Last Sunday we discussed the Christian and Social Order. We summarized how followers of Christ should be inclined toward society, exact influence on society, and be actively involved in society. We talked about our role as “the salt of the earth” and how we should oppose sin while simultaneously loving all of humanity. We considered the dangers of the “social gospel” and emphasized that our purpose as Christians is not limited to merely “cleaning up the culture”. As we seek to improve our society, the most important responsibility we have is to point it to Jesus.
Today we pick up where we left off, moving from social issues to foreign affairs. If we as believers truly love all people, even our fiercest enemies, then what should be our perspective regarding war with other nations or forces? Are we justified in fighting war, and if so when and on what grounds? Does our calling to spread the cause of Christ give us grounds to advance “goodness” and “democracy” through force? What does the Bible say on this issue? Let’s begin by reading the Baptist Faith and Message’s statement regarding Peace and War, to find a launching point for today’s sermon.
"It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war. The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace. "
The message today has 3 points - The Agents of War, The Alternative to War, and Some Attitudes about War.
People expect from the civil government protection from enemies, both foreign and domestic. This is one of the primary motivations for establishing government. The first “inalienable right” listed in our Declaration is life - and people form governments to provide security for it. God has ordained earthly governments to punish evildoers as a primary part of its “ministry”. This purpose has application domestically through the various police forces and judicial systems, but also internationally. God uses warfare - nations rising against nations, armies against armies, as a means of judgment, discipline, and sometimes as call to repentance.
God is not a pacifist, and His agent of warfare is civil government. The Bible is full of stories detailing war, and it never directly condemns war. Any honest reading of Scripture leads us to conclude that God, on occasion, supports and even sanctions war. He use militaries or para-military forces, sometimes with religious leanings, to these ends.
On the other hand, the Bible plainly teaches that God’s children should, to the extent possible, live at peace with all men. It is not the function of the church to wage war, but to pursue peace. Christians should not seek violence on their adversaries, but rather love and pray for them. Christians should endure suffering lovingly, seeking the greater purpose of showing Christ over the demand for personal justice. Jesus warns us that violence begets violence. True and lasting peace cannot be reached through the use of force, just as love can’t be spread by practicing hatred. The enemies of the church are not of this world and our battles should be focused on these unseen spiritual enemies, not on other men or nations.
Based upon the opposing positions presented in Scripture, there exists a duality in our responsibility regarding peace and war. It is clear that God uses men waging war to accomplish His purposes, yet it is also evident that He instructs His children to pursue peace and resist conflict if at all possible. This truth seems to be create a continuum, upon which our sovereign God places different people in different places in accordance with His divine will. Because of our strong heritage of liberty of conscience, Baptists have generally recognized the validity of all attitudes regarding war. As your pastor, I am not going to condemn any Christian for their service in or refusal to serve in any war based on conscientious grounds. Both arguments have Scriptural support and merit.
However, I am compelled to say that as I observe the actions of our nation over the past century I am very concerned. America has been at war somewhere against someone since the beginning of World War II. Our country seems zealous for war, seemingly seeking to involve itself in every conflict it can find. As a self-professing “Christian” nation, our foreign policy over the past several decades has proven to be extremely hypocritical. We claim to be a peaceful people, yet we are constantly and often aggressively at war. The damage caused by our actions, and our apparent unwillingness to try peace, is the cause of numerous problems here in the United States and around the globe.
As Christians, the most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for Godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to conflicts, and praying for a minimum of casualties among civilians and combatants on both sides. Just as salvation through Jesus Christ is the only real solution to this world’s social problems, so also it is the only way to appease the spirit of war and bring about lasting genuine peace.