Conscientious Christians have always struggled with the problem of war and its moral implications. Some view war as incompatible with Christianity and therefore unacceptable under any circumstances. People holding this view may point to Scriptures such as Matthew 5:43–44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Other Christians feel that armed preparedness is necessary, and that Christian citizenship obligates us to obey those in authority, serving in the military should a war develop (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; Hebrews 13:7).
Philosophically, war is an extension of man’s struggle with sin and evil in the world. The apostle James wrote: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? 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. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1–3, NIV).
What Should Be the Attitude of a Christian Toward War?
When faced with the possibility of involvement in war, a Christian should:
• Seek to be an instrument of God’s peace, praying for it and working for it: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NIV).
• Seek to please God by presenting your life to Him (Romans 12:1–2) and living in obedience to His Word. As a person finds God’s will for his or her life, matters of conscience can be handled with perception from the Holy Spirit.
• Seek to win others to Jesus Christ. Peace begins on the personal level and comes as one permits Him who “is our peace” to control his or her life (Ephesians 2:14). There will be no peace on earth until the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, returns to establish it. We should spread the Gospel to all nations in anticipation of His return (Acts 1:8).
• If a person must bear arms, he or she should commit himself or herself to Christ and trust Him for safekeeping from harm, and from the temptations and sins that confront the soldier. Seek to honor Christ in all ways.
1. Assure the person that he or she is not alone in being concerned about war; any conscientious Christian is concerned. Say that you are happy to talk with him or her and share as you are able. Sometimes it is much better to confess at the outset that you are not equipped to discuss war philosophically. You are convinced, however, that God is just and does not willingly permit hurt and suffering. God is love. His greatest demonstration of this love is that He sent His Son to die for our sins. He has a plan for everyone’s life, including the inquirer’s. He wants to share His life, His love, His peace with each of us. Has the inquirer opened his or her life to Jesus Christ, receiving Him as Lord and Savior? If appropriate, present “Steps to Peace with God,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
Point out that if the person will commit his or her life to Christ, he or she will gain insights and perspective in regard to participation in war. The human conscience is reliable only when it is guided by the Holy Spirit, who indwells the person who has received Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
2. Reassure the person that you understand his or her apprehensions and are glad to talk and share with him or her in thinking through the issues. You would like for the moment, however, to lay aside the concerns about war and return to them a little later. You want to ask life’s most important question: Has he or she ever received Jesus Christ as Savior? If appropriate, present “Steps to Peace with God,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
3. Another inquirer may raise the question: How can you believe in a God who permits war when it causes so much human suffering, destruction, and premature death? In addressing such a question, ask the person to consider:
A. War is only one facet of the larger problem of evil which has been with the human race since the beginning. Evil is just as much present in a case of murder. This same evil tried to destroy the greatest human being who ever lived, nailing Him to a cross.
B. The problem boils down to one of moral choices. God wanted a world based on moral values, thus He created mankind with the ability to respond to moral choices. Faced with the moral option of living selfishly or unselfishly, people can and do make wrong decisions. We are free to choose, but we reap the consequences of bad moral decisions. War is one of those wrong decisions.
C. War is the fruit of sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s Law. We have not obeyed and do not obey this Law, thus we must face the consequences of our disobedience. We can choose to obey Him by trusting Him not only as our Savior but also as our Lord. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
4. Another inquirer may raise the question: Why can’t we just refuse to arm ourselves or participate in wars? Let us reduce the problem to a very practical level in the neighborhood where we live: Would the inquirer be willing to stop locking the doors of his or her house or apartment or automobile? Even in our own country we must safeguard ourselves, our family, and our goods. How much more true this is for nations with conflicting philosophies and cultures!
We don’t live in an ideal world, but in a world dominated by sinful, selfish desires. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19). Applied on an international level, this would mean protecting the life, family, home, and property of others just as we protect our own.
Prophecy Concerning War:
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matthew 24:6, NIV).
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Submission to Authority:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1–2, NIV).
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13–14).
The Reason for War:
James 4:1–3 (see “Background”)
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996