Christians and war

In the era before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire, the church took very seriously Jesus’ message of peace.  No soldier was allowed to become a member of the church unless he took an oath that he would refuse to obey an order to kill.  If a member of the church joined the army, according to the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, “they must be rejected for they have despised God.”

Along with Imperial Christianity, of course, came a radical change in attitude.  A thousand years after Christ, soldiers wearing the cross massacred the population of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.  Innumerable wars have been waged by Christians over the centuries, often in the name of Christ, and often against other Christians.   In 1862 American soldiers marched to war against other Americans, for example, singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” seeking God’s favor as they trampled out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. 

These days, as our church parking lots are filled with cars bearing pro-war bumper stickers, let’s try to remain mindful that the book we carry into the building with us includes the following:

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.  Matthew 5:9 

 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  2 Corinthians 10: 3-4 

The Psalmist asks God to Scatter the nations that delight in war.  Psalms 68:30 

And every year at Chrismas we read the prophecy from Isaiah 9: 6, regarding the coming of the messiah, but we seem to always leave out verse 5:

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
       and every garment rolled in blood
       will be destined for burning,
       will be fuel for the fire.

 For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Love Wins.


5 comments on “Christians and war

  1. Ralph says:

    I find that most people who serve our nation in uniform do not “delight in war” like the proverbial nation. Most serve in the hope that they will not be called upon to take life, but in full knowledge that someone must be ready to do so in our defense. Sometimes, regretfully, killing must be done. To say otherwise is to ignore the manifest lessons of history – this week is instructive, as we have nuclear-hungry Iran launching a satellite and N. Korea’s psycho saying he will invade the south. Pacificism in the face of such lunacy is not a policy which will offer our children (or those of Seoul, Tel Aviv, etc…) a future. As they say in the trite old phrase, freedom is not free. The price to be paid for security was captured nicely by George Orwell: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Cheers – Aldo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joeywahoo says:

    Good to hear from you my old friend. I pontificated on the subject of just and unjust wars back on June 24. You should check out that post too. Whatever the merits of pacifism, nearly all of us (including me) lack the courage to try it.

    It often seems that the most enthusiastically pro-war folks in this country are also church-going Christians. That caused me to reflect again on the evolution of Christian thinking on this subject, which in turn led to this post.

    Orwell’s writing is particulary relevant today. I looked up your quote. He is frequently reported as having made it, but in fact he never did. That same quote is often attributed to Churchill also. The quote is similar to something Orwell wrote about Kipling’s view of the world. But in any event, I do appreciate and understand the sentiment. On the importance of defending our liberty, you’ll find no greater advocate of that than me. We might disagree about how best to do that, but our objective is the same.

    You should check out a series of seven posts I did called Fables of the Reconstruction. Knowing your interests I’d be interested in what you think of them. They stirred up a lot of folks at the time.

    Still looking forward to seeing you again soon.



    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ralph says:

    Bill – I’ll look at the post you mentioned and the Jack Hunter piece. Disappointed about the Orwell quote – I knew it was misattributed to WSC often, but thought I had reached the source with Orwell. Cheers – Ralph


  4. beeholdn says:

    Thanks for speaking to this eternal topic. So difficult, so important. (Is there even a ‘solution’?) Anyways, keep warm . . . Cheers!


    • Bill says:

      Thanks. I wrote this over 6 years ago. Our nation was at war then, as it is now and has been for well over a decade. It seems that we now live in a state of perpetual war. I don’t sense a lot of moral agonizing over that. There are doctrines that are fairly easy to describe (pacifism, just-war theory) but they’re anything but easy in the real world.

      Liked by 1 person

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