VIOLENCE AND WAR
A SHIPWRECKED FAITH
I Tim. 1: 18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Before I enter into the meat of my post let me say two things. First, I respect the sacrifice men and women have made in the military even while disagreeing with the entire principle of violence as it pertains to the kingdom of God. On an earthly level many have shown selfless bravery.
Secondly, I acknowledge that the Old Testament is filled with acts of violence seemingly approved and even caused by God. Honestly, I cannot completely reconcile some of those things. I just have to leave that mystery in God’s hands. However it is very clear that we live in a new and better covenant with better promises. And our faith is completely tethered to Christ Jesus and His life and teachings and His sacrifice for our sins. Our faith cannot be an amalgam of New and Old Testament teachings. God has His purposes back then but His purpose now comes through His Son.
Heb.1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Also before we proceed let me deal with one portion of Scripture which is the standard bearer for many who embrace the just war principle as a part of God’s kingdom in this age.
Lk.22: 35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
Instead of going into great detail here let me provide a link which adequately addresses this issue. Suffice to say that it is bad Scriptural interpretation to cull out a couple of verses and allow them to contradict the overwhelming New Testament teachings to the contrary. HERE is that link.
War is a repugnant business which includes people making money, the Bourgeoisie sending the Proletariat to die for them, and it is the pathway where millions of innocent lives find death. And many if not most of these deaths are not of the painless variety. Fear becomes a tangible experience on the battlefield. Through war men’s hearts become hardened and many times certain nationalities or ethnic groups are looked upon as less human and of less value than others. When men see their friends killed right in front of them they cannot help but hate and subtly and openly demand revenge. Anyone who has seen the movie Platoon has seen many aspects of war.
During war and also in preparation for war and the buildup of the military corruption looms large. I have dealt with that HERE.
But through war human life in general is devalued. We now have created a way in which a man can sit sipping a coffee while operating a joystick which can and does drop bombs on suspected terrorists as defined by the west. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Those early Americans who hid behind trees and shot at British troops and then ran are considered heroes while those that do the same thing against American troops are terrorists. Extricating the American Indians from land the white man desired through genocide is part of American folklore and dealt with in history books with a creative and self serving sterilization.
The view that war is sometimes approved and even directed by Jesus is founded upon the view that God desires us to love America and defend her at all costs. It is no secret that many believers have a subtle and open view that America is special to God and that this country was formed as a collective that follows Jesus, or a Christian nation. As ludicrous and observably false as that is it is still proudly embraced by millions who name the name of Christ. To be fair it has been engrained in us since birth through the church as well as the secular world. It is one of the few platforms where Satanists, cultists, agnostics, atheists, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and a wide variety of others can join hands, hold their hands over their hearts, and sing together with tears welling up in their eyes. It is also the platform where they will fight together and die together.
Obviously the teachings about not being unequally yoked are overlooked when it comes to nationalism. But it is that very principle which has invited all kinds of unchristian practices into the church and has brought open idolatry right into the body of Christ. And the natural progression of such thought culminates with embracing war as an option. There are many startling aspects of this phenomenon that are most disturbing. Listen as prayers are made in the Sunday gatherings that beg God for His protection for “our” soldiers which is an open petition in Jesus’ name that we can kill more than they. And in the midst of the horror called war it takes on a competitive spirit. We rejoice as each city falls into our hands and we take great comfort in the fact we are “winning” the war. “Mission Accomplished” is our rallying cry even though many thousands have died and gone to a Christless eternity and many more will return maimed physically and emotionally. Many children are left with one parent and many spouses are now alone. But the President can put on a flight jacket, be flown to the deck of an aircraft carrier, and garner applause as he claims complete victory. It is bizarre to say the least but it is also accepted as part of the overall pageantry of war.
And what is most disturbing is that all of it is embraced fully by those who profess to follow Christ. It is very difficult to get an American Christian to even take the time to thoroughly and vulnerably delve into the subject with an eye toward the teachings and life of Jesus. If you reject violence as a believer you are looked upon as some freak who never grew out of the 1960s. The American evangelical world is so imprisoned by a patriotic spirit that the teachings of Jesus are made to conform to that spirit rather than seeing the obvious disconnect between what Jesus taught and the dictates of nationalism.
Do you doubt the strength of that deception? Well look at the overall and clear teachings of nonviolence throughout the ministry of Jesus. Could it be any clearer? And yet people will bring up those verses in Luke and use them as foundational to suggest that sometimes Jesus desires war. And why do they do that? It’s because the spirit of nationalism has been so deeply held in our psyche that we no longer even question its Scriptural authenticity. And yet Christianity at its core is forgiveness and a pervasive benevolence. Now in the light of that try and push a square doctrinal peg into that round spiritual hole. As I have said, nationalism is the only shoehorn which can force war into the teachings of Jesus.
Let me ask this question. Are we to receive the redemption of Jesus and secure a place in heaven but still live according to the teachings of Moses or the founding fathers or the conservative movement? Or is salvation an all encompassing life change that not only secures us a place in eternity with Christ but also demands that we lose our lives for His sake and live a life which is demonstrably different than our patriotic neighbor? Can we take the average life of a moral patriot, add the name of Jesus, and still live the same way? Can we just use Jesus to sanctify a life which still operates in the dictates and mores of this world?
And make no mistake this issue of war and violence and being loyal to an earthly nation is absolutely foundational as to what the faith called Christianity actually is. Yes, have we concocted a bizarre and bastardized lifestyle and called it “Christian”? And if that is a legitimate question, then do we have enough thirst for Christ to actually investigate what Jesus said and taught and lived and make any necessary adjustments to the way we think and live? Or are we comfortable, well fed, prosperous, and prone to leave well enough alone. Or in other words,
“I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”.