Wisdom Wednesday

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Acts 10:1-3

If you have spent any time defending the Christian faith, one of the most common objections is the Christian involvement in war. The “Crusades” usually feature as the centrepiece of the argument.

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about war? And particularly, Christian involvement in war? Should we be pacifists like the Quakers who refuse to participate in any forms of violence, trusting in God’s ultimate justice. Or should we pursue justice in the world and if necessary use force?

Well, as you can imagine, faithful Christians have landed at many different points along the spectrum. Let’s explore the two extreme viewpoints and then I’ll give you reasons why I land where I do.

So. Pacifism. It feels a natural movement for the Christian. After all, God’s law is do not murder (or kill as a pacifist might argue). Jesus says,

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. (Luke 6:27–29)

Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword when confronted by those who had come to arrest him. Sounds pretty compelling doesn’t it. And this has some serious ramifications. If the position of the Bible is pacifism then does that not mean a Christian could never serve in the military or a police force. What about if their home is invaded - can they use force to protect their family? What about violent sports like boxing?

Well, I think they can. Sorry, I landed early.
I don’t think Jesus' words mean that Christians can never participate in any use of violence or force. Jesus also said, He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. (Luke 22:36)

The Centurion in Acts 10 is not warned to leave military service. In fact, Romans 13 points to God’s establishment of governing authorities and legitimate use of force for the sake of just society.

This is why many Christians (including me) believe there is space for Christians to be involved in the use of force for the sake of justice and love. This includes being a part of the police force and enforcing the law with violence. It also includes Christians being involved in ‘just wars.’ It’s worth noting that the first Crusades actually were a response to Islamic invasions of Christian lands rather than an offensive war.

Ok, that’s enough for now. Where do you land?

For Today:
  • What do you think the Bible says about violence & force?
  • Do you know a Christian in the military?
  • What do you think makes a just war?

Pray: Praise the Father that He is a just God who restrains the violence of sin. Give thanks for Jesus Christ who came to show mercy to God’s enemies. Ask God for His Holy Spirit to give you and other Christians wisdom in this area.
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