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A Christian looks at war

Fri, Aug 8th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I begin my examination of war by looking at Jesus' words from the Bible. A sampling from the gospels provides these quotes (from The New Revised Standard Version):

"Love your enemies; pray for (them)... ." Matt. 5: 44

"Blessed are the peacemakers.... " Matt. 5: 9

"Turn the other cheek...." Matt. 5: 39

Jesus disagreed with the Jewish idea "an eye for an eye."

Investigating another source, the Social Principles of my church includes the following statement:

"We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of disputes among nations....We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ." To summarize the rest of the segment, war is not to be used as an instrument of foreign policy except as a last resort....The first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute between them. Human values and needs must outweigh government claims and priorities. The manufacture and sale of armaments must be reduced and controlled.."

We also counsel about and pray for both the decisions of persons to serve in the military, or to register as conscientious objectors.

I realize that these positions are not agreeable to some members of our churches, who support a position of the rightness of "just war." I have heard people say, "Well, if we hadn't gone to war, you wouldn't be able to worship freely in your church." There is some truth to this, but it seems to me that too often we don't try hard at peaceable solutions. We operate with the justification that "might makes right." A recent quote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune speaks to the West's use of aggression:

"Between 1500 and 1750.... The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerns never do." (Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington in his 1996 book, "The Clash of Civilizations."

It seems to me that our chickens are coming home to roost. In spite of all the good we have done, colonial domination and violent acquisitions are returning to haunt us. The Bible says "those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.: Jesus said that to forbid his disciples' resistance even as he was being arrested for crucifixion.

We are not able to live like Christ, but I think we should try harder. Violence of all kinds seems to be increasing, not only between nations, but in our every-day relationships. We fight rather than try to come to consensus. In Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, he puts Jesus' words like this:

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of how to compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."

Maybe it's time to try Jesus' way.

Jeanne Martin, an ordained minister, lives in Mabel.

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