One of the great lies that humanity has believed is that every war it engages in is a war for the good, a war for a righteous cause, a “just war.”
And yet it is often these wars to defeat evil which result in a vicious cycle of even greater evil and violence. Nobody goes off to war thinking they are about to carry out evil. Countries go off to war to defend their cause, protect their people, enforce their liberties, and safeguard their interests in the world. People say that war should be waged unless it has a just cause, but every person who wages war believes his cause is just.
It could be said that every war is a Holy War.
In fact, other than some recent wars produced by atheistic som, most wars throughout history have been fought in the name of god. When men march off to war, it is with prayers on their lips that their god will see the righteousness of their cause against the unrighteousness of the evil enemies.
I am reminded of a recent war fought by the United States in which millions of people around the country prayed that God would bless America as we fought against the “Axis of Evil” in the Middle East. Then we sat glued to our television screens as our military rained down fire and brimstone upon our enemies in the form of “shock and awe” missile attacks.
Even today we use God’s name to justify our own violent actions toward people we perceive as enemies. Violence attributed to God is thus seen as the source and seed of all violence. Therefore, violence will not cease until God stops being violent.
Ironically, God was never violent. We made God violent so that He could be used to justify our own violence and bless us as we marched off to war with His name on our lips and our swords.
So again, it circles back around to Jesus. Jesus did away with the entire concept of Holy War by showing us what God is really like.
God is not murderous and bloody. He is not violent. God is loving, patient, kind, forgiving, merciful, and just. And if there is violence, He would rather bear that violence upon Himself than lash out in violence toward others. Rather than attempt to defeat violence with greater violence, God takes the blame for violence and suffers the consequences of it. On the cross, Jesus does away with war and religion, and most importantly, the marriage of the two in Holy War.
And when Jesus taught us about war and violence, a surprising truth emerges, which turns out to be not so surprising at all, just overlooked.How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?
These are the sorts of questions we discuss and (try to) answer in my online discipleship group. Members of the group can also take ALL of my online courses (Valued at over $1000) at no charge. Learn more here: Join the RedeemingGod.com Discipleship Group I can't wait to hear what you have to say, and how we can help you better understand God and learn to live like Him in this world!
Tim Burns says
We are made in the image and likeness of God, and the spiritual reality of the universe is that we are in the midst of a cosmic struggle between heaven and hell, between right and wrong.
The sot, atheist view of the world is that man is good, and God isn’t. That way we blame our bad behavior on an unjust God. The truth is the other way around. God is good, and we are fallen, pursuing self and willing to harm others to get our own way. At some point, a Just God stands against the advancing evil, even if his actions or ours create war.
Is it a surprise that the secular world sees the world upside-down?
Jeremy Myers says
Good points. We definitely are war, but our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:10-20).
And yes, I do think Atheism gets some things upside down, but in all honesty, I think Christianity gets a lot of things upside down as well…
Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says
I fully agree with Tim Burns.
The secular world lives in darkness. Therefore people are blind and cannot see things as they really are (Mk 4:12).
Q: How do we classify Armageddon, the Holy War which is yet to come?
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” (Rev 19:11 ESV)
“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev 19:15 ESV)
“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.” (Rev 19:19 ESV)
“And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Rev 19:21 ESV)
I would be the last person to say that God is not love since I know He is. Nonetheless, I think we ought to be careful to not overemphasize the gentleness and meekness Jesus showed as a human being on earth. Actually, He walked humbly before His Father, but not always before men, for it is written,
“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.” (Prv 3:34-35 ESV)
Jesus was always compassionate and forgiving toward broken sinners. However, sometimes His words were anything but pleasing to the ear. As with the following statements, our Lord prophesied a future judgment:
“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:23 KJV)
Or for instance, when Jesus answered those people who wanted to know more “about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” He said,
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Lk 13:1-3 ESV)
Repent or perish – eternally.
In my humble opinion, this is nothing to be casual about. For example, just in case someone dares to mock at God in my presence (such as comedians like to do in order to increase audience rating), I turn my back on him as quick as I can, since I do not think it makes sense to throw pearls before pigs by explaining God’s mysteries to a fool. Or in other words,
“The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever.” (Ps 92:6-7 ESV)
If, however, some want to know more about God and Jesus, I always love to tell them what I know, except I sense that they want to lead me up the garden path. Then I abstain from revealing anything to them, heeding Paul’s admonition,
“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” (2 Tim 2:23 KJV)
In fact, I appreciate your honesty in dealing with this question, Jeremy. We are all on the same way, searching for the whole truth in which the Holy Spirit will surely lead us. As for now, we all know in part (1 Cor 13:9). The only thing we can do is to gather those truths God has given to each of us and to “test everything”, particularly the spirit of which the information comes, and to “hold fast what is good” (1 Thes 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1 ESV).
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for the input. Yes, while I want to emphasize the love and mercy of God, I don’t want to emphasize it more than Scripture does. And yet… the more I read and study Scripture, the more I see the love of God on every page!
Anyway, you raise good points, and I will try to write more about your particular concerns in future posts.
Is waging war always immoral? I’m the most committed pacifist I know, but whenever this discussion comes up I immediately think of the stories told me by my grandmother, my parents and my aunt who lived in Poland in the 1930s and 1940s, at the height of Hitler’s rampage. Their lives were shattered by the situation, and they weren’t even Jewish. They were among the relatively lucky ones. I know that my father wept when he decided that he had a moral duty to join the army to help defend his countrymen.
