The Synchroblog is where bloggers write on spiritual topics – often different perspectives. This month is on God: War Or Pacifism? Links to articles will be put at end of this Post July 25th.
Many agree God is not a warmonger or total pacifist, but we may not agree when war is just. It is important how we represent God as millions and their families fight for our freedom. Just like when we tell women God supposedly thinks men have leadership qualities that women don’t. We can seek to know God through the Bible, but keep in mind the majority of people born into this world never had a Bible. If there is a Creator, they must surely give rational human beings moral sense in combating evil. Who doesn’t know it is wrong to attack others without provocation or intentionally kill civilians if war is necessary? I am convinced God is a spiritual realist!
A spiritual realist considers what the Bible has to say.
The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus, that we don’t possess in any other documents. We can’t know if biblical writers always fully understood God or sometimes wrote down what they believed was true about God. I am not convinced a good God really felt that Israel should: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (I Sam. 15:3). There are hundreds of passages like this in the Old Testament suggesting God authorized genocide or other immoral acts in times of war. We might best interpret the OT through Jesus’ lens, since Jesus surely knew God’s heart better than human prophets, if contradictions exists (Heb. 1:1-3).
The New Testament through Jesus’ eyes isn’t always crystal clear though. Biblical scholars who believe in the authority of Scripture disagree what the Bible and Jesus said about critical issues such as Hell and the afterlife. We can’t always be sure the intended spiritual lesson behind Jesus’ parables. People disagree if Jesus rules out just wars when He said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). Was Jesus speaking against retaliation but not protection? Can individuals or a nation still love their enemies by protecting themselves against nuclear warfare either proactively or defensively? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus claims about God. Literature is always subject to human interpretation.
A spiritual realist knows evil when they see it.
I don’t know any pacifists when it comes to protecting their child. We shouldn’t always interpret Jesus literally. When Jesus said to love your enemies, He also said “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5: 39). Please don’t advise wives in God’s name they must accept abuse from their husband. If a terrorist is getting ready to behead my child and I have a gun, I am going to aim as best I can and shoot to stop them. And I don’t think Jesus would condemn me. Maybe Jesus wasn’t saying that that we shouldn’t protect individuals from an evil dictator. If you would protect your own children, why not consider protecting children in a foreign land from a dictator who enslaves them for sex and other evil acts? Maybe Jesus was simply challenging our retaliation mentality (eye for eye). Hearts seldom change if always responding tit for tat rather than forgiving if one truly seeks forgiveness.
A spiritual realist also considers human nature’s violent tendencies.
If you are anything like me, I am quick to defend myself when I have the means. I am quick to confront when thinking it may stop further victimization. Now, I may reattach a soldier’s ear miraculously if able when a comrade cuts their ear off (Lk. 22:50-51), but I don’t think this biblical example condemns all acts of violence if protective, I also don’t think Jesus throwing over tables in the temple should be used to justified violence when I am offended for God. I do think that respectful sharing of ideas can increase understandings.
So, what does a spiritual realist do when confronted with evil?
It takes an attitude of spiritual realism with the help of God and a village to make wise decisions when confronted with violence. The Bible wasn’t written to give specific solutions to problems. Circumstances and attitudes may vary from the audience Jesus was speaking to. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties! A spiritual realist exhausts all other means before considering violence, knowing violence begets violence. A spiritual realist fights the tendency to seek revenge or respond tic for tac, hoping for change by going the extra mile. Nations must use peaceful means whenever possible and only consider violence when absolutely necessary to save lives.
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This post was part of the July 2018 Synchroblog on the topic of Just War and Pacifism. Here are links to others who contributed this month. Go read them all!
- K. W. Leslie – Just War: Vengeance Disguised as Righteousness
- What God May Really Be Like – Is God a Warmonger or a Pacifist?
- Layman Seeker – Disarmed and Harmonious
- Tim Nichols – If you Love Sheep …
- Scott Sloan – Holy War and Manifest Destiny in Light of the Cross
- Done With Religion – For God and Country
- Justin Steckbauer – Should Christians Fight in a War?
- Jeremy Myers – It’s Not Personal; It’s Just War