's intractability, God challenges us to, "Come now, let us reason together, ...", promising forgiveness and reconciliation. Sin and rebellion will not be overlooked but forgiven, with us restored to favor. But it is not a one-sided act of appeasement, which often only enables further disobedience, discord and strife; a false restitution, a forced peace, lacking in justice. There are conditions - "If you are willing (to be reasonable, understanding, and repentant) and obedient, ..." Isaiah 1:18, 19
Just war proponents do not advocate the use of force in all clashes of will but do make provision for military action in the face of persistent, intentional evil and the injustice of those who would take malicious advantage of others. Some look at people living under the threat of violence with no overt warfare and see peace, but the absence of conflict is not indicative of a just peace. Proverbs addresses this issue well. "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." For, "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully." As "By justice a king gives a country stability..." Proverbs 21:25; 28:5; 29:4
As Christians, we are instructed, "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." When taken advantage of, losing possessions, forced to pay a debt we don't owe; to do it anyway, to give more. (Matthew 5:39-42) In many situations that would be the most effective Christian witness, and the early Christians were credited with having, "...turned the word upside down..." with this attitude. (Acts 17:6 KJV) They had no economic or military power, only the power of persuasion; and as they repeatedly turned the other cheek while continuing to speak boldly, their witness was noted, their words responded to, their gospel accepted by many. They expected evil to befall them, but they did not accept the infliction of evil as a normal part of life for everyone; for they were a people who had always been taught to never mistreat or oppress an alien in their midst, to never take advantage of widows and orphans, to pay a fair wage, to never violate people mentally, emotionally, economically or physically. (Exodus 22:21, 22; Deuteronomy 24:14, Matthew 3:5; 23:23, 24; Luke 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; James 1:27) They expected theses laws, meant to insure justice and peace for all, to be obeyed and invested the authorities with the power to enforce them.
They realized, by virtue of our inclination to sin, that we are all capable of evil. As such, laws were enacted and punishment meted out to those who refuse to do right and practice lawlessness. We are instructed to, "...not be overcome by evil (the desire for revenge), but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) But when others refuse to be civilized, embracing evil and inflicting it on others, the force of law provides relief and recourse for justice to be restored. "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established... Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted (the concepts of law and order within society, overseen by a variety of types of governments) and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong... 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." (Romans 13:1-4)
Consider Christ, using a whip to clear the temple of moneychangers and livestock, forcefully removing them from his father's house. (John 2:13-17) Wasn't his a "just" anger? Jehovah directed the Israelites countless times to war upon the inhabitants of Canaan, to rid the land of idolatry, debauchery and the rampant sin practiced there - to have nothing to do with those living such a lifestyle, at risk of their own welfare and lives. They were not to come to terms with evil but to root it out. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4)
As Christians, we must never glory in war, it should always be forced on us. We are to be sincere in our love for mankind, clinging to the good in life yet hating evil. We are to be patient in affliction, blessing those who persecute and curse us; responding to others needs - mourning with those who mourn, rejoicing with those who rejoice. We are to seek harmony, not being proud but seeing the value of everyone; being careful to do what is right in the eyes of others (within reason), sensitive to their needs and perspective. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:9-18) Occasionally it doesn't, peace being denied us by the actions of others. Thus the need for separation and sometimes - very rarely - the necessity of restoring peace by force. (See Exodus 34:15, 16; Numbers 25:1-5; Deuteronomy 7:1-6)
James lists the causes of conflict between individuals, equally applicable to nations. Envy, greed and covetousness that leads to quarreling and fighting. (James 4:1-2) But is it ever right to fight - to kill in response? I believe there are a few reasons compelling enough for such a response. To preserve genuine peace, to defend the innocent, to stop the spread of evil. I don't believe it proper for us all to arm ourselves for the purpose of enforcing righteousness, there are institutions established within governments to do so, but we must realize as well that all killing is not murder. (The sixth commandment being more properly translated, "You shall not murder.")
How should we then respond during war? By praying earnestly (1 Timothy 2:1-2), trusting God to uphold and protect (Psalms 27:1-3), seeking peace, not at all costs, but in every way reasonably possible, (Psalms 34:14) and by supporting one another, spurring each other on to loving deeds by daily encouragement. (Hebrews 10:24 and 3:13)
Your response to evil is a personal issue but not a totally private one. Evil must be responded to, though not always by armed resistance. If we don't, a price will be paid by all. It can be no more eloquently put than, "We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King, Jr. As, "All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
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