Was it wrong for the Allies to act to stop Hitler? Certainly, the Allies acted out of other, self-interested, political motivations as well, but was it wrong to act to stop the aggression and the atrocities? Failing to act when we see abuse at any level is not turning the other cheek. It is looking the other way.
War is hell. In the Kingdom of God there is no war, but we’re not there yet.
Jeremy Myers says
Good question. You probably know better than I do if you are a pacifist. So far, I am not brave enough to commit to pacifism. I am pretty sure that if I was attacked or if someone in my family was, I would react violently.
Anyway, regarding war, I do think governments have the right to defend themselves. But I also think that there are forms of resistance which might not result in death and bloodshed.
How could this have been done against Hitler? I don’t know. If I had lived during WWII, I think that I would have supported the war, though with tears, as the father in your comment.
All this to say… I don’t have good answers to these difficult (but vital) questions.
Maybe my definition of pacifism is wrong. I just looked in my dictionary, which defines it as “opposition to the use of force under any circumstances; specifically for reasons of conscience to participate in war or any military action.” I’m not opposed to the use of force under every circumstance, but I firmly believe, as you say, that there are other forms of resistance. Force must only be a last resort, and then only if someone is in danger of serious physical harm. My pacifism is more in the sense of opposition to military action for political reasons, and it must be a last resort for humanitarian reasons as well.
I’d also act with force to protect myself, my family and probably even a stranger from violence, but not until it was absolutely necessary to prevent physical harm. I’d try compassion first – for the victim, of course, but more importantly in the moment, for the aggressor. That means understanding the motivation and engaging in dialogue to defuse the situation. God is not on our side or their side. God is on the side of peace and reconciliation. I find that keeping that in mind has helped me overcome the worry and fear that rise in threatening situations, and to deal with the situation more effectively. It should work in international situations as well – if we could get past arguing over who or what God is, or whether God even exists!
I could have included anger in the statement about overcoming worry and fear, but my ‘pacifism’ is the way I deal with that. For me, pacifism is primarily a way of dealing with anger.
If I lived during WWII, and can convince the president to humble himself in front of God and ask God to help him and the nation in the war, ask guidance… and convince the president to ask God as a nation… fast, and pray humbly ….would it be another history be written? would it be another war where God will lead people in interesting way like Israel marched around 7 times around the Jericho? but of course it will be different event..but if God is with us… hmmmmm always interesting happen 🙂
Years sgo I read a novel/fantasy in which the law of the land. imposed the death penalty for praying to any diety, that either the country, or the country it was fighting against, would win the war, or lose the war that they were engaged in.This was to protect the country from the influence of the church.
I’ve often thought that there was great wisdom in following that precedent.
Jeremy Myers says
This would probably get construed as persecution … and of course, elimination of free speech. 🙂
Ward Kelly says
I am not a pacifist, and I don’t think all war is wrong. Certainly I would have fought in WWII had I been alive then. My problem is that our government has lied, and manipulated the American public ever since the end of WWII about the wars we have engaged in. They try to frame the war as a just, and Holy cause…and fan the flames of nationalism to get support to carry out their agendas.
Jeremy Myers says
Great insight. There is a difference probably between just war and holy war, and governments (with the help of religion) sometimes turn just war into a holy war to gain support for the war.
Howard Chinn says
Think about how the world would have been more peaceful if there had been no World War One. There would not have been communism, WWII, Cold war Korea, Vietnam, or the rise of militant Islam. I believe there would have some conflict somewhere to be sure? But not the death of millions that we have seen in the last hundred years.
I am a Vietnam combat veteran. I can tell the end of one war leads to another.
Noah Edelson says
This sentence is riddled with typos, FYI: “In fact, other than some recent wars produced by atheistic som, most wars throughout history have been fought in the name of god. ”
I like this essay, although I find the statement “God was never violent.” to be suspect. I’m not sure how the Great Flood could be spun as an act of kindness, rather than the largest scale indiscriminate mass-murder in all history. I mean, assuming it happened, and that an interventionist God exists, and that the Bible is vaguely accurate in describing it as an attempt of God to punish / cleanse the world of “the wicked”- including every baby alive at the time.
It is worth mentioning that 97.5% of the citizens of Nazi Germany self-identified as Christian. 54% of those belonged to the German Evangelical Church. 40% to the Roman Catholic Church. 3.5% were non-denominational Christians. Also, 1.5% were atheist or agnostic or Free-Thinker, as well as 1% “other”, including Pagan, occultist, Wodan-worshipers, animist, etc. This is according to their official census results in 1939- and boy, were they proud of those numbers! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany tracks the increase in Catholic popularity over time from 1933 to 1939- from 33% to 40%. Which is odd, because Martin Luther’s 450 year birthday bash was supposed to be off the hook! Even Martin Luther King, Senior (aka Big Daddy King) attended. He was so enthusiastic about the Nazi celebration that he came home and renamed his son, whose name was Michael King Junior with the new name of Martin Luther King, Junior. I’m sure you’ve heard of him- he, Gandhi, and Einstein, and the Dalai Lama were last centuries most prominent pacifists. (Also, they were all self-described socialists- like George Orwell, but much less into war/violence.)
None of this is controversial.