An essay I wrote on whether Christians should go to war...
“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade.” (Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front)
When it all comes down to it, the soldiers killing each other in wars are really, after all, just boys. Not too terribly long ago, every one of them was born as somebody’s baby, sat on somebody’s lap. They all had a family who loved them and they all have a cause they’re fighting for, no matter how wrong or right it might happen to be. They each have their own beliefs and ideals and morals and lives. And many times, brother is set against brother when Christians war on opposing sides. Is this heroism, for a Christian to shoot another Christian full of lead? Or is it only tragedy? Sometimes the heroism is a tragedy, but that does not make it any less courageous.
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11) That’s a haunting caution. He hates his brother and he is walking aimlessly with no idea where he’s headed or where he’s been. He’s walking with only, always darkness as his companion. Many people insist that this tells us we should never fight our brothers in Christ, or else we are hating them, and therefore walking away from God and into darkness. The key clarification here is that war does not necessarily equal hatred. War is hatred if we are fighting for wrong reasons, if we are hating them while we fight.
Another thing that differentiates war from is hatred is the fact that we aren’t rallying up other churches and calling them to war against us over differences in belief or because we don’t like them. That would obviously be incredibly stupid and petty and wrong. That would be walking in darkness. However, there’s a difference when there happen to be Christians on both sides of a war and they happen to fight each other. If a Christian American is confronted by a Christian German with a gun ready to kill, the American has every reason, every right, to shoot the German right away, without worrying about whether he’s a brother or not. He’s not hating the German by following the brutal rules of this war they’re both trying to survive. And I believe those two will fellowship gloriously in Paradise. The blood and the crying will all be done away with and the men will have passed to a further level of understanding, a further level of loving.
Obviously, the reasons we’re killing matter immensely. But is there ever really a reason big enough for Christians to fight? At the heart, it’s a discernment issue. If a man’s country is going to war over money or power he should think long and hard about whether that reason warrants him leaving his family and going to slaughter people. Sometimes, by refusing to fight, we are being more of a patriot to our true country, than if we ignored our convictions and fought for foolishness. But, if his family is directly threatened, if freedom is threatened, then sometimes war is the only brave thing to do. If we sit back and grow old only talking about peace, our peace will be taken right from under our noses. Freedom is only bought with a high price and that may mean killing the ones who threaten to destroy it. If we do not, we will live to regret the passiveness. “You have done nothing for which you should be ashamed,” they assure Benjamin Martin, in the movie ‘Patriot’. “I have done nothing,” he bitterly replies. “And for that I am ashamed.”