By Dr. Harold Sala
Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.” Luke 3:14, Message
Abraham Lincoln, the American president who presided over the division of a nation in the American Civil War, was once walking down the street with his two sons who were both arguing and fighting among themselves. “What’s the matter with the boys?” a friend asked Lincoln, who replied, “The same thing is wrong with them that is wrong with the world: I have three walnuts and each one wants two of them!”
“If it is possible,” writes Paul to fellow believers living in the city of Rome, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). While Paul wasn’t accustomed to giving wellmeaning but impossible advice, we realize that there are times when living at peace is no longer an option because for peace to prevail there must be goodwill on both sides of an argument.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” asked James, the halfbrother of Jesus. He answered his own question, saying, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight….” (James 4:1-2). And thus has been the history of mankind from the beginning.
The Bible is specific in saying that war is the result of greed and selfishness, whether it is the result of a dispute with a neighbor or what happens when a greedy dictator wants the oil fields of a nearby neighbor.
Though it is never pleasant, the Bible says that aggression is the violation of the peace which God intends, and must be stopped. Never forget that Abraham did battle with the four kings who had kidnapped his nephew, Lot. Joshua and Caleb were first soldiers involved in military intelligence. David, who killed Goliath, was a warrior whose hands had seen so much human blood that God said, “Your son shall build a house for my name, but not you, David!”
Read your Bible, and notice how war was an instrument of justice as God used the battle to punish His enemies. He ordered the conquest and destruction of Jericho (Joshua 8), and the destruction of northern Canaan (Joshua 11). In His own time, God ordered Saul to literally wipe out the Amalekites, who 400 years before had followed the children of Israel as they moved through the desert, seizing and killing innocent women and children who couldn’t keep up the pace with the rest of the people.
In the New Testament you find at least four soldiers–centurions or captains in the Roman Army. Jesus noted that one of these had greater faith than he had found in all Israel. Jesus never advised, “Get out of the military and stop the endless slaughter!” But Jesus did urge people to be subject to the authorities and rulers, who bear the responsibility for the peace of the nation and world.
But doesn’t war result in murder? True, the sixth commandment says, “Thou shall not kill.” But better put, it reads, “You shall not murder,” or literally, “You shall do no murder!” which is the deliberate, premeditated taking of another’s life.
C. S. Lewis, whose writings have touched millions, once wrote, “All killing is no more murder than all sexual intercourse is adultery!” It is the attitude which makes the difference. Even so, the tragedy of all warfare is that innocent people suffer, no matter how careful the military may be to strike only military targets.
In an article entitled, “May a Christian be a Soldier?” Lt. General William K. Harrison wrote, “Many good Christians seek to eliminate war by dressing up the outside of the cup, seeking to cure the apparent causes of war. The real cause of war is the sinful heart of man.” And what is the solution? Says the general, “The Lord said that except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Being born again is a miracle,” and that, friend, is the real solution to the conflict that brings war. Think about it.
Resource reading: Luke 3:10-19.