Christian Response to War


Jesus taught to “turn the other cheek,” and while the ideal for individual believers is one we can strive for, it is not so simple for nation states.  War (while a moral and social evil) is an issue in our lives.   Jesus recognised this when He said “there will be wars and rumours of wars.” As a real life issue the church has tried to use its influence to moderate and restrict conflict’s abuses.

Just War Theory is one such approach. This attempt began its evolution in the Medieval period, but has developed in an attempt to take “modern” war (17th and 18th Century) into consideration.  It, while praiseworthy, is difficult to implement as the nature and ideology of warfare has changed.

Its basic points are:

  1. The War must be started and controlled by the authority of the state or ruler, not by vassals or underlings.
  2. There must be a just cause; those attacked must deserve it.
  3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil.
  4. All other possible ways of solving the problem have been tried.
  5. There should be “proportionality:” Innocent civilians should not be killed and only enough force should be used as is needed to achieve victory.
  6. The good gained by the victory must be greater than the evil which led to the war.

Other Christian approaches include pacifism.  This is a bit of a difficult approach as there are several nuanced and divergent sub-approaches to this “peacefulness.” They range from the total avoidance of violent response to conflict, to “principled” limited responses based on either the nature of the conflict, or the amount of resistance offered.

The 1986 film, The Mission brings the pacifism verses “Just War,” stances into focus. The film set in the mid-18th Century relates the missionary efforts of the Jesuits in South America. Conflict arises when colonial authorities order the mission to be closed, and the native people return to the forest. Spoiler alert: The two key priests Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) and Rodrigo (Robert DeNiro) differ on how to respond to the demands.  Gabriel follows the path of pacifism and serves the flock as a priest. Rodrigo chooses to follow the tribes chief in a “Just War.” Which priest is right?

Such questions remain with us today. How are we personally to deal with conflict? And if conflict generally, how about war?



2 thoughts on “Christian Response to War

  1. Amen to this. I find this post very inspiring. It celebrates hope and positivity, something that my life lacks, it somehow makes me feel a little bit better. Thank you for this.

    Hey, I am Ragazza, don’t hesitate to visit my blog page, if you have time. I would really love to connect with you. Cheers! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting thoughts here.
    In my opinion, from what I understand of the scriptures, it depends on the situation.
    Individually, we are not meant to take the law into our own hands, as Jesus made it clear, although I feel we have a right to defend our families and friends, even by force, if necessary. He spoke of military retribution in a couple of His parables.
    God has always dealt with people on a national level, as well as individually.Theologians talk about Covenants and Dispensations, where God has blessed a whole nation, and many individuals receive that benefit whether they deserve it or not. Conversely, God has had to send or allow curses on whole nations, and even righteous individuals have had to bear that curse as well (although there are times where they have obtained mercy.
    He also deals with the whole human race the same way at times.
    The Noahic covenant is a case in point. When Noah left the ark, God blessed him, but gave him (a patriarch of the whole human race) a stern directive:
    “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
    By man his blood shall be shed;
    For in the image of God
    He made man.” (Gen 9:6)
    i.e. Government and National enforcement against violent bloodshed.
    I am not convinced that that mandate has been removed under the Dispensation of Grace.
    Paul, under the New Covenant, said:
    (Romans 13:3,4)
    “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
    4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. ”

    I see this also in the Just War Theory, under which we stopped Nazism in its tracks.
    The JWT can be used as an excuse, of course, for annexation and greed. But the responsibility of Just Government remains, whether some abuse it or not.

    Open to respectful discussion on this.

    Liked by 1 person

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