As I stood on the street corner in Hit, Iraq, I squeezed the pistol grip of my Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) tighter than usual. We were securing the street in order to allow one of my fellow Marines to be evacuated after hitting an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
While looking across a bridge at a Marine doing the same, I heard a boom and watched him disappear in a cloud of dust and smoke… he had stepped on an IED himself.
This is war.
War, or the potential for armed conflict, has dominated the headlines the past few weeks as political pundits and international experts have discussed the merits and consequences of preemptive military intervention with North Korea. We can’t turn on the television or read any news without being inundated with images of aircraft carriers, troops marching in lockstep and missiles launching into the skies.
I imagine that if you’re the average American, these images and descriptions of the outcomes of a war with North Korea replace any sense of security and comfort with fear and uncertainty. In fact, what’s worse is that it appears as if there is no “good” choice remaining. A peaceful resolution seems unattainable — either we shoot now or shoot later.
In lieu of this I thought I would share two thoughts on war and why, for Christians, we must ensure that our patriotism doesn’t quicken our inclination to shoot.
1. The outcome of war contradicts the outcome of God’s Kingdom
The primary objective of war is to inflict as many casualties as possible in order to break the will of your enemy to the point that they concede to your political demands. When we are quick to advocate for war, we are quick to advocate for outcomes that contradict those of the Kingdom of God.
In God’s kingdom, Jesus came to wage war not on humanity, but on death itself. He conquered death, stealing both its sting and victory and brought life to humanity (1 Corinthians 1:55–57). In fact, Jesus came to bring not just life, but life more abundant (John 10:10). His version of spiritual war — the defeat of death — is rooted in love and eternal peace, not the pain and desolation our earthly wars produce and utilize.
Of course, the decision to start or enter a war may be motivated by the desire to end evil works and ultimately save lives. Our history books are riddled with examples of “just wars” motivated by genuine altruism and an attempt to prevent the spread of death. However, despite our best intentions, humanity cannot eradicate war. One war ends and another one begins.
Contrarily, Jesus is the only one capable of claiming absolute victory and an end to the struggle against His enemy. He has defeated death and promises future abolition of the effects of sin when He returns. What our wars fail to solve, His has and will.
2. War demonstrates both the genius and depravity of humanity.
What makes war so hellacious is that it embodies both the heights of humanity’s genius and the depths of its depravity.
Nowhere else in history have we reflected the creativity, ingenuity, love, loyalty and self-sacrificing qualities of our Creator more than in times of war. Our instruments of destruction are genius while the heroes we celebrate demonstrate a Christ-like love that compels them to give up everything for their fellow man and woman.
Similarly, no other endeavor in human history so fully embodies the depravity of humanity as we actively pursue the application of our genius towards the destruction of people created in the image of God and loved by Him. Our inability to selflessly restore relationships between one another, born out of our original sin that severed our relationship with God, elevates the reduction of life as penultimate to achieving national political ambitions.
This promotion of death is the antithesis of Christ’s message and mandate to His followers: to use our genius to bring humanity the good news of life and to reflect His selfless attributes as we participate in His redemptive work throughout all of Creation.
So what should we do about North Korea?
I don’t know. In fact, it makes me feel very small and insignificant when I think about solutions. What we can do is trust and pray.
Trust that God is great so we don’t have to be in control. We have hope knowing that Jesus has and will ultimately win the most important war: victory over sin and death. Also, pray that those burdened with making these decisions are guided by the Holy Spirit among the myriad of voices attempting to influence them.
Ironically, even in the midst of fighting two wars, these were the only two things that I felt made any real difference in my leadership. Whether or not war seems like the best choice for a given situation, trust and prayer always will be.
To further explore this topic, check out these resources:
Read Did Jesus Teach Pacifism? by Matt Perman
Listen to Just War and Just War Q and A from D.A. Carson
Read in-depth Should a Christian Go to War? from Jack Arnold
Authored by NCC Assistant Pastor Jōn Whiteway| northcentral.